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Philippines

The Sewer Soaperie, The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, and Climate Change Couture: Flower Masks are included in the Seawall project, a collaborative work by Manila-based artist Poklong Anading (PH), currently at his and Neil Fettling’s (AUS) exhibition, “Normal scheduling will resume shortly” curated by Dr. Vincent Alessi.

The Sewer Soaperie

Seawall is a collaborative project that deals with memory and the relationship of the city. Our imbalanced overdependence on natural resources for our daily sustenance has led to eroding our relationship with nature, largely for the sake of economic progress. Manila used to be protected from typhoons and flooding by mangroves; in fact, its name came from “may nilad“, where nilad is a mangrove species Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea that grows beside the water, protecting coastlines from storms and erosion. Using the “balikbayan” image of sending foreign goods to the Philippines, the stacks of boxesare a metaphor of looking back and serve as containments for the individual artists’ idea of the city they are living in. What are our memories of this city, and what might we let go of in order to make it more habitable for its inhabitants?

Other participating artists for Seawall include Milo Aceremo, Billy Adonis, Lorena Rose Balina, Idan Cruz, Rico Entico, Neil Fettling, Neo Maestro, Paul Mondok, Gelo Narag, Miguel Lorenzo Uy, Johannes Wiener, and MM Yu. Wonderful to meet new artists and say hello to old friends!

With Poklong Anading, curator of the project

The exhibition runs until November 3, 2019 at the 4th foor of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

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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

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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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Installation view of The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest at 1335Mabini

 

Here are some photos from the opening of The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest exhibition at 1335Mabini, including the sciart conversations afterwards.

Man, I’m tired.

More soon!

I’d find any excuse to re-watch Hayao Miyazaki’s films. I remembered Howl’s Moving Castle, and how young Sophie, one of the main characters, was cursed by the Witch of the Waste into an old woman. It’s interesting to see how she behaves being someone young in mind but old in body—at least thinking of longevity in the context of another futures exhibition I’m working on.

Sophie after being cursed by a spell by the Witch of the Waste

Sophie after being cursed by a spell by the Witch of the Waste (Image copyright by Studio Ghibli, screenshot via Youtube)

I also think it’s great that her hair remained fabulously gray after the spell was broken. What are the things about the physicality of youth will you miss?

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Bringing granny hair back in fashion (Image copyright by Studio Ghibli, screenshot via Youtube)

 

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screen grab from Radio Republic

Happy and proud of everyone at Future Feast / GoExperience Redesign! This proved to me that it was possible to get a lot of people of different talents together in the name of raising climate change awareness. It was one big amazing group hug for all humanity.

Check out Radio Republic’s photos here.

Also watch their video below:

 

This officially marks the end of my residency and exhibition at The Mind Museum. You all know I hate this part. I’ll be taking some time to decompress and think about next steps. In the meantime, The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store has been getting some traction online, so I’m fielding interviews on that end. Updates soon, and thanks for keeping up with the projects!