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Digital Art Weeks International, whose exhibition “Hybrid Highlights” was held in Seoul last year, just published their free book, On Science, On Art, On Society: Interviews with Innovators”. Edited by Arthur Clay, Monika Rut, and Timothy J. Senior, it features a collection of twenty-five interviews from practitioners originating in diverse fields and opposing outwardly.

Divided into three separate chapters, the authors illustrate to the reader models of hybridity that can validate convergence as a method for nurturing innovation across disciplines. Readers interested in innovation and the processes that drive it, will find that each of the chapters of the book addresses a particular area of ​​knowledge and that each of the interviews offers its own perspective on the subject at hand as well as examples that could offer theory into practice.

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I was one of the interviewees in this interesting project. I’m in very cool and amazing company and it’s quite intimidating to be with them, such as Denisa Kera, Davide Angheleddu, Ruedi Stoop, etc. Download it here from iTunes now!

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In my interview I talk about artscience collaborations, The Apocalypse Project, and climate change and cultural change. It also featured a photo from Climate Change Couture: Singapore (the Thermoreflector, modeled by Cheryl). Here is the interview, courtesy of DAW International:

Where Art & Science Coexist
An Interview with Catherine Young

Interviews with Innovators: As an artist, your work primarily explores human perception and its relationship to memory, creativity, and play. In a way, your story as an artist begins with studying molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of the Philippines. What inspired you to move into the arts, and what did you take with you from the sciences?

Catherine Young: I come from a family of artists and doctors. Although my grandfather was a photographer, my mom was a genetics professor so I grew up with a lot of Punnett Squares and DNA lessons. I love science and initially wanted to do only lab-based research, but I realized that I didn’t want to be just cooped up in the lab – there were so many other ways I wanted to pursue my ideas. I moved to New York City at 21 and just saw the endless possibilities available instead of the stifling path I had ahead of me. I moved (or more specifically, “ran away”) to Barcelona and rediscovered art, but also discovered for the first time how art and science could work together. From there I chose to study interaction design for my MFA in the US (which was a relatively new field at the time) because I felt it was a discipline where art and science could coex- ist and be effectively communicated to others.

IWI: You have worked in a variety of traditional forms including draw- ing and painting, but also with less-traditional media such as dirt or soil. What role has artistic and scientific practices played in helping you break away from traditional formats?

CY: When two things collide, new relationships can be formed. For exam- ple, visual art is usually composed of traditional fields such as painting or sculpture—works that the public shouldn’t touch else you destroy the work. But this doesn’t hold true with interactive pieces where the work has to be touched to be experienced. The convergence of art and science leads to new ways to offer stories for people to explore, and unique opportunities for empathy. Also, advancements in science along with new ways of expression in art are leading to greater diversity in the type of work that can be done. For instance, there’s been a relatively recent interest in art investigating smell because of research that shows that olfaction is linked to memory. So if I were an artist interested in memory, this sense is now a channel for me to investigate that theme. Science can inform art and vice versa; each enriches the other.

I don’t really look at my projects and say, “Ok, what is the ‘art’ and what is the ‘science’ here?” I start with the questions I want to explore, and then test those approaches that I feel will best communicate the ideas I want to share with people. My different experience of artistic and scien- tific fields has exposed me to a lot of different ways for investigating top- ics and then presenting them to a wider audience. Science for me involves a lot of data collection, something which I often do in my current work. Artistic methods help me explore the many ways in which I can show that work. Each exhibition of a project is also like an experiment to me, so my work continues as I check how people respond to it. Person- ally, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between art and science because both ask similar questions. However, there is a great difference in the professions of art and science because of the systems we have created to practice them, such as the galleries, the festivals, the labs, academia, industry, and so on.

IWI: “Disclosure of knowledge” or “lifting of the veil” is how you describe your Apocalypse Project. Here you are trying to physically animate an in- quiry made concerning environmental futures. Can you tell us about this research in general and what the process was that transformed an en- quiry into an artwork?

CY: I started The Apocalypse Project during my participation at the 2013 ArtScience Residency Program in partnership with ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, and the Singapore-ETH Zurich Future Cities Laboratory (FCL). I was talking to the scientists in FCL who were doing very interesting research on climate change and sustainability. But while their work was important, I saw a gap between their research and the public understanding of climate change.

In parallel to this, I was doing workshops with high school and college students in Singapore, asking them questions about what climate change looked like to them, what superpowers they wished they had to combat climate change, and what they would wear to a climate-change apocalypse. The last question resonated really well with the majority of the stu- dents, more so than my other questions. I realized that fashion is one thing that people can relate to – clothing is both a means of survival and a form of self-expression. This was the beginning of Climate Change Couture. I took the research of the FCL scientists and designed clothes and narratives that would fit a world that was uninhabitable, highlighting the problems that the research projects addressed. For the first collection, members of the FCL staff were the ones who modeled them and I think it was wonderful to see them outside the lab and being models.

IWI: Besides showing the actual objects themselves, how else have you tried to communicate the fact that climate change is real and “the heat is on” as they say?

CY: The projects are all about experience, so rather than just showing the clothes or the perfumes I developed, the visitors are invited to try on the clothes and smell the perfumes. In this way, they are able to place themselves in the story. I also hold public events, such as Future Feast at The Mind Museum in Manila where I got to collaborate with chefs to think about dishes of the future. It was a real feast with local musicians per- forming, scientists explaining topics about climate change, the chefs talking to people about why things like worm meat and sea vegetables could be future sources of nutrition, and included activities for the whole family. I think doing these inclusive and fun events reframes climate change from a doom-and-gloom political issue, meant to be discussed only by governments, to a human issue about creativity and resilience that everyone should act on.

IWI: Some of the garments that you have put on exhibition connect traditional design culture with what we might call “a fashion of necessity”. Does the inclusion of traditional elements make the message clearer that climate change and cultural change are synonymous?

CY: I think culture has always had to adapt to the environment. For example, the Barong Tagalog, which is a traditional dress for men in the Philip- pines, was designed to be lightweight because of the country’s tropical climate. I re-imagined it with a hoodie because of the unpredictable weather the country now has. When designing for a particular city, I like to research their traditional garments because the message resonates bet- ter with the audience if the visual imagery is familiar and they can relate to it. A lot of my projects deal with future loss, and so the audience has to imagine a world where some things are not available to satisfy the needs of their traditional practices.

IWI: Which of the methods used to carry over your message have been the most effective in motivating and empowering people to become co- creators of a more tangible future?

CY: I think it’s the fact that I do multiple projects, so I give people different ways to engage with environmental futures. If one doesn’t do it for them, another one might. Each project is also exhibited through multiple platforms and in multiple cities, and uses different types of media. Some people knew about the projects through the Internet, but for most peo- ple the work was more powerful when they saw and experienced them in person. From what I’ve observed, I think the work becomes most effec- tive when people are able to share their experience (and the memories that these projects evoke) with other people. This allows conversation about climate change go beyond the exhibition or the festival and into the people’s normal everyday lives. Another is that I target a wide audience. I’m particularly interested in the reactions of young children, because they have the most honest reactions. They will also bear the worst consequences of climate change, so I think they need to learn about it and how to take care of the environment as soon as possible.

IWI: Knowing that the research you have draw upon is the intellectual property of an institution with clear guidelines on representation, do you feel that there are any dangers of misrepresenting such research if presented through art objects and in a museum context?

CY: Yes, which is why I’m extremely careful about collaborations. There are a lot of conversations in the background, with me talking to my col- laborators (be it scientists, chefs, artists, students, companies, etc.) about what the project is, why I’m doing it, what possibilities could follow once we exhibit the work in public, as well as an opportunity to say no. I send out updates from time to time, and I update all my websites regu- larly so everyone knows what I’m up to. I’ve been on fellowships and grants for a long time, so I’m used to accountability and making sure eve- ryone is on the same page so that we’re all happy. For the information and images I have to send out to the press, or that I publish online, I always make sure everyone involved has reviewed it and has no issues with it. I think life is really short and there is no sense in prolonging suf- fering, so if I or the other person is unhappy, and all possible solutions have been exhausted, I probably will end the collaboration and just change the direction of the project.

That said, though, in my experience, if the finished project is successful – and I define “success” here as when a project gains an audience, when the message about climate change is effectively transmitted to another person, and when the collaboration was pleasant and we want to do it again – everybody wins: the artist, the collaborator, the space it was exhibited in, the audience who has had a positive experience. If the project fails at any point, such as if a blogger completely misinterprets it, it’s only me that has to bear it, and I try to rectify it by reaching out to the writer with more information and an invitation to get in touch. Either the writer updates his article or I’ll be working on another project to further make the point. The public events are, to me, critical, because I usually have attendants (I call them The Apocalypse Squad) who are trained to talk about the project and assist the audience if needed. The online presence of the projects is also important because that’s where I put all the information. I’ll get the occasional troll in the exhibition or on the Internet – usually climate change deniers – but I just ignore them.

Catherine Young is an artist, scientist, designer, explorer, and writer whose work primarily explores human perception and its relationships to memory, creativity, and play. Her work combines art and science to create stories, objects, and experiences that facilitate wonder and human connection. Her first solo exhibition was in a science museum. She re- ceived her degree in molecular biology and biotechnology from Manila, fine art education from Barcelona, and has an MFA in Interaction Design from the School of Visual Arts in New York as a Fulbright scholar. Previously, she was on residencies and fellowships in New York, Barcelona, Seoul, Singapore, and Manila.

About a week ago, I picked up a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better than Before, and read it in one sitting in a bookstore. The book talked about our habits and classified people into The Four Tendencies. (I got Questioner. No surprise there!) After reading, I decided to make a list of habits I wanted to pick up or break. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with so many projects lately and decided it was probably time to audit my processes and see how I can be better.

One habit I decided to take up is meditation. It’s difficult for me to do absolutely nothing, so I decided I would meditate by doing 100 deep breaths. Just that—breathing deeply (and counting!). For the past week at around 9 pm, I’ve been doing this for 10-20 minutes,  lying on my back and in the dark. After the meditation I would start another few hours of work before sleeping at 3 am.

On the first day of this habit I had a very strange surprise: a tingling on my head, face, and hands. It was intense enough for me to notice. It’s not painful or anything. I would even say it was pleasant—it’s how I imagined it would feel like if someone sprinkled fairy dust on me. Here are some journal entries that showed how I felt:

April 19, Sunday

I started a 100-breath meditation practice last night. I’m pretty sure I have ASMR. I feel it around the 20-something breath. It’s stronger on the top of my head. I feel it behind my ears, my face (especially lips). and on the collarbone. Later on, I feel it in my hands. 

I realized that stress and hot weather didn’t help.

April 20, Monday

I did 150 breaths, but only felt a bit of the tingling in my hands and face (a little in the chest). Maybe it’s because I slept at past 3 last night and because it’s so hot today (Manila is having a heat wave right now). And because I’m thinking too many things. 

By Day 4, I was panicking that I lost it. It was a stressful day.

April 21, Tuesday

Oh no. I think I lost the power!

By Day 5, I was relieved. 

April 22, Wednesday

I still have the power! My parents installed a new AC so the air was at 23 degrees Celsius. I started feeling it around breath #25. By breath #50, I sat up to see if I could feel it in the back of the head and neck without the interference of a pillow. I definitely felt it at the back of the neck, but not the spine, but then again I did a lot of side kick stretches at the bar in the dojang, so the sides of my back are killing me. 

The tingling actually persists after my meditation practice. Here is a sketch to show where I feel it:

A page from my journal which shows where I feel it—on top of the head, on the face, and back of the hands and fingers.

A page from my journal which shows where I feel it—on top of the head, on the face, and back of the hands and fingers.

When I shift my position, or when I’m exposed to light, the tingling is affected. Breathing controls the flow of the tingling.

Movement and sudden light (someone entered the room) didn’t stop it, but diminished it a bit, and resumed on the next breath. Exhaling / inhaling seem to control the flow of the tingling, especially on the exhale. [Doing] 100 breaths now takes me around 18 minutes. 

It tickles!

And later:

April 23, Wednesday

I can feel when it’s about to happen, like when you know you’re about to sneeze. 

I immediately thought of ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, since it trended online a few weeks ago and there are lots of articles about it. I tried the Youtube videos of whispering and other triggers, but it’s this breathing practice that really does it for me (though I breathe through the nose and throat as in yoga, so perhaps the sound of that helps, too). Science is skeptical about it, but I hope that I can get an MRI to check and see what is going on with me since it looks like I can control it.

All I know for sure is that I feel a tingling when I do lots of deep breaths. It’s like a meteor is about to burst from me. After I meditate, I feel like my to-do list becomes more manageable. I’m more focused and relaxed. As for the ASMR, I’m not sure if that also helps with my focus or if it’s just another consequence of the meditation, but I like visualizing myself as a superhero with a very strange (and perhaps useless) superpower.

As someone who is very interested in perception, discovering this about myself is fascinating. I’m already extremely sensitive to smell and sounds, so this makes me feel like another dimension is opening up for me. In any case, meditating amidst all the stress should be a good habit to pick up.

Next habit on my list: apply hand lotion every day.

It was fun talking about The Apocalypse Project, specifically Climate Change Couture, at Stage the Future 2: The 2nd International Conference on Science Fiction Theater. I couldn’t physically be there (boo), but I Skyped from Manila, waking up at 5 in the morning. It was a miracle I woke up at all, and even more miraculous that my wifi connection held up.

My view from a few thousand miles

My view from a few thousand miles

Many thanks, Chris Callow, Boyd Branch, Erika Hughes, and the rest of the conference organizers! Check out the conference site and their Twitter feed—I think it’s really great to have cool gatherings like this!

Ok, now I’m going back to bed.

Hey everyone! I’m happy to announce my latest writing project, Field Notes from Planet Earth. It’s a site that collects my long form essays about the environment and its intersections with science and culture. You might see some topics similar to what I’ve blogged about here in The Perceptionalist, which has been my creative sketchbook of a kind since grad school. FNFPE will house longer essays with a more environmental theme, mostly collected from my travels. New essays published every Monday.

Why another blog? As a creative person, I feel like I need multiple channels to express my ideas. Also, this blog has been a hodgepodge of exhibition announcements, notes from my talks, and random taekwondo photos that I feel like I need one more focused outlet for my longer thoughts. Plus I’ve always wanted an excuse to use the name and the sexy Intergalactic theme from WordPress. I’ll still be keeping this blog for everything else.

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You might remember the subject of the first post: the day I went to Jindo for the Miracle Sea Road Festival, which celebrates a legend that emerged due to tidal harmonics. I heart science, don’t you?

Follow the site here.

—Catherine

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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

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11 October 2014, Seoul—I was part of a panel on Science Day at the Innovation Forum of Digital Art Weeks held at Seoul National University Museum of Art. Dr. Denisa Kera of Swiss Hacketeria and National University of Singapore gave the keynote speech. My fellow panelists included Dr. Tae-Sub Chung of Yonsei Medical School, Dr. Min Suk Chung of Ajou University School of Medicine, and Dr. Tai Hyun Park of the Advanced Institute of Convergence Technology of Seoul National University. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sunghoon Kim, Director of the Integrated Bioscience and Biotechnology Institute at Seoul National University.

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The Innovation Forum is a three-day symposium spread out during Digital Art Weeks Seoul, which runs until December. Science Day explores common themes on the crossroads between Neuroscience and Aesthetics in the arts and Bioinformatics and Biohacking art movement, bringing in and raising questions about the creative process, scientific inquiry and realm of empirical aesthetics. The panel I was on, “Convergence in Arts and Sciences”, raised questions around convergence of science and art and how they have been inseparable.

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I gave a talk on “Art, Science, and Planetary Futures”, chronicling my experiences in science and art through the different residencies and fellowships I’ve had in the world. I spoke about how art and science converged to give people new experiences, to empower audiences, and to break traditional formats. It was great to see familiar faces in the audience—from fellow alumni of the School of Visual Arts, the staff at the National Art Studio of Korea (now known as the MMCA Residency Changdong), and the Future Cities Laboratory. Even Denisa is a familiar face—she moderated our panel at ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands last year. It was like going to a big family reunion. Thanks, guys!

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Thanks to DAW International for the invitation, SNU MoA for the lovely venue and staff, and Kate Kirkpatrick for the photos.

[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!

 

The past year or so has seen me venturing into the mysterious field of “speculative design.” In The Apocalypse Project, I’m trying to see possible futures under climate change, which are generally not pretty visions of tomorrow.

There are lessons I’ve learned as well as experiences whose lessons I’m still trying to find. Here they are:

1. Stories rule.

When it comes to something as dry and political as climate change, the best way to get people to care is to let them find a personal story. Climate change is humanity’s story, not just a few individuals’. It is also complex and multilayered; a photo of a melting glacier might trigger the emotions of people living near them, but it might not be as effective to a person who has never experienced a winter. Here in Southeast Asia, I notice that people paid more attention to stories about rising sea levels, extreme heat or supertyphoons, because those are the things that they have personally experienced and have something to say about.

However, this isn’t to say that people in the tropics will never care about polar bears. I think that another property about the climate story is that so many things are connected—a melting glacier may further alarm people who are experiencing drought, for example—and there are opportunities to connect these dots that people never realized existed.

2.  The power belongs to the people.

When people want to buy these hypothetical products, I’m taken aback and get a conscience attack of sorts. My goal was to show people how bad it could get, but instead people’s consumerist tendencies prevailed.

But then, why wouldn’t they want to buy these? I had made them so real that they only thing that was missing was a PayPal button.

I realized the power of people as consumers; the exchange of money for product allows for the existence of these objects. These transactions keep these products—and the ideas behind them—alive. If people refuse to buy the product, then it marks the end of it.

What does this mean for futures? For me, it gives me a barometer to see what types of people are out there. I’ve realized that the point of speculative design is to ignite debate. By making these projects, people have the opportunity to talk about these issues. There are so many opinions out there that

Should I sell these? This is something I keep thinking about. Perhaps letting people buy them allows for even greater awareness, as long as they know the intentions behind it. Let me get back to you.

3. The true test is converting a denier.

The bulk of the people who have emailed me or tweeted about how the like the project are usually futurists, artists, or other people who are already aware of climate change to begin with. While I’m extremely grateful for this, especially for the future collaborations that it could ensue, to put it bluntly these people are already smarties. The next cohort of people that I’ve impacted are the “laymen”—those whose work has nothing to do with design or sustainability, but are folks who can see their personal stories in these projects. I think this is wonderful because I’ve always wanted my designs to exist beyond, well, design. Children have always been among my primary—and usually the sharpest—audience and I usually prototype my ideas on them to see if I’m being too unnecessarily confusing.

Perhaps the pinnacle of “success” in doing projects like this is when I am able to convert a climate change denier. This is the final cohort of people who are going to be the hardest to convert but are those who will give me the greatest pleasure to impact. When the initial wave of press for my projects hit, I get trolling tweets from climate change deniers literally seconds later. It’s usually how I know that my projects are being written about. I would often joke to my friends about how they’re usually just a bunch of old white guys, usually in the US, who’ve never experienced the scale of a tropical typhoon and probably don’t get out much anyhow so who cares. I never engage in them, but the more I think about it, these are the ones that, if converted, means that I was extremely effective in conveying ideas.

But I just think they’re so gross. What to do, hmm. Any ideas?

4. Everyone can contribute to this.

In Future Feast, I got a bit floored towards the end because I truly felt that it was transformative for a lot of people. Having multiple talents together—musicians, artists, designers, scientists, etc.—can feel like high school because they have very different personalities, and I as the one behind this was a bit anxious that the dots wouldn’t connect because everyone had their own vested interest in the project. However, I realized that it was in this multilayered experience that gave people a meaningful experience. In the end, it was great to feel that it wasn’t just my project anymore—it was everyone’s, which was the point.

I’m still evaluating the impact of the work I’ve done in the past few months. Stay tuned here for updates on what’s next, and thanks so much for keeping up with the projects!

 

Hello, apocalypters! I’m excited to announce that as a culminating event for The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures, The Mind Museum is collaborating with Radio Republic to bring you Future Feast, a celebration of human creativity and our hopes for a sustainable future. The event will be on July 26, Saturday, 12PM to 7PM at the Special Exhibition Hall of The Mind Museum.

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With the theme of Redesign, I am working with chefs who are creating new dishes for a Convenience Store of the Future. Radio Republic is bringing in their featured artists for July: Slow Hello, Jireh Calo, and Brisom. There will also be a performance by special guest artist Joey Ayala. This is an event for all ages, so bring in your families and get the kids to play at the Tinker Studio, watch spoken word performances and science shows, dress up in clothes from the Climate Change Closet and have your photos taken at the photo booth, smell the perfumes of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, participate in Mission Apocalypse Scavenger Hunt and win an Apocalypse Project Commander Badge, and think of how you can help build a sustainable future by making an Earth Pledge.

Future Feast poster by The Mind Museum, which highlights activities

Future Feast poster by The Mind Museum, which highlights activities

Future Feast poster by Radio Republic, highlighting featured artists, special guest artist, and the chefs

Future Feast poster by Radio Republic, highlighting featured artists, special guest artist, and the chefs

Ticket prices are as follows:

EXPLORE TICKET (All Day Pass to the galleries of TMM, Access to Live Performances, Mission Apocalypse Scavenger Hunt & Climate Change Closet): 500.00 PHP

TASTE TICKET (Access to Live Performances, Future Tastes (6 dishes), and Climate Change Closet): 300.00 PHP

DISCOVER TICKET (Access to Live Performances and Climate Change Closet): 200.00 PHP

TINKER TICKET (Access to Tinker Studio: Make your own Animal Art): 150.00 PHP

You can buy tickets online here. You can also buy your tickets at the museum on the day of the event. No reservations are required.

See you there!