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Eco Art Challenge by Global Shapers Beijing

 

(BEIJING, China) – On March 16th, I was invited to give a talk at Global Shapers Beijing (Hub 2) for their Eco Art Challenge. I spoke about my work and, more importantly, about what I learned, my triumphs and failures with my Year for the Planet personal challenge. Other speakers included Break Free from Plastic China and Eric Lau. Afterwards, the participants created a whale sculpture made of plastic trash and embarked on a 7-day plastic-free challenge—a very difficult thing in Beijing, where plastic seems to weed its way in places you did not think it would.

Year for the Planet
Why go plastic-free

You can download a pdf of my talk here:

Thanks to Yoka and Zishu of Global Shapers Beijjng for the kind invitation!

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It’s almost 2019, and what a year 2018 has been! Here’s a year in review:

Personal

I started the year decluttering my parents’ house, stopped needing a cane from a hip injury, went back to training in taekwondo again, made lots of new friends, and reconnected with old ones. My dad was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and is back in Manila from treatment in New York. Apart from residency/fellowship travel (see below), I visited Lucerne (to see a friend), Bratislava, Berlin, Salzburg, and Bangkok (with extended family).

Research: Philippine jungles

I visited Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat sponsored by Great Escapes Philippines and Centre for Sustainability PH.

Exhibitions: Manila, Germany, Dublin

The Sewer Soaperie and An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest were part of the Manila Biennale in February. The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store was part of “Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design” at the Vitra Design Museum in Germany in September, and was also part of Science Gallery Dublin’s In Case of Emergency exhibition which closed in February.

Projects, Residencies, Fellowships, Awards: Vienna, Beijing, Taipei

From April to June I did a visual arts residency with KulturKontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery. I produced another body of work, Wild Science, which explores the role of science in society. There were fun collaborations, such as with Dr. Gerhard Heindl of the Schönbrunn Tiergarten for this piece, Der Tiergarten 1.0: Human Forces on the Animal Kingdom, and a photo shoot with some cool herpetologists and taxidermists at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Natural History Museum, Vienna). I also produced Letters for Science and asked youth from Eferding, Austria to write letters to climate change deniers.

In Manila in September, we finished photo and video shoots of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store and The Sewer Soaperie. I also started doing research for Wild Science on religion and beliefs in Quiapo, a part of Manila where Catholicism, Islam, and paganism intersect.

In Beijing in November for part 1 of the Crystal Ruth Bell Residency with China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery, I performed The Planetary Renewal Spa for the first time and did research for Future Feast. I’ll be back in March 2019 to finish the project.

I’m one of the ten inaugural SEAΔ fellows of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council with part 1 held in Taipei in late November. We were divided into four groups, and mine will meet in Cambodia in May 2019 to execute our project. We will all be together to present the outcomes in Bangkok in June and reflect on the program in September.

I did the second Year for the Planet edition, focusing on my clothing choices.

The Apocalypse Project was shortlisted for Best Climate Solutions Award by Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC).

This year’s Ritual Card is a Sunset Wheel, based on the cyanometer used by Alexander von Humboldt.

Talks: From Mental Health to Art and Social Norms

I spoke about artists and mental health in Manila, and spoke about art, science and social norms at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and in Crossboundaries Beijing.

Media

I’m one of ArtReview Asia’s Future Greats for their Summer issue and was featured in my alma mater, the SVA NYC’s Visual Arts Journal for the Fall issue. I wrote an article for Vienna-based contemporary art magazine Springerin, entitled “A Different Shape of Progress: Contemporary Art and Social Inclusion.” I was part of a podcast by America Adapts (Episode 78: Flooding, Climate Change, and Art).

If you have been part of my year at all, thank you very much for your support! Here’s to another productive year. May 2019 be full of new work, growth, relationships, and life!

—Catherine

YearinReview2018_B.jpg

 

 

 

It’s that time of the year when I finish all residencies, fellowships, talks, and exhibitions, and reflect on the year that’s about to pass. It’s been a wonderful year of learning from different cultures and finding other ways of pursuing my practice. In 2018, I held residencies and fellowships in Vienna (KulturKontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery), Beijing (China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery), and Taipei (Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council). This post recalls some of my favorite memories during my Beijing residency. Head to this post for thoughts about my Vienna residency.


 

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What a great Friday! Hurray, friendcations! 😍

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My residency with China Residencies was split in two; I finished part 1 in November and will come back in March. I was really excited for this residency. It was my second trip after many years as a journalist, and coming back as an artist gave me plenty to be inspired by. Here are some takeaways for Part 1:

1. If at first you don’t succeed

This was the second time I applied for this residency and I thought my chances were even more dismal than the first time with 700+ applications. Hurray for perseverance! For my younger artists, seriously, just keep going.

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Ni hao, you guys! I'm honored and excited to be selected from a pool of 700 artists for the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell residency by @chinaresidencies, from November to December in Beijing. What an awesome way to round up the year! 😍 I'm looking forward to continuing my work in climate change and sustainability with the residency theme, Nourish. The last time I was in China was more than 10 years ago, on a journalism assignment / youth ambassador thing before the Beijing Olympics, so another visit is long overdue. Let's get this Mandarin restarted, y'all. I even have my reusable chopsticks ready. 😁 This is the second time I applied for this grant, so kids, it just goes to show: If at first you don't succeed, eat your feelings then try again. 😂😉 Xie xie, everyone! 我很高興! 😍 #climatechange #contemporaryart #sciart #artscience #catherinesarahyoung

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2. My fellow residents and the residency staff

For the most part, I’ve been quite lucky with fellowships because no one is a drama queen. I really loved being with my fellow Red Gate Residents this year, and the staff has been fantastic and supportive. I’m also pretty blown away by many of the senior Chinese artists I’ve met, who have been very generous with their time and humble despite their accomplishments. Also, there’s an artist I met in my Vienna residency that was also in Beijing! The world keeps getting smaller.

 

3. The food is great (and nothing to be scared of)

My residency project is about food, so oh poor me, I had to eat my way through Beijing. At first, I was panicking at the thought of buying so-called fake food that I would read about before my arrival. To be honest, I encountered none of these issues; if they exist, I was told by several locals that one might find them in the countryside but not in the upscale markets in the more modern areas of Beijing.

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Day 11. A challenge with doing a project on the future of food in China is that the people are already adventurous eaters, and people have been eating insects for centuries. Unlike 2014 when using crickets and worms in certain ways was still a bit new, here I need to be clearer with frameworks and stories. I can't feed people scorpions on a stick; you can already buy them here for 25 yuan. One of the scorpions hurt my palette (crickets and larvae are still better IMHO) and my dumplings were too spicy so I ate some ice cream. I spied many people eating hunks of meat off the bone and all these made me nauseated so I went back to my apartment for some ginger tea. 😂 #ApocalypseProject #FutureFeast #climatechange #adaptation

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4. Reconnecting with childhood and grad school friends

So much time with familiar faces! Barbie has known me since I was 6! I knew Qing Qing from grad school in NYC and she lives across the street from the apartment that Red Gate let me stay in! Tina is a classmate from grad school and she visited! (Her grad school thesis was about food and she trained in culinary school, so our conversations really helped in my residency project.) How amazing to reconnect with all of these people!

 

5. Training in taekwondo after a year

If there’s something I’m thankful for in this residency that I was not expecting, it was training in a taekwondo school again. I haven’t stepped inside a dojang since injuring my hip from side kicks, so I almost cried when my feet touched the familiar rubber mat. It’s so good to train in a school…with a mirror. My poomsae are so off. I had stopped bringing a uniform with me since Vienna, as I had given up on finding a nearby school. Note to self: bring the freaking dobok every time. Plus the coach was World Champion! Hurray for kicking! I will die with this sport (though I hope I won’t die doing it).

This is also the first residency where I felt well enough not to bring a cane. I’m definitely taking way better care of myself this time.

 

6. Visiting the Great Wall

See what I mean? This was my second time on the wall. I’m definitely way fitter this time around, ha.

 

7. The very adaptable people

Flexibility is, I find, a very Chinese trait. China is very much a Big Brother state, but I found the people I interacted with to take this in stride, as though they were used to it and simply found ways to get on with their lives. While I’m sure this has disadvantages, as a (half) Chinese person, female, and of color, who has lots of dreams and has faced lots of challenges owing to her sex and race and background, I think this adaptability and determination to go on are survival skills that have served me well in all the years of being an artist. I also really like seeing the elderly in China; lots of community gatherings such as tai chi, mah jong, singing, etc. It feels less lonely here, for sure.

 

8. The future is here

I designed some Climate Change Couture masks back in 2014-2015, and exhibited them in a show at the Institute for the Future and Swissnex San Francisco. Little did I know this would work the best for me battling Beijing smog in 2018.

I spoke about this a lot during my talks, such as this one in Crossboundaries, an architecture firm in Beijing:

 

9. Can you feel the power?

There are a lot of places in Beijing that will make you contemplate about the centuries and dynasties that it took to build this city. They’re quite inspiring and exhausting to walk around in. Fragrant Hills and the Botanical Gardens looked tiny on the map and I thought I’d be done in the morning. I came home…12 hours afterwards. The good thing about splitting a residency in two is that one can run around in Part 1, determining which ones to go back to and include in your project in Part 2.

 

10. An older history of science

Still a nerd, I think my favorite place in Beijing is the Beijing Ancient Observatory, which was built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty. Many places i loved in Vienna were built in the 1800s and are therefore babies in comparison. Most history books are so Western-centric and I was grateful for being reminded that the oldest technologies in the world aren’t far from my backyard.

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I love this courtyard! 😍

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TLDR: I had kept my expectations low, mainly because I didn’t have enough information about China as lots of websites like Google are blocked. And so I was prepared for anything. It’s wonderful to have a wealth of information, a lot of new friends, and a tank of inspiration to draw from as I prepare to finish this residency in 2019. Do reach out for more about Future Feast and The Planetary Renewal Spa!

 


 

In November 2018, I was artist-in-residence of China Residencies and Red Gate Residencies as the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell Resident Crystal Ruth Bell was co-founder of China Residencies who passed away in 2014; the residency is held in her honor. The projects I am working on are Future Feast and The Planetary Renewal Spa from The Apocalypse Project series. I will be back in March of 2019.

 

The Planetary Renewal Spa

The Planetary Renewal Spa (2018- ) is a series of self-care performance rituals that illuminate the effects of climate breakdown. The spa currently offers two services: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes and Disappearing Honey Facial.

The Planetary Renewal Spa: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes

Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes takes clients on a sensory experience of a hurricane, from light feathery touches of the coming storm to a full catastrophe.

 

The Planetary Renewal Spa: Disappearing Honey Facial

 

Disappearing Honey Facial gives clients a relaxing facial massage using raw honey while the artist narrates the story of bees disappearing because of climate change.

 

The Planetary Renewal Spa: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes

 

The Planetary Renewal Spa was first performed at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing as part of my residency as the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell resident of China Residencies.

I’m starting to pack for some fellowships, one of which is for China Residencies and while decluttering I came across some CDs (CDs!) from 2005 (2005!) which had photos of my lone trip to China, as a journalist covering a youth delegation to Beijing, Shanghai, and Huangzhou which aimed to foster good Sino-Philippine diplomatic ties. This was before the Beijing Olympics and China was opening its doors to the world. I can’t wait to see what has changed, to re-discover my roots, and to get scolded by lots of ahmas on the state of my Mandarin.

Also, as this was pre-social media days, who on earth are these people?! The only person I remember is the head of the youth commission who went on to be a senator. (He’s a good one, not one of those horrifying hacks you normally read about to see the decaying state of humanity.) Ah, the joy of forgetting.

I was a journalistic non-entity but was front and center here because I was the tallest.

Ni hao, you guys! I’m honored and excited to be selected from a pool of 700 artists for the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell residency by China Residencies, from November to December in Beijing. What an awesome way to round up the year! I’m looking forward to continuing my work in climate change and sustainability with the residency theme, Nourish. The last time I was in China was more than 10 years ago, on a journalism assignment / youth ambassador thing before the Beijing Olympics, so another visit is long overdue. Let’s get this Mandarin restarted, y’all. I even have my reusable chopsticks ready.

This is the second time I applied for this grant, so kids, it just goes to show: If at first you don’t succeed, eat your feelings then try again.

Xie xie, everyone! 我很高興!

More here: https://www.chinaresidencies.com/news/205