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Archive

SEAΔ Program

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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It’s that time of the year when I finish all residencies, fellowships, talks, and exhibitions, and reflect on the year that’s about to pass. It’s been a wonderful year of learning from different cultures and finding other ways of pursuing my practice. In 2018, I held residencies and fellowships in Vienna (KulturKontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery), Beijing (China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery), and Taipei (Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council). This post recalls some of my favorite memories during Part 1 as a SEAΔ fellow. Head to this post for thoughts about my Vienna residency, and this one for my Beijing residency.


Hot off the heels of my residency in China was my fellowship as part of the inaugural SEAΔ Program of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council. I flew to Taipei from Beijing and got to work.

SEAΔ is a program co-created by Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council which creates space for cultural practitioners to reflect on how their work in arts and culture can contribute to sustainable development within South East Asia through their individual and collective leadership.

The inaugural SEAΔ fellows from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UK, together with staff from the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council. Image credit: Mekong Cultural Hub

Each year 10 Fellows are selected from 10 countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. The program has 4 main gatherings spread over a one-year period where Fellows get together. Each gathering takes place in a different country and has a unique purpose: exchange, create, share then reflect.

The first gathering, SEAΔ Exchange, was held in Taipei, and after the week-long exchange, we were split into four groups based on our proposed projects, which we were going to iterate for the second part of the program, SEAΔ Create. I was with my co-fellows Sinath Sous (Cambodia), Zikri Rahman (Malaysia), and Thet Oo Maung (Myanmar)—a great fit since we were all working on sustainability in some way. For SEAΔ Create in May, our group will gather in Cambodia to execute the project.

Our project is in conjunction with Arts and Environment Festival 2019 in Kampong Thom, which SEAΔ fellow Sinath Sous is spearheading.  The platform will be opened for artistic exchange to encourage experience sharing of arts and environment to better address climate challenges. The objectives are to focus on capacity-building workshops based events to support the team in climate action and to promote local knowledge among development experts and governments on this topic of sustainable development project in the future. My part here involves co-designing art workshops and scavenger hunts for the participants to reflect on climate change impacts in Cambodia.

During the exchange in Taipei, the fellows finally met each other and it was great to learn about their work. We engaged in design thinking workshops, met with the creative community of Taipei, and learned from stellar speakers who shared their work. We also had opportunities to go outside of the city, such as meeting the staff and artists of the Bamboo Curtain Studio. Taiwan is an island bustling with creativity and promise.

The SEAΔ program was the most unique in all of the fellowships I’ve had, and certainly stands out among all of the things I’ve done this year. Frankly, this is one of the few fellowships I’ve had in Southeast Asia—an involuntary choice, seeing that most opportunities available to me have been in the West and in East Asia where I felt more culturally adapted to as a Chinese-Filipino who grew up in a Chinese community, and in the Philippines where American culture is widely available. While I have tried to pursue projects in my home region, such as a research trip earlier this year to Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat in Palawan, the Philippines with the Centre for Sustainability PH and Great Escapes Philippines, and the art residency I did with Plan International and the International Climate Initiative last year, finding funding for the projects I want to do will take time (and a bigger network and fairy dust), and it has been a lot easier and more logical to accept all these foreign opportunities while there were available and while I was within their age limits.

Applying to SEAΔ was my way of filling in the gaps in my world experience, and to be able to find something worthwhile to do considering that this region will bear the brunt of climate change impacts. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and am really excited for the rest of the fellowship. It was my first time in Taipei—a personal revelation according to my childhood friend Barbie whom I reconnected with in my Beijing residency was that the books we read in Chinese school were actually Taiwanese. This would give me a bigger identity crisis if my grasp of the Chinese language were any better. But the people were wonderful and the parks were free and the food was fantastic. Cambodia will also be a whole new world for me. I can’t wait for 2019!

SEAΔ Exchange, the first part of the SEAΔ program, happened from November 26-30, 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan. SEAΔ Create for my group will take place in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Thank you to the wonderful staff of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council!