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Smell

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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Here are some photos from The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store’s exhibit at the Open City / Art City Festival last October 4, co-organized the Institute for the Future and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Many thanks and huge congratulations to my friend Zoe Bezpalko (who also modeled one of the Climate Change Couture garments last year and is shown in the above photo wearing an Apocalypse Suit), for handling this single-handedly.

I’m here in Seoul for the moment for some exhibitions and a panel, so I’m very grateful for my friends and collaborators from all over the world who can take over when I cannot physically be there.

Photos courtesy of Zoe Bezpalko

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!

 

Highlighting the vanishing breeds enchantment

I am happy to announce The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store (T.E.M.P.S., French for time), a hypothetical perfume line set in the future when many things in nature would have disappeared as we know it because of climate change. This is the first collection of eight scents.

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store is a collaboration of The Apocalypse Project and Givaudan. It is part of The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures at The Mind Museum and is part of the museum’s permanent collection. Go and visit The Mind Museum to smell these perfumes.

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store from Catherine Young on Vimeo.

Coasts
Climate change leads to rising sea levels, threatening to swallow up the world’s coastlines.

Coasts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Coasts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Coffee
Coffee bean production is dependent on cool mountainsides that are running out because of rising temperatures. Pests are also flourishing because of the warmer weather.

Coffee by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Coffee by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Honey
Climate change can make flowers open too early before bees emerge from hibernation, causing their numbers to decline.

Honey by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Honey by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Wine
Climate change is altering growth conditions for grapes, leading to changes in quality of production in wine-producing regions.

Wine by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Wine by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus species are increasingly affected by drought and flash floods. Their long regeneration times and short dispersal of their seeds mean they may not be able to keep up with the pace of climate change.

Eucalyptus by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Eucalyptus by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Peanuts
The scorching heat drastically reduces the quality of peanut production, leaving more peanuts to be processed into oil rather than the edible quality.

Peanuts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Peanuts by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Ice
Higher temperatures are causing the earth’s glaciers and permafrost to melt.

Ice by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Ice by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Hardwood trees
Different species of trees, such as cedar, pine, and fir, are being decimated as climate change increases the risk of forest fires.

Hardwood trees by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Hardwood trees by The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

To bring the project to life, I reached out to Givaudan, a Swiss flavors and fragrance company, who sources materials that preserve the environment, stimulate the development and well-being of communities, and safeguards an efficient use of previous resources. I am grateful to Marilyn Yao, Givaudan Singapore, and Givaudan Philippines for their help in the perfumes, Maribel Garcia who curated The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures exhibition, Stephanie Faith Bautista who designed the logo, and Nino Carandang and Peter Lorenz Frac of Shuttermaster Pro for help with photography and video.

The project was a collaboration between the perfumer who mixed the scents in the lab and myself who created the world the perfumes inhabited. Claude Charmoille, VP of Perfumery in Asia, took on this challenge. Charmoille was born in the south of France where scents abound and vary according to seasons. “After completing my botanic and chemistry education, the subtle alchemy between arts – craft – andscience attracted me to the perfumer’s profession,” says Charmoille.

Personally, my favorite scent is Coasts, because it smells of a place as opposed to the others that smell of a specific objects. Because I smell the beach, I remember my childhood memories in the beaches of the Philippines—white sand, coconut trees, the ocean breeze, salty seashells and all. For Charmoille, it’s Eucalyptus. “This one is my favourite, it brings back memories from my childhood when we visited small islands in the Mediterranean sea close to Cannes. In the hot summer days, the eucalypus and pine trees would perfume the air to a degree one can not forget, this warm aromatic and fruity whiff will always remain deeply linked to seaside vacation and family memories.”

As a designer, my intention was to show people a different side of the climate change scenario. Smell is very sensuous and visceral; its effects are instantaneous. Instead of showing statistics of what will disappear because of climate change, I decided to let people smell them. Highlighting the temporary breeds enchantment. As smell is linked to memory, I’m hoping that people will think about how their lives will be without these seemingly ordinary objects that we take for granted that might not be there anymore.

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The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store

Concept and Design
Catherine Sarah Young

Perfumes
Claude Charmoille of Givaudan

Exhibition
The Mind Museum
Curator
Maria Isabel Garcia

With thanks to
Givaudan Singapore Pte Ltd c/o Claude Charmoille for providing the fragrances
Marilyn Yao and Neri Mamburam

Graphic Design
Stephanie Faith Bautista
Photography
Nino Carandang
Video and Editing
Peter Lorenz Frac of Shuttermaster Pro

Shot at Shuttermaster Pro

In the middle of researching for smells for The Apocalypse Project, I came across Sifr Aromatics, an independent niche perfumery located on Arab Street in Singapore.

Oh true apothecary! Johari Kazura of Sifr Aromatics

Oh true apothecary! Johari Kazura of Sifr Aromatics

Mr. Kazura is a third generation perfume maker. He learned the business on the job, and also took some courses in Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. Perusing his shop, I came across all the books I read during the time I was doing some of my graduate school projects on smell. His store is a beautiful cornucopia of beautiful Eqyptian bottles, as well as antiques.

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Thanks to the store, I finally came up with a list of smells for relaxation for The Apocalypse Project. You know, when that time comes when we have to evacuate climate change disaster areas and people are panicking. The list includes lavender and lemon. Rose was a good candidate, too, however, it’s too expensive and thus not a practical choice. Peppermint was added to the list because it promotes alertness.

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Sifr is Arabic for “zero.” Johari says that in perfumery, “You start with nothing … you are a blank slate … and then later you end up with something.” And that something, smell, permeates.

Sifr is located at 42 Arab Street. Contact Johari Kazura at info@sifr.sg and visit their website here. Many thanks to Mr. Kazura and Hanz Monifiero Medina for all the help!

Here are some sneak peeks into the things I am working on for this residency.

I am reaching that point when my projects are deemed too crazy by people that I have to be the one to model it. The first photo is by the lovely Cheryl Song of the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, who has patiently put up with me.

1 - Climate Change Couture - Catherine Young

2 - Climate Change Couture - Catherine Young 3 - Climate Change Couture - Catherine Young 4 - Earth vs Humans - Catherine Young

 

Follow the project site at http://www.apocalypse.cc.

Durian mooncake. I kid you not. This was a first for me, courtesy of the good people of the Future Cities Lab. It was actually quite good, even though I think durian deserves to be in a whole other food group by itself.

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Last night I was in Chinatown and right on cue, a small lantern parade began right outside the Buddhist temple, led by traditional lion and dragon dances.

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This was the second lion/dragon dance for me this year. (The first was the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul back in June.) I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these things. Happy Miid-Autumn Festival, one and all!