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Environment

As an interdisciplinary artist who works on environmental and social issues, discovering Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat was an incredible experience. Having grown up in the Philippines, I was no stranger to its bountiful nature, but this time I was on a mission. I had, not so long ago, finished an artscience residency in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, and to discover that the Philippines had something very similar was beyond exciting. I did not have to go that far to see a rainforest, after all. I was very grateful to accept Great Escapes Philippines’ invitation for their inaugural Give Back Weekend Adventure. It was a great opportunity for me to research the area in light of a forthcoming art residency and collaboration with the Centre for Sustainability Philippines, an environmental NGO based in Palawan and one of Great Escapes’ partners.

Such joy to be back in the rainforest!

Brazil and the Philippines are antipodes; that is, if I dig a hole in my house in Manila and kept going until I reached the other side of the earth, I would end up in Matto Grosso in Brazil. But despite being half a world away, the Amazon and Palawan share similarly rich natural resources, colonial history, and immediate and long-term threats. Both embodied a certain type of wild beauty under peril, where traditional ways conflict with contemporary lifestyles. It was easy to relate these two ecosystems together as I experienced similar lush greenery and clear river water. As an artist, it was a good time to reflect on how I can possibly continue my work to raise awareness on both of them.

Brazil vs the Philippines

Halfway around the world! From http://www.antipodesmap.com

But there were stark differences as well, not just the fact that Brazil was a Portuguese colony and the Philippines, of Spain. (I saw the basketball court of the Batak community and immediately thought of the football field in the Baré community of Nova Esperança in Brazil that we visited.) CNCH was less explored than the Amazonian reserve I was in, and so the trails were not as defined and were steep in some areas. It made for quite an adventure, though even beginners will be able to make it. (Be prepared for a good sweat!) A tip for those like me who are terrified of descents—when in doubt, just slide. I was very grateful to the CS staff and intern who helped me through my Descent Anxiety.

Entering the Batak community

 

A basketball court in the Batak community

Give Back + Adventure

There are terms to unpack in the phrase “Give Back Weekend Adventure”. Give back to whom? There is the Cleopatra’s Needle itself, a 41,350-hectare area that was recently declared a Critical Habitat, thanks to the staunch efforts of the Centre for Sustainability. It took four years to get this declaration, and not a moment too soon, as this ecosystem is under threat from, among other things, illegal quarrying and climate change.

More specifically, participants give back to the Batak community, which CS collaborates with on different projects so that their culture and livelihood are preserved. It was good to meet members of the community, such as the elders, chief, and families who were having a church gathering.

One of the highlights of the CNCH weekend was getting to know the Centre for Sustainability’s Almaciga project. The Alamaciga tree, whose resin makes it a cash crop for the Batak tribe, takes 30 years to mature. When its seeds disperse, it takes a trained eye to spot the tiny seedlings, which are then marked. Participants in this weekend adventure can help out by spotting the marked seedlings and removing dry leaves and other detritus so that they can grow optimally. This project helps establish an alternative livelihood for the Batak community.

Caring for an Almaciga seedling. Photo courtesy of Joni Andrea Ong

Another highlight was hiking towards Pulang Bato, a part of the Tayabag River that had red rocks due to a still-to-be-researched material. We stopped to have lunch and to swim in the river, and as we lay on the shore, it was relaxing to watch the different kinds of butterflies that flew on the other side, oblivious to us intruders, while we washed ourselves with organic bath products.

 

Ready, get set, give back! Behind us are the red rocks of Pulang Bato. Photo by Monique Buensalido

Clear waters of the Tayabag River

 

Conscious Hiking

As a supporter of indigenous rights and the environment and an avid (though very slow) hiker, it was wonderful to have an opportunity to combine two of my passions. While one will not save the rainforest in one weekend, being able to do some useful work for a legitimate long-term project while meeting like-minded people and being educated about an important part of the environment is definitely time well-spent. Importantly, conscious hiking habits are employed here, and we all picked up trash along the hike during the two days. We were tired after the trip, but it was the best kind of weariness. It was also a great time for ideation—when my fellow participants knew my intentions, we had a blast thinking about potential art projects. It was easy to do, as we were jaded urbanites that were briefly surrounded by so much nature.

Thinking about art while hiking with Solomon Calago of the Centre for Sustainability. Photo by Joni Andrea Ong

 

At camp! Photo by Joni Andrea Ong

 

Breakfast time! Photo by Joni Andrea Ong

 

Food is fuel. Photo by Joni Andrea Ong

 

New friends while hiking! Photo by Monique Buensalido

 

My feet needed some Nature Rx

Sustainability is one of my main artistic themes, and through my experience, I have learned that tourism can have positive and negative effects to the planet. Many ecosystems around the world face threats from human impacts, and it is a moral imperative to integrate sustainable practices as we travel. Personally, I have grown weary of going to high traffic beaches and touristy areas that encourage so much wasteful consumption; it’s time to look at other parts of the country that still gives us much to learn about the planet and about ourselves.

For more details, check out the website of Great Escapes PH, or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

With Joni Andrea Ong of Great Escapes Philippines

Thank you to Great Escapes Philippines, Centre for Sustainability PH, and The Superfood Grocer for supporting this trip!

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The Apocalypse Project‘s Sewer Soaperie and An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest are exhibited in the first Manila Biennale in the walled city of Intramuros. The theme, “Open City,” refers to Intramuros as the origin of Manila’s culture. It is a tribute to the walled city’s beginnings as a port for the Galleon Trade, a time when Intramuros opened itself up to the world and welcomed new ideas, products and people.

Image credit: Manila Biennale

The Sewer Soaperie consists of soaps made from different points in the cycle of oil in human consumption, from palm oil to used oil to raw sewage and fatbergs, to highlight the effects of our impact on cities. Support for this project was given by Arts Collaboratory, Ministry of Culture of Colombia, and Medellín-based arts organizations Platohedro and Casa Tres Patios, where I did a residency in 2016.

This edition of An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest features scents based on the travel narratives of 19th century explorers of the Amazon, where naturalists such as Alfred Russell Wallace and Alexander von Humboldt encountered this ecosystem for the first time, which relates to the “openness” theme of the biennale. Visitors are allowed to smell these scents and inhale the stories of how these explorers encountered the Amazon. On the wall is text that features the passage of the books where I based these scents from. This project was inspired by my residency in the Amazon in 2017, with the support of LABVERDE and the INPA National Institute of Amazonian Research.

Manila, Medellín, and Manaus are cities that are similar in their colonial history, richness of culture and stories, and vulnerabilities to climate change, which the works highlight. It’s been great fun to bring these together for this historic biennale as well as be reminded of my enriching residency experiences in South America, of which the Philippines share very similar characteristics.

The Sewer Soaperie and An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest

This edition of An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest interprets the olfactory memories of 19th century explorers into scent, based on their travel narratives

The installation can be viewed at the biennale lounge. Image credit: Manila Biennale

Manila Biennale 2018 is led by Executive Director Carlos P. Celdran, and this installation is curated by Alice Sarmiento. Thank you!

Image credits: Photos 1-4 by Studio Catherine Sarah Young, 5-7 by Manila Biennale

[Manaus, Brazil] LABVERDE, with whom I did an artscience residency in the Amazon Rainforest last July 2017, has a catalog of all its resident artists for the year.

I’m on pages 128-131, featuring my works, An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest from The Apocalypse Project, and Experiments in Nature from Wild Science.

 

Thank you to the amazing LABVERDE team for all of it!

View the entire thing on LABVERDE’s website.

Barcelona, Spain—From June 20-22, I was in Barcelona, Spain (one of my second homes where I attended art school, hurray!) as The Apocalypse Project is a finalist for the Cultural Innovation International Prize in CCCB. The theme of this year’s biennial prize is climate change.

There were 10 finalists from all over the world, though strangely I was the only one from Asia and I think the one based outside of the EU. How curious. But in any case, I was really grateful to be a part of it; a lot of my best friends are in Barcelona and I haven’t seen them in 7 years. How fast time flies!

On June 20, we had a workshop to explain our proposals and then we had to give a public presentation.

CCCB Cultural Innovation International Prize

Metaphors and storytelling

We had a bilingual workshop, which was mainly for me and James, from the UK

The Apocalypse Project: It’s More Fun in the Anthropocene

With some of my best friends whom I haven’t seen!

When your friends are with you, this talk was a breeze

Taekwondo besties!

My proposal, “The Apocalypse Project: It’s More Fun in the Anthropocene,” was runner-up to the prize. I’m very happy to be a part of this, and to speak about four years of collaborations in Barcelona, one of my “home cities” where my views on interdisciplinary art and science first took root. I’m glad to have seen my friends again—I rarely travel for tourism because of the carbon—so this was a very meaningful trip! Onwards and upwards!

Indonesia—Last April 7th, I was in Lewoleba, a city in the whaling island of Lembata, Indonesia to hold an art workshop with youth courtesy of Plan International, with whom I am currently a residency artist. We did Smell Walks, drawing workshops, a competition to build a resilient country, etc. An exhibition will be held in June after I do this in two more countries, so stay tuned!

Artist intro with my awesome translator, Evvy!

 

 

Explaining their resilient country

The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest

OPENING:
Saturday, September 17, 2016, 6 pm

EXHIBITION DATA:
September 17 to October 14, 2016
1335Mabini presents The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest, a solo exhibition by Catherine Sarah Young from 17 September to 14 October 2016.

The show explores potential futures under climate change through various forms including photographs, sculptures as well as soap and olfactory artworks crafted from unique saponification and distillation processes developed by the artist. The Apocalypse Project is an interdisciplinary platform that began in 2013 during Young’s art-science residency at the Singapore-ETH Zurich Future Cities Laboratory and has since then been showcased in several cities internationally.  Featured in the upcoming exhibition are new pieces from some of Young’s ongoing projects (Climate Change Couture, The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, and The Sewer Soaperie) and are a result of her month-long residency in Medellin, Colombia, held at arts organizations Casa Tres Patios and Platohedro, and supported by Arts Collaboratory and the Ministry of Culture of Colombia.

From the 1335Mabini website. Thanks guys!