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.
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.
(USA and International)—The Peace Studio supports, trains, and unites the next generation of artists, journalists and storytellers to inspire people everywhere to become active peacebuilders. Earlier this year, they began commissioning creatives to generate peace offerings in response to the isolating COVID-19 pandemic in their 100 Offerings of Peace Campaign. I’m stoked to have contributed to this awesome and necessary campaign on Day 23; my piece is about the Australian bushfire crisis.
Human hearts cast out of resin, bushfire ash, soil, stones, flowers, etc.
“I moved to Australia in September 2019, and what I viewed initially as a move to a country that was relatively safe from climate catastrophes quickly turned into a move to ground zero because of the bushfire crisis. I decided to use the ashes to create art as a way forward for healing and regeneration. I reference the scene of the “Weighing of the Hearts” of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, in which the dead person’s heart is weighed against a feather. This peace offering asks us, what weighs our hearts down or makes them lighter?”
“One day I woke up and a piece of the planet was in my heart,” is how my art/sci/nature/sci-fi video offering starts. Check out the video here: https://thepeacestudio.org/day-23/
The Peace Studio is co-founded by Dr. Maya Soetoro, also consultant to the Obama Foundation and whom we in the Obama Leaders: Asia-Pacific cohort have the honor of being with. Let’s do what Yo-yo Ma (Day 25) says and to create art and post it online with the hashtag #OfferPeace. Please support their wonderful work on @the_peace_studio and www.thepeacestudio.org.
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. .
(Norway / Chile) I’m excited to share the news that the book, “Our Entangled Future: Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change,” is now available and free to download. My contribution, a short story version of “The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store,” won third place, and I’m stoked to be part of this wonderful collection. The book will be launched tomorrow, October 15, at the Transformations 2019 conference in Santiago, Chile, and will be available in ebook and paperback versions.
The nine short stories presented in Our Entangled Future are rooted in the complex reality of the climate crisis. Rather than painting a dystopic future, they present agency-driven characters whose insights will inspire readers to contemplate and realize the potential for quantum social change.
The book is co-edited by Karen O’Brien, Ann El Khoury, Nicole Schafenacker and Jordan Rosenfeld. Many thanks to the team, the jury and my fellow writers!
Ice Chess examines the Arctic crisis and inspires viewers and participants to reflect on the situation up north. A map of the Arctic with its indigenous peoples is printed on a chessboard with pieces cast out of ice. Inside the pieces are toy soldiers and that represent the players in the emerging “battle” of the Arctic—the political and industrial figures that have big stakes in oil and shipping that stand to gain from melting ice and the emerging maritime routes as a result, and the pawns that represent the countries that will be affected by sea level rise and that are sacrificed in order to achieve these goals.
In these urgent times, now is not the time to romanticize the Melt. In a game with high stakes, who is responsible? On the edges of the board are freestanding soldiers and figures that represent observer countries and other affected nations, and anonymous figures that represent globally concerned distributed people. The battle is on, and we are all watching with bated breath. Ice Chess uses art and science to interrogate, to speak truth to power, to point to the powerful entities who are primarily responsible for what is affecting the whole planet.
Chess is one of the oldest skill games in the world and has been
played for over 5000 years. Chess spread around the world through
colonization and trade. The objective of chess is to trap the king—to
checkmate him—and it wins the game. Chess is historically played
by the wealthy. In this project, it references wealth inequality, one of
the systemic causes of climate change.
Chess is metaphorical of how humanity has treated nature—as a
game of strategy where we seek to exploit it and each other. It takes
this further by actually melting the project with the aid of the
players—a reference to how we collectively have caused the Arctic
to melt and how we can also put a stop to it.
This game does not intend to pit one human being against the other (or one country against the other), which risks oversimplification. Rather, each player represents a set of alternative possibilities that, when the game is played, clash to produce permutations of consequences. In the game, players and the audience are allowed to view the many entanglements that a wicked problem such as the Arctic crisis can provide.
A primary reason for economic interest in the Arctic is the emerging
Northern Sea Route, which will connect Western Europe and Asia. This
could make shipping up to 14 days faster than the southern route via the
Suez Canal. In 2018, the Venta Maersk, owned by Maersk Line and
carrying 3,600 containers, successfully set sail from Vladivostok to St.
Petersburg—the first container ship to tackle the Arctic sea route north of
The Chessboard & The Pieces
The board is a map of the Arctic labeled with indigenous communities,
seas, emerging shipping routes—all of these will be names we would hear
more about in the coming decades. This map represents the battleground
where a literal and figurative cold war is already happening.
The powerful row of pieces—the king, queen, bishop, knight, and
rook—represent the Arctic Council nations: Russia, USA, Iceland, Finland,
Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Denmark. The row of pawns represent
countries around the world that are and will be most affected by sea level
rise. Surrounding the board are Arctic Council observer countries, other
nations affected by sea level rise, and anonymous figures that represent
globally distributed concerned people.
Climate Change & the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes contain 5,500 cubic miles of freshwater, one of the biggest freshwater resources of the world. It supports more than 34 million people who live within its Basin. These people rely on the lakes for drinking water, fisheries, recreation, and industry. Climate change is already affecting these ecosystems through extreme weather, decreased crop yields, heat waves and consequent poor air quality, stress on water quality and infrastructure, affected navigation and recreation, and impact on wildlife.
Thank you to curators Mark Valentine Sullivan and Antajuan Scott and the rest of the Science Gallery Detroit team!
(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.
It’s almost 2019, and what a year 2018 has been! Here’s a year in review:
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).
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.
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’m delighted to announce that The Apocalypse Projectis in the running for the Best Climate Solutions 2018 Award for “Communicating Climate Change Threats and Opportunities”! I’m hoping to fund a future series of projects benefiting an indigenous rainforest community in the Philippines, and to create an arts-led curriculum that outlines the frameworks of the climate change adaptation projects and workshops I’ve been leading in all of these places in the world you’ve seen me in.
The online voting procedure will be open from September 24, 2018 until October 15, 2018 (5.00 pm CEST).