Some official photos from the Cultural Center of the Philippines of The Weighing of the Heart, a sculptural series depicting human heart sculptures cast out of the ashes of the Australian bushfires, for the exhibition of the 2021 Thirteen Artist Awards, the oldest government award for artists from the Philippines.
The show runs until 5 June 2022 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Visit bit.ly/visit2021TAA for health protocols.
Support for this project includes funding from the UNSW Scientia scholarship and technical support from the UNSW Design Futures Lab.
Critic John Alexis Balaguer of art and design magazine Kanto writes about the CCP Thirteen Artists Awards exhibition and features The Weighing of the Heart. Thank you very much!
“Catherine Sarah Young’s sculptures of human hearts, The Weighing of the Heart (2022) are cast from the ashes of the Australian bushfires in 2019-2020 and are exhibited wall-bound in grid-form, creating emphasis on the iterative subject. Referencing the Egyptian scene of the weighing of Imhotep’s heart against a feather, the works touch upon notions of grief and loss, and our emotional memories from crises. “The climate emergency will continue to be one of the biggest challenges of our time,” Young shares, “The arts have an important role in creating inclusive spaces for us to process our collective grief with the damage to the planet and to vulnerable communities worldwide.”
“The artist-awardees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Thirteen Artists all exhibit critical perspectives on contemporary challenges in society, from invoking socio-political histories, critiquing structures and systems, listening and giving voice to minorities, exercising climate consciousness, and providing avenues for sharing interpersonal realities. In this time of crisis, one might ask how art might provide reflections, solutions, safe spaces, or possibilities in reimagining a new world–a daunting task for the art community, no doubt, yet readily acceded by thirteen young artists of the new contemporary. With this award and exhibition, more than the showcase is the show of cases, that the world might be presented as it is, so we are able to see art and life as no different. “This year’s artists call into question the very notion of presence,” curator Shireen Seno declares, with a radical evaluation, “this is a show about the gaps, the lapses, and the others that characterize our time.”
Stoked for one of my MFA projects from the School of Visual Arts back in my Fulbright days (i.e. my youth) to grow and have a home at C40’s global art campaign! Thank you!
P.S. My favorites are the jabberwocky, the seahorses, and the pegasus. What’s yours?
Text from C40 Cities:
C40 has teamed up with a collective of incredible artists who have unique visions of the world they want to live in. Their art challenges us to imagine a future where people and biodiversity thrive, and cities are more resilient and equitable.
The next artist in this series is Catherine Sarah Young, an award-winning artist, designer, and writer. Catherine uses her background in molecular biology, fine art, and design to create interdisciplinary and experimental artworks on the environment.
In her piece “Rorsketch”, Catherine reimagines our cities as places where air pollution is a thing of the past, where residents can enjoy clear blue skies and breathe clean air.
Catherine said: “Let’s make cities that unlock the imagination of its citizens for hopeful, inclusive futures. With this piece, I turn the sky into a canvas for possibilities. We often see patterns in clouds in a phenomenon that neuroscientists call pareidolia. The title of this piece is called Rorsketch—a portmanteau of “Rorschach” and “sketch”. When we feel down, let’s look up and see the universe that clouds offer. It’s fun, free, and for everyone! What do you see in these clouds?”
About the artist: Catherine has collaborated with researchers, industries, and non-profit organisations most recently in China, Austria, and the Amazon rainforest. She is a Scientia scholar at UNSW Sydney working on climate change and sustainability, an Obama Leader for Asia-Pacific, and part of Team HB6 of Homeward Bound for Antarctica. Most recently she is a recipient of the Thirteen Artist Awards in the Philippines.
(Copenhagen)—Thank you Niels Heilberg for hosting the first Arctic Ice Chess tournament in your boat, the beautiful MS Arno, as well as these first images and video! The game was played by Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen, lecturer at the Institute for Strategy at the Danish Ministry of Defence Academy, and the environmental activist and candidate for mayor, Gorm Gunnarsen. The tournament, played in between Denmark’s Climate Week and Art Week, was a draw, which feels very metaphorical of the Arctic crisis. Thank you, Niels, as well as curator Malou Solfjeld and Copenhagen arts organisation SixtyEight Art Institute, for supporting this work. It takes a village! I’m happy for the conversations this work is generating, and look forward to future tournaments that SixtyEight ArtInstitute will be hosting in the weeks to come. Follow their IG for more!
Text and images by Niels Heilberg: Art week ombord 🎨🌍🧊
Vi var i går vært for kunstværket Arctic Ice Chess skabt af den filippinske kunstner @catherinesarahyoung. Under kurator @malousolfjelds kyndige vejledning spillede klimaordfører for Enhedslisten Gorm Anker Gunnarsen med forsvarets Arktis-ekspert Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen et spil om klimaet og verdens stigende vandstande, altimens skakbrikkerne smeltede og der blev diskuteret politik og udvekslet erfaringer.
A quick shout out to my friends in Copenhagen who are organizing the Arctic Ice Chess tournament starting tomorrow! This is the first time this game will be played, and fittingly, it will premiere in one of the Arctic Council nations. I am so thrilled this is happening and happy it is being cared for by curator Malou Solfjeld and the team at SixtyEight Art Institute. Art can provide engaging spaces for us to discuss challenging things, and so I hope you have fun with the game while discussing serious climate issues in the Arctic and beyond.
Kudos as well to the previous residencies who hosted me as I was developing this game, namely China Residencies and Saari Residence, and the UNSW Design Futures Lab for their assistance as I was shipping the work.
On Saturday 25 September, SixtyEight invites you to view a chess tournament on the subject of climate change, which will be initiated in the Copenhagen Harbour; and as part of the curatorial research project Memoirs of the Abyss: Three Ecologies and More, curated by Malou Solfjeld.
The first Arctic Ice Chess match will take place on the prow of the MS Arno, docked at Langebrogade 1C, Saturday 25 Sept. at 12.00-14.00.
The artwork Arctic Ice Chess is a project created by the Philippine artist Catherine Sarah Young; where plastic toy soldiers are frozen in ice cubes and take up positions as standard chess pieces; and where the ice pieces melt as this classic strategy game unfolds throughout the playing period.
The first game will be played by Jon Rahbek-Clemmensen, lecturer at the Institute for Strategy at the Danish Ministry of Defence Academy; versus the environmental activist and candidate for mayor, Gorm Gunnarsen. And as the melting chess pieces move throughout their match, both will discuss issues related to the world’s rising sea levels and geopolitical and economic interests emerging in the Arctic region.
Honored and grateful to be in the latest issue of @artplusmag together with the other amazing 13 Artists Awardees of 2021! Thank you to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for facilitating the interview. Manila friends, please do grab a copy!
Inside Art+ Magazine Issue 74: Raul Lebajo
Cultural Center of the Philippines announces the 13 Artists Awardees for 2021. The awardees are Allan Balisi, Nice Buenaventura, Gino Bueza, Mars Bugaoan, Rocky Cajigan, Geloy Concepcion, Patrick Cruz, Ian Carlo Jaucian, KoloWn, Czar Kristoff, Lou Lim, Ryan Villamael and Catherine Sarah Young.
Read the full story inside Art+ Magazine Issue 74. Art+ Magazine is available on Shopee, Art Plus webstore, and at National Bookstore, Fully Booked, and Rustan’s branches nationwide.
I wrote a post for Sydney Observatory to conclude my residency from June-August 2021. The link to the post is here. The entirety of the article is below. Enjoy!
Of Water and Planets: Dreaming of Mars while in Earthly Lockdown
Catherine Sarah Young, Sydney Observatory Resident
Entering Sydney’s lockdown of 2021, this time because of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, meant exiting the Sydney Observatory residency for me in the physical sense. I sadly bid farewell to my room in the Observatory, barely used and whose sticky locks I had just gotten used to. I, like many of us, had been accustomed to the changing situation presented by the COVID-19 era. The residency system as well has been transformed and I had to be mostly confined to my flat in Paddington and its five-kilometre radius.
For my residency, I had been interested in doing research on Mars. As an artist who works on environmental issues such as climate change, the human ambition to investigate and to voyage to the Red Planet become increasingly important. Do we see Mars as Planet B, as we are currently destroying our Planet A? What might we learn from a planet that so many governments and billionaires want to set foot on? What does it mean for us to seek to be a multi-planet species? And how can we ensure that we remember our human and Earthbound origins as we do so?
Like an astronaut preparing for confinement, I had taken photos of every single object in the Observatory before pursuing my research virtually, as though I had wanted to create a personal archive in my pocket before the gates of the Observatory were closed to me for the time being. In many ways, confined to our homes and besieged with the seemingly perpetual anxieties of contagion, conflict, and catastrophe, we are astronauts on planet Earth, wondering where to land and when we can leave the spacecraft that our homes have become. We are in many ways at war with ourselves, and thus it may seem a bit poetic that the Red Planet we want to go to is named after the god of war in Roman mythology. In the years to come, the tension between our species as Earthbound creatures and our species as interstellar voyagers will become more apparent.
From Sydney to Mars
More than a century ago, a fellow Paddington resident Walter Frederick Gale (1865-1945) had also been interested in Mars. Gale was a banker and astronomer, educated at Paddington House School and had a lifelong interest in astronomy because of his father’s encouragement and the appearance of the Great Comet in 1882.1 At seventeen years old, witnessing this powerful force in the sky created a lasting impression, and he discovered several comets in his lifetime.2 A member of the British Astronomical Association (BAA) (now known as the Sydney City Skywatchers), Gale led an expedition to Queensland to see the total solar eclipse of 1922.3
Ten years later, Mars was exceptionally close to the Earth, making it an excellent opportunity for it to be viewed through telescopes. The BAA in London reviewed the various drawings submitted to them by space enthusiasts, and Walter Maunder, Director of the Mars section, remarked on the superior quality of Gale’s submission.4 Gale further created glass slides of Mars and other astronomical observations, which are in the Observatory collection. The desire to discover and to record the distant planets and other celestial bodies persists in human history, and the Observatory hosts not just archives of the past, but also current images of space taken by professional and amateur astrophotographers.
Despite being confined to both Earth and our homes, places like Sydney Observatory create space for us, who, like Gale, direct our curiosity to the skies. In the beginning of the year before the lockdown, we, the residents, had the cool opportunity to tour the Observatory with curator and astronomer Dr. Andrew Jacob. The highlight of this was looking into the Schröder refracting telescope, which is the oldest working telescope in Australia. It was first installed in the South Dome in 1874 to observe the transit of the planet Venus as it crossed the face of the Sun.5 Opening the dome was a special experience for me as a resident, as I had visited the Observatory several times before but never had access to this part until then.
Escaping to another planet may be the dream of many an intrepid explorer but I like to think of Mars missions in relation to improving our Earth mission in parallel. We may not get it exactly right the first time, but eventually we get there, such as in the case of Mars-3, the first spacecraft to make a successful landing on the Martian surface. Hopefully, we get it right here on Earth, too.
Water and planets
The spirit of exuberant curiosity of Walter Frederick Gale exists in us, which may even emerge through the constraints imposed by lockdown. For many of us in confinement, there is an impulse to record the minutiae of our lives—the daily walks, the food made and ordered online, the workouts, the Zoom calls with loved ones we cannot see in person. Like astronauts, albeit of the accidental kind, we track various activities, once so mundane in the Beforetime when masks were not mandatory and human contact was something we took for granted. These activities are transformed into special moments, proof that the day even happened at all. We pass the time like astronauts on the way to Mars, recording plant growth, calories burned, and remaining supplies, with the goal of reaching the other side though unknowning when this will be at all. And these activities are for us who are fortunate enough to still have our basic needs met while our social systems are tested in these pandemic times.
In researching Mars in relation to life on Earth, one of the first things we think about is water. In the American science fiction drama Away that streamed on Netflix last year, there is a scene where Commander Emma Green, played by Hilary Swank, is in conversation with her Earthbound husband, who holds his phone outside his car so that she could hear the sound of rain. The scene cuts to Green imagining a rain shower in the spaceship. Few things are as Earthly as the sight of rain clouds, and this photograph in the late 19th century by Observatory photographer James Short is a rare surviving example of early meteorological photography.
Figuring out rain on Earth helps us understand the gravity of the water situation on the dry Red Planet. I was fascinated by the collection of rain gauges of the Observatory which illustrate similarities and differences of rain measurement. Quantifying rain persists in civilisations throughout history as this helps plan for agriculture, from beautifully crafted ones like the Korean rain gauge from 1442, to various metal gauges in later centuries, to two measuring cylinders from the 19th century, to the delightfully named pluviograph.
The permanence of temporary phenomena
Creating permanent archives of temporary phenomena help us understands the systems that govern the workings of the Earth. My favourite exhibition room in the Observatory contains some of these rain gauges as well as various artifacts from different times in the history of Sydney that focus on weather. Here you can find the first weather map of Australia made by Henry Chamberlain Russell made 1877. To compile the map, Russell referenced weather information telegraphed to the Observatory from 40 meteorological stations across New South Wales. There are also photographic records of clouds and lightning, as well as models of hailstones that fell in the storm of April 1999, with the largest one being 8.5 cm in diameter. This makes me wonder about the future maps and instruments we may use someday in Mars, and what adaptations we will eventually have.
Our search for water continues in Mars and also links with Walter Frederick Gale, as a crater on the Red Planet is named after him. NASA chose the Mars rover Curiosity to land on Gale Crater because of signs that it may have contained water in its history.6 The Gale Crater is estimated to be about 3.5-3.8 billion years old which may be a dry lake. In the centre of the crater rises the mountain Aeolis Mons, and in between this mountain and the crater’s northern perimeter is the plain Aeolis Palus. NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed in Aeolis Palus on August 6, 2012. This spot has since been named Bradbury Landing, named after author Ray Bradbury.7
I realised while discussing my project with the Sydney Observatory staff that I had actually 3D printed the Gale Crater several weeks ago. In the UNSW Design Futures Lab where I conduct some of my research, I had been experimenting with 3D printing Martian landing sites. NASA has an open-source website that contains various 3D models. Printing Martian landscapes using clay from planet Earth felt like connecting the two celestial bodies together. Like Martian landings, we cannot get it right the first time, as you can see in this incident where the printer, as unpredictable as our current times, regurgitated the clay onto my board.
But eventually, we get it right!
I have a one last thought on water and planets (and also billionaires and pandemics). There is a quote that is going around which says, “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” Similarly, we are in the same space but not the same spacecraft. Confinement to our homes in a pandemic reveals the various ways in which we need to make life more equitable for all of us to be ok while we continue with our interstellar ambitions. In the time of Walter Frederick Gale, Mars was alien territory. Now, it is slowly but surely within our reach. We know where we want to land in both Earth and Mars, but the question is: how?
The Weighing of the Heart” is currently on exhibition for the group exhibition “Stress Rehearsal” at das weisse haus in Vienna, one of my previous and favorite home cities! Thank you to The Peace Studio to which I first presented this work, curator-in-residence @malousolfjeld for her support, the UNSW Design Futures Lab , my accidental home for the past month, and my PhD supervisors!
The Weighing of the Heart
Australian bushfire remains, resin
Human heart sculptures are cast out of ashes and other organic remains from the Australian bushfires. I reference the scene of the “Weighing of the Heart”, a spell in the Egyptian Book of the Dead in which the heart of Imhotep is weighed against a feather. If the heart fails to balance it will be eaten by the beast, Ammut, and Imhotep will be condemned. If the scales remain balanced, Imhotep enters the afterlife with the other blessed dead. In casting the ashes with resin, I arrest metabolism of the remains back into the soil, creating objects of memory in a political landscape that forgets the bushfire crisis periodically, only to remember them when the next bushfire crisis commences with greater intensity.
From the curatorial statement:
with Mohamed Allam, Will Benedict, Daniel Mølholt Bülow, Gillian Brett, Rah Eleh, Rachel Fäth, Line Finderup Jensen mit Adnan Popovič, Juri Schaden & Parastu Gharabaghi, Lola Gonzàlez, Hanna Husberg & Laura McLean, Mohammed Laouli, Yein Lee, Elisabeth Molin, Jean Painlevé, Oliver Ressler, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Catherine Sarah Young curated by Malou Solfjeld (Curator in Residence 2020)
Exhibition duration: October 29 – December 12, 2020 Exhibition start: October 28, 2020, 4-9pm
Expressions of solidarity on balconies, grounded planes on international airfields, tales of a reviving non-human natural world – for many, the COVID-19 pandemic nurtures hopes for more communal, equal and caring futures. At the same time, however, the global health crisis gives reasons for more dystopian prospects of co-existence on this planet. Among other things, it further mobilises xenophobic sentiments and multiplies social inequalities. More so, it has thwarted the momentum of climate activism in the media to the extent that scholars like the French philosopher Bruno Latour have declared the pandemic a “dress rehearsal” for the exacerbating climate catastrophe ahead of us.
Deliberately emphasising and yet not isolating ecological queries and concerns, the group exhibition “Stress Rehearsal” zooms into the abyss; into the bushfire in Australia, oil tanks sinking into the ocean, into the sea level rise on the Maldives and open landfills in Morocco. It brings together works by an international cohort of artists to critically reflect on the entanglements of the global pandemic, climate crisis, mass extinction, social inequality and turbo-capitalism. Gathering a hybridity of perspectives from the past, present and future, “Stress Rehearsal” collapses the linearity of time in order to activate our senses in the here and now. What is our individual as well as our collective responsibility towards more livable futures? What kind of new forms of agency do we need to craft in order to co-shape worlds-in-common – on- and offline, with the living and the non-living?
The exhibition unpacks questions like these in three different sections; We created this beast (referring to Bram Ieven and Jan Overwijk’s eponymous text), The pandemic as a dress rehearsal (in line with Bruno Latour’s essay Is this a dress rehearsal?) and The pandemic is a portal (alluring to Arundhati Roy’s eponymous article). The latter division is conceived as a laboratory of sorts, an accumulating digital archive of links and texts, videos and images. It serves as a multi-vocal platform where artists, curators, scholars, activists and visitors alike are invited to contribute and negotiate visions and perspectives on how to live together otherwise. The show consciously hosts a majority of video works as a means to reflect on contemporary modes of perception and consumption. It has been developed by the curator Malou Solfjeld with the support of Alexandra Grausam, Aline Lenzhofer and Frederike Sperling from das weisse haus team.
[Moscow and Zoom] I’m stoked to be one of the selected artists for this cool space art summer program hosted by the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics and art practice ARTYPICAL. This is a laboratory project for creative research of archives and visual culture related to contemporary ideas about space and the history of space exploration. There are 20 of us selected after an international open call to create new sound and visual works across disciplines, from 3D animation and digital sculpture to new literature and music production. Topics include: space in cinematography and visual art, space in the work of music composers, sonification and audification of the cosmos and astronomy, media art in outer space, media archeology of space, philosophy of space and Russian cosmism, iconographies of human spaceflight, and more.
Space! Art! Russia! Can’t wait to meet and learn from my fellow participants. See you soon!
Tvergastein Issue 14: The Arts and the Environment. Image by cChange
[OSLO]—Dr. Karen O’Brien and Nicole Schafenacker, editors of the cli-fi anthology “Our Entangled Future” write about the book in the Oslo-based journal, Tvergastein, for Issue #14, Art & Environment! “Can climate fiction help us engage with a new paradigm for social change?”. Read the issue for free here.
For example, author and artist Catherine Sarah Young describes her approach to The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store as follows: “I use the abstract yet scientific relationship between scent and memory as a way for humans to redefine their relationship between scent and memory as a way for humans to redefine their relationship with nature through remembering their personal histories and reinforcing their identities, which can facilitate quantum social change.”
The stories in Our Entangled Future explore characters who connect with reality through non-linear time, collective consciousness, and multi species sentience….Emilia, the main character in Young’s short story, The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, is a perfumer with a keen sense of smell — which is, in fact, considered by some biologists to be an example fo a quantum phenomenon (McFadden and Al-Khalili 2016). Her sense of smell provides her with important information when she meets a trespassing strange — a hulk of a man who could easily overpower her: “She sniffed the air and smelled his fear”. Together, these short stories suggest that we are entangled through our senses, experiences, and consciousness. .