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Korea

This November I find myself in Seoul for the Bio-Art Seoul 2015 Conference. It’s great to be back here in Korea, which is turning into a yearly homecoming of a sort. Annyunghaseyo!

For my bit in the show, I presented the second volume of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store. There were eight new scents I debuted here. The line was called “A Walk Home” and it was based on the scents of my childhood in the Philippines. These olfactory memories were especially potent when I moved to Manila last year after ten years of being away.

 

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store Volume 2: A Walk Home

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store Volume 2: A Walk Home

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store: A Walk Home has these eight scents: Recess, A Chinese Apothecary, Time with My Mom, Swimming Lessons, Wild Grass, Manila Sunsets, Carnival, and Moments of Solitude.

Oh you kids. <3

Oh you kids. ❤

During the exhibition, it was fun to see families smell the perfumes. My favorite part was when I saw the little kids trying them on, especially the really small ones who had to tiptoe to reach the bottles. It was so cute when one group of little boys gathered around, each taking a bottle, and sprayed it on himself. (I pity the ones who got the perfumes marked “Recess” and “A Chinese Apothecary”.)

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Some of my favorite target audience.

 

Sometimes, reactions to my work are polarized. LIke so. (I hope the kid on the right is ok.)

Sometimes, reactions to my work are polarized. LIke so. (I hope the kid on the right is ok.)

And now, a cathartic release by writing about an embarrassing moment. It was the exhibition opening, and man, I was so excited to do my first Korean ribbon cutting—complete with the white gloves and golden scissors, yo! I was nervous to cut it in advance like I’ve seen people do when what I should have been worried about was not catching the darn things after you snip them.

My first Korean ribbon cutting ceremony! How exciting!

My first Korean ribbon cutting ceremony! How exciting!

I’m the sad chick second from left with the pile of ribbons on the floor. Sigh. No one ever tells me these things. Hmph.

Epic fail.

“Oh sh*t” was the first thought that entered my head. Epic fail.

For the record, I still think it’s a lot cooler to let everything dramatically fall to the floor. Hello. It’s a grand opening. Just kidding.

Artist Talk: Wet Media Conference

In Sogang University’s Department Art and Technology, artists (including yours truly) gave talks on their work. My talk, entitled “Living SciFi: Bio-Art and our Futures” drew on my journey through science, art, and design, ending with the show at the Institute for the Future and what I’ve learned here so far.

It was also great to meet some bio-artists. Personally, I identify more with the terms “conceptual artist” and “sci-art” since I currently work with so many different fields of sciences and haven’t stuck to just one, so it was great to learn from these guys, especially those whose work I’ve heard so much about. Mad props to Anna Dumitriu, Vicky Isley and Paul Smith of boredomresearch, Sonja Baeumel, Roberta Trentin, etc. It was cool to meet you guys!

Workshop: Making Smells of Perfumes

You know I'm in Korea when I'm doing a lecture in my hiking clothes.

You know I’m in Korea when I’m doing a lecture in my hiking clothes.

A week after the opening, I also did a perfumery workshop with some high school and university students in Korea. There was a group of biology students that were accompanied by their teacher. In the beginning, the students participated in my olfactory memory experiment where they were given mystery smells and then were asked to recall the memory that came to mind.

The students did my smell memory experiment where I gave them mystery smells to sniff and asked them to recall the memory that came to mind.

The students did my smell memory experiment where I gave them mystery smells to sniff and asked them to recall the memory that came to mind.

Later, I asked them to do a Smell Walk and gather objects from nature that they want to make a perfume of. We distilled essential oils and also used some from my own collection of essential oils. It was exciting as one distillation flask caught fire (the kids put it out in time and no one was hurt).

The students took a Smell Walk and gathered fragrant objects from nature.

The students took a Smell Walk and gathered fragrant objects from nature.

 

The haul from the Smell Walk

The haul from the Smell Walk

 

Gathering fragrant things in nature

Gathering fragrant things in nature

 

Mashing things up for distillation

Mashing things up for distillation

 

A simple DIY distillation set-up

A simple DIY distillation set-up

 

Whattup, Korea!

Whattup, Korea!

I loved that one of the museum staff participated and insisted on making a banana-flavored perfume. He was a fun student. For the record, I insisted that he tuck his tie so it wouldn’t catch fire.

This museum staff member joined our workshop and he made a banana perfume.

This museum staff member joined our workshop and he made a banana perfume.

After the distillation, I also got them to create perfumes using the commercial essential oils I have in my personal collection.

Day 2: I was back in my apocalypse suit. Ole!

Day 2: I was back in my apocalypse suit. Ole!

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Making perfumes

 

Another experience of making a perfume using commercial essential oils

Another experience of making a perfume using commercial essential oils

I gave them Apocalypse Project Commander badges as a reward for all their hard work. Thanks, guys!

Apocalypse Project Commander badges for everyone! Whee!

Apocalypse Project Commander badges for everyone! Whee!

Aaaannnd that’s officially it for me for 2015. No more exhibitions, talks, workshops, interviews, etc. for the rest of the year. I’ll be in Seoul until November 29th reflecting on the year that was and what to do next. You know I’m not a big fan of this part. A bit of Korean hiking should knock me to my senses. Are you in town? Come join me!

Many thanks to Bio-Art Seoul 2015, Biocon, Seoulin Bioscience Co., and Digital Art Weeks International. Thank you especially to Dr. Sunghoon Kim and Helen Kwak!

 

 

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On my last day in Korea, I took my second pilgrimage to Kukkiwon, World Taekwondo Headquarters. I’m kidding about the pilgrimage; I wanted to go shopping in the taekwondo stores on the way. At Kukkiwon, it was amazing to see a class in progress. Look: adults! People my height, if not taller!

A class in Kukkiwon

A class in Kukkiwon

Round the corner from the gym and above the cafeteria, I walked up to the Kukkiwon Museum, which was closed the last time I was there. It was fascinating to see all this memorabilia from competitions around the world.

Check out this championship cup from Nepal:

An early championship cup.

An early championship cup.

It was interesting to brush up on taekwondo graphic design:

Old posters

Old posters

And look at this old hogu made of bamboo:

An old hogu made of bamboo

An old hogu made of bamboo

There were some posters from championships in Manila:

More graphic design from Manila

More graphic design from Manila

I’m remembering my first pilgrimage here.

 

When I returned to Korea, among the things I was happy to do again was to take a walk through Gyeongbokgung, the largest of the palaces in Seoul. I loved seeing Bukhansan, the mountain behind it, all in full color. It was Hangeul Day, a day when Koreans essentially celebrate the making of their alphabet, and families and friends were strolling about.

HeLLO Bukhansan!

HeLLO Bukhansan!

One little step at a time.

One little step at a time.

Hanboks on the left, superheroes on the right.

Hanboks on the left, superheroes on the right.

Lovely Korean architecture

Lovely Korean architecture

Great to see you again.

Great to see you again.

Check out my first memories of it here last year.

It was a lovely day.

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October 2014, Seoul—The Apocalypse Project’s Climate Change Couture is now on view at Seoul National University Museum of Art. My piece is on the second floor and features six garments from Climate Change Couture’s Singapore, Manila, and Seoul collections, as well as six photos from the Singapore collection.

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Curated by Arthur Clay, founder and artistic director of Digital Art Weeks International, and Jeungmin Noe, senior curator at Seoul National University Museum of Art, the exhibition blurs the boundaries between art and science and enlarges the possibilities of interdisciplinary collaborations.

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The exhibition runs until December.

Many thanks to Digital Art Weeks and SNU MoA

[Seoul, South Korea] I’m happy to be back here in Seoul for a bit for some exhibitions and talks. One of those talks is in the interestingly named Emotion Engineering Department at Sangmyung University. Professor Jieun Kwon, my dear friend and fellow SVA graduate, warmly invited me to give a talk in her class and to observe the lab.

In the beginning of my afternoon in the program, I was impressed by a class assignment—the students had to draw diagrams about the definition of Service Design, and it was interesting to hear a design class in another language. Professor Kwon will be asking them to do another one at the end of the term so they can observe the difference and witness the breadth of what they have learned.

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They gave me a tour of the Emotion Engineering lab. We played with a Star Wars game that uses brain waves. Here we had to make the ball rise to the top.

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I took a few minutes to successfully do so—I thought my brain died—and Professor Kwon was a lot faster than me.

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Afterwards, I gave an artist talk about my background and how I came to do my projects on art and science.

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I’m really happy to be back in Korea; I have, as you know, a lot of great memories from this place and it’s great to be meeting new people. I think it’s fantastic how art, science, and technology are explored in different countries around the world, and how collaborations bring about the coolest projects.

Sangmyung University's Emotion Engineering program with Professor Jieun Kwon

Sangmyung University’s Emotion Engineering program with Professor Jieun Kwon

Warm thanks to Dr. Kwon and her class at the Sangmyung University’s Emotion Engineering program for hosting me!

 

This weekend, I tried to up my diving skills in Anilao, Batangas. It’s my second time seeing Sombrero Island:

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It reminds me of this island in Jindo, which I nicknamed Little Prince Island since it looks like Exupery’s drawing of the hat with the snake inside. (I wrote about it before here.)

This looked so familiar.

This looked so familiar.

I’m less buoyant. Hurray!

This weekend was the first time I exhibited The Apocalypse Project in our group showcase in ArtScience Museum. This was a stressful installation, but not quite as much as climbing more than 43 mountains, or mowing a mountain in a monsoon with a sickle. But everything went alright in the end, and I was quite happy with how it looked:

The Apocalypse Project at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, 10 November 2013

The Apocalypse Project at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, 10 November 2013

The Apocalypse Squad

I have learned so much from all the shows I’ve done in the past, but this is hands down my favorite one, mainly because of the team of students who made up the Apocalypse Squad. Without them, everything would have fallen apart. They worked on everything— helping to assemble the actual pieces,  making each interactive station work well, and helping the audience win the Mission Apocalypse game. It was quite a production for a one-day show. I was so proud of how they worked that day—a clear indication of me getting old. Here we are, after takedown:

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The Apocalypse Squad. (L-R) Sandra Goh, photographer. Yuen Kei Lam, Elaine Sam, me, Yerim Ku, Jethro Leong, Yuqi Liew, and Ingmar Salim.

Kudos as well to Tembusu students and faculty who helped me set up the installation.

More detailed photos about what went on in future posts by this week, but for now, I think I need to rest for a couple of days and get my sleeping patterns back to normal.

But in more important news:

Donate to Haiyan victims

As the world knows, Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) tore through my home country, the Philippines, a few days ago. Being here in Singapore, I have been feeling very heartbroken, helpless, and distracted at seeing all the photos of the devastation. I also couldn’t help noticing the irony of exhibiting The Apocalypse Project, which I intended to make people visualize a dystopic future brought about by climate change, and actually have that apocalypse a reality in my motherland. I am not kidding—some of the things people drew for The Apocalypse Workshop became true this weekend. At the last minute, I changed one dress for Climate Change Couture as a reference to this catastrophe. (More on this in a future post.)

Thank you, Lion City, for lending the Philippines a hand.

Find out ways to help Haiyan victims here and here.

Photo by Romeo Ranoco for Reuters

Photo by Romeo Ranoco for Reuters