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Great to speak at Art & Market’s Landing 2022 conference about art and climate change, featuring past and recent work. Thank you for having me!

Here is the synthesis of the conversation by Art & Market’s Ian Tee:

Key points: 

  • Artists innovate by creating new imagery that spark curiosity. 
  • Collaboration is enriching, especially for research-driven projects.
  • While global warming is a universal phenomenon, the impact of climate change varies from one locality to the next.
  • Rather than having the right answers, it is more important to be open to change as information changes over time.

For the second event of LANDING 2022, Vivyan Yeo, Content Producer at Art & Market, spoke to artist Catherine Sarah Young. Their conversation touched on various approaches towards engaging with the issue of climate change and sustainability in the arts.

Here are the takeaways from the discussion: 

Artists innovate by creating new imagery that spark curiosity. This causes people to do a “double take” and pay attention to pertinent issues. In fact, audiences who tuned in commented on the arresting quality of her artist portraits taken as part of individual projects. One example is her ‘The Sewer Soaperie’ (2016) which highlights the problem of flooding caused by coagulated grease in sewer systems. For this work, the artist made luxury soaps out of oils collected from different parts of the sewer system. She says, “What artists do with these emotional hooks is to get people to notice and change their behaviours”. Art is a powerful asset as it speaks to people as human beings and helps us relate to each other. 

Collaboration is enriching, especially for research-driven projects. Catherine believes that art and science are two sides of the same coin, and her multidisciplinary outlook is partly shaped by her undergraduate education in molecular biology and biotechnology. She appreciates the specificity her scientist collaborators work with. While projects can benefit from partnerships with experts from all walks of life, Catherine advises artists to be mindful of not taking others’ time for granted. It also helps to have a professional portfolio available online, be upfront with one’s request, and have a large pool of prospective collaborators to choose from.

While global warming is a universal phenomenon, the impact of climate change varies from one locality to the next. Therefore, it is crucial to adapt one’s artistic response to the local issues experienced by audiences. Catherine cites her project ‘Climate Change Couture’ (2013) which speculates on what one would wear in a future under climate change. It has been presented in Singapore, Manila, Colombia and San Francisco. In every iteration, the collection reflects the city’s unique environmental scenario and climate projections. It also reimagines the vernacular fashion as a way of acknowledging the cultural specificities of each locale. 

Rather than having the right answers, it is more important to be open to change as information changes over time. In a world of misinformation and tribalism, Catherine hopes that her projects are situations where discourse can happen in a respectful way. In her workshops with children and adults, she observed the urgent need for intergenerational exchange on topics such as climate change anxiety. As we strive to make better choices each day, the major shift is to move away from a throw-away culture towards a sustaining culture.

Watch the video on YouTube or listen to the recording on SoundCloud here.

Stoked to be published in an article in Singapore-based magazine CHECK-IN, an annual publication by Art & Market that serves as a mid-year review of developments, shifts and trends in the Southeast Asian art scene. Featuring first-hand accounts, dialogues, observations and analyses, it is an inclusive anthology of voices from the region. Thank you!

Get your copy here: https://www.artandmarket.net/checkin-2022

I’m honoured and grateful to receive this award for the Environment courtesy of The Asian Network and ERIA: Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia. Congratulations to my fellow awardees and hat tip to my fellow Obama Leaders Vivian Lim and Sherry Soon! Come join us this Thursday May 19th! (Link in IG story)

Text and image by The Asian Network:

In partnership with ERIA: Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia & The Asian Network, we are welcoming you for our first virtual Leaders by Head and Heart Award Ceremony 2022. It recognizes 9 outstanding individuals and organizations in Asia that have made major contributions to their communities and countries.
Date : Thursday 19th of May,2022
Time : 7pm to 8 pm (Singapore Time)
Registration link : https://www.runtheworld.today/app/c/leadersbyheadandheart
Timeline:
Introduction by Mr Ravindra Ngo 赖文卓 , Founder & CEO of The Asian Network.
Opening remarks of Mrs Antonella Noya, OECD Head of the Social Economy and Innovation Unit.

Awardees List:
1. Emilie Pradichitchit (social justice) – Thailand
2. Vivian Lim (gender equality) – Singapore
3. Catherine Sarah Young (environment) – Philippines
4. Dr Darren Chua (disability) – Singapore
5. Dr Skye Kinder (health) – Australia
6. Ali Fayez (peace) – Afghanistan
7. Sherry Soon (invisible disability)- Singapore
8. The-Huy Luong (social justice ) – Vietnam
9.Saijai Liangpunsakul (tech for good) – Thailand

Closing Remarks of Dr.Giulia Ajmone Marsan, Strategic and Partnerships Director ERIA

Stoked to have an interview with Transformations Community, a generative space and a catalyzing force for sustainability research and practice. Check out the interview with me and other artists at www.transformationscommunity.org/art

Interview

The Driving Force Behind My Work?

The years ahead of us are years of repair for the catastrophes that we have wrought, from fossil fuel emissions that lead to the climate emergency, to habitat destruction that lead to disease, to rising inequality worldwide that lead to social unrest. I believe that the arts have a critical role to play in planetary repair. I trained in molecular biology, fine art, and interaction design, and it was during my travels for my art residencies and exhibitions that led me to face the various challenges—and the diversity of these—of which we are all a part of that made me devote my practice to these issues.


Please Talk A Bit About The Process Of Your Work.

I work a lot on environmental issues because I could never unsee them in all the lives I led in all these countries. As an artist, I like working with what I have, and many of my projects are driven by the material that I see, from bushfire ash in Australia to raw sewage in the Philippines to scent in the Amazon. I begin from these materials because these are what I sense, and from there I work out the story of why these materials are important and how might we care about them even though these might seem ordinary and easy to overlook? I like the idea of “the double-take”—how can I get people to pay attention to these issues that they might be numb to because we see them every day? For example, in making soap out of sewage in The Sewer Soaperie, we initially just see soaps. But upon closer inspection, people realize that they are made from sewage and this distresses some people, and then we have the emotional hook. Or for The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, one might just smell perfumes, but if he realizes that he is smelling scents that we will lose and are already losing because of the climate crisis, then he finds another, more meaningful layer for the work. This layering of meaning is important to me because art speaks to people from all backgrounds. But it is our common humanity that I am hoping to reach, and so I strive to create inclusive spaces by which we can engage with these topics, which are often difficult to grasp and may be even more challenging to discuss with our communities.

 

Where Has Your Work Engaged With Systems Change-Making? 

The materials I work with are outputs of the systems I aim to critique. For example, bushfire ash is a recurring resource I have because of the climate emergency. In The Weighing of the Heart, I cast these ashes into human heart sculptures to make a permanent visual register of the catastrophe, which is often forgotten soon after. In Arctic Ice Chess, I use ice to create the chess pieces and use the melting of these pieces to drive the story. Here, the ice melts to reveal toy soldiers painted with the flags of the countries that have a political stake on the Arctic and its petroleum deposits, as well as countries that are experiencing sea level rise. This illustrates the players in the system and how human behavior—in this case represented by the playing the game and the melting that is dependent on body heat and heat from the players’ discussion on Arctic issues—play a critical role in the system.

(April 4, 2022)—I was a panelist for the annual conference of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology headquartered at Macquarie University in a panel run by their Designer-in-Residence Jestin George, about “What can creative practitioners bring to the metaphorical SynBio table?” I spoke about my work along the nexus of art and sustainability, particularly The Sewer Soaperie project in the context of the NSW flooding this year. 

Panelists included Olly Langdon, theatre maker and artistic director from Bristol University; Sam Yu who spoke about his work with in vitro meat of the future; Charlie Yuncken who spoke about his work on Mars; and myself with The Sewer Soaperie. Thank you for the invitation! Recording soon up on https://www.coesb.com.au

(Manila, the Philippines)—Last March 10, the Cultural Center of the Philippines held the official awarding ceremony for the 2021 Thirteen Artists Awards.

I am so grateful to have been selected for this cohort. And even more grateful that my parents went and accepted the award on my behalf.

Yay, Mom and Dad! Mom beat COVID-19 earlier this year, so this was awesome.

The Thirteen Artists Awards is the oldest government award for Filipino artists. Present at the ceremony are Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Chairperson Margarita Moran-Floirendo, Trustee Attorney Lorna Kapunan, and past Thirteen Artists Awardees Nap Jamir and Gerry Tan.

The ceremony was followed by the opening of the exhibition of the artists, which was curated by past Thirteen Artists Awardee Shireen Seno.

These amazing trophies are designed by 2006 Thirteen Artist Awardee Mac Valdezco. I’m thrilled to have one and look forward to seeing it in person on my next visit.

Thank you so much to the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Visual Arts and Museum Division team!

Photos by Orly Daquipil and courtesy of the CCP Visual Arts and Museum Division

Brian Walker of US-based podcast Dreams Not Memes interviewed me this month about climate change and art.

Dreams Not Memes is a podcast curated by Brian Walker of A Day Without Love. The podcast is about going more in depth about the ins and outs of being an independent creator, collaborator, activist or entrepreneur. This podcast will include 1000 interviews from people around the world and their stories about navigating the struggles associated with finding your own vision.

Check it out on Spotify here. Subscribe here.

Thank you for having me!


It’s that time to review another pandemic year that came and went in the blink of an eye. Here is how my 2021 rolled:

I became part of TeamHB6 of Homeward Bound and am on this amazing leadership journey with women in STEMM, with some fun highlights such as being a jury at Kids Care about Climate Change. I became a Creative Peacebuilder for The Peace Studio and as part of a collaboration, I was part of the teaching team at LunART Summer Arts Camp in Madison, Wisconsin.

I did my hybrid art residency at Sydney Observatory, focusing on Mars in relation to my PhD research.

I wrote a chapter in Communicating in the Anthropocene: Intimate Relations, was featured in E-Squared Magazine, wrote a post for the #Healing edition of The New Alphabet at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and designed the book cover for the Handbook on Migration with one of my photographs from my 2016 art residency at Plan International.

I spoke at/was interviewed by Climate Designers, Occupational Hazards, Our Entangled Future at University of Oslo, Transformations Community, IECA, AusSTS, ASLE, ICAS, 4S Toronto, SLSA, and Culture2.

I exhibited at Memoirs of the Abyss at SixtyEight Art Institute Copenhagen curated by Malou Solfjeld, and thanks to them Arctic Ice Chess has been played at Copenhagen and Aarhus. 

I exhibited at Multispecies Visionary Institute in Berwick and did a related workshop at Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Newcastle (UK).

I’m a recipient of the 13 Artists Awards in the Philippines this year. 

I have a piece for  “The Future We Want”, a digital art campaign by C40 Cities, a global network for mayors taking urgent action to confront the climate crisis.

Finally, I have taken up the great pandemic hobbies of piano, kayaking, and sailing. Also, no more hair, hurray!

For all the curators, artists, scientists, teachers, makers, peacebuilders, technicians, sailors, delivery people and others who helped to push all this work forward in these challenging times, thank you very much! Being productive and healthy in a pandemic is a gift and I hope to be better next year. Here’s to a healing 2022!

Last Friday, the second game of Arctic Ice Chess was played at the Danish School of Education, University of Århus. The game was between Jonas Andreas Lysgaard, Associate Professor at University of Århus, and Keith Brander, lead author for the fisheries and marine ecosystem sections of the fourth IPCC report, for which he and his team were awarded a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. I watched the video from Sydney and received comments from the indefatigable and amazing Malou Solfjeld.

From Malou:

Jonas had a helping hand from his colleague Flemming, who gave him chess advice and contributed to the overall conversation. It was interesting to see the two of them work together, especially for tactile reasons, since Flemming is almost blind, so he had to feel the ice and the board in a perhaps even more intense way than the usual players do.

Keith came to Denmark in 1996 to work as Dr. Emeritus at the National Institute of Aquatic Resources, section for Oceans and Arctic, until he retired in 2012. Last year he obtained citizenship and he is now member of the pan-European political party VOLT.

Arctic Ice Chess game 2 was organized by Malou Solfjeld, Malou Juelskjær and SixtyEight Art Institute

Result: Keith won partly because his breath heated up his pieces and made them slide forward by themselves.


I watched the game here from Sydney as I cast another batch of bushfire ash heart sculptures which made their conversation on the climate emergency even more meaningful. Highlights of the game included the discussion about our finite planet, custodianship and sustainability of land, and how we cannot change opinions but rather behavior.

How fitting that this happened in the middle of #COP26, and how happy am I that this project is catalyzing so many wonderful conversations and connecting so many people from this project’s initial sketches in Manila, Beijing, Vienna, and Sydney. Hope you enjoyed playing and thank you all very much!

Images by Malou Solfjeld