I have an artist lecture up on dwhx.space, the new digital platform of Vienna-based art space das weisse haus about The Weighing of the Heart, which was exhibited in the Stress Rehearsal exhibition curated by Malou Solfjeld. Danke for having me!
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
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.
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.
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
I’ll be co-facilitating a workshop at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in the UK with Sabina Sallis, with her in Newcastle in the centre and me here in Sydney. Register here: https://baltic.art/whats-on/exhibitions/the-feminist-school-of-painting
Text via @balticgateshead:
Session 8: Reciprocal Respiration (RR) with Sabina Sallis and Catherine Sarah Young of Multispecies Visionary Institute
Saturday 6 November 13.00-15.00
FREE, Booking essential
Sabina Sallis will be running three workshops during the Feminist School of Painting continuing the ongoing activities of the Multispecies Visionary Institute (MVI). MVI is a project that seeks to explore how creative and ecological practices can be combined to generate collective visions for flourishing futures.
The Latin root of the word inspiration, ‘inspirare’, means ‘to breathe into’. In these workshops, you are invited to consider breathing as an act of exchange with the more-than-human-world and explore the creative act of ‘breathing life’ into something.
Sabina will introduce present elements of her research into aesthetics of sustainability and sustainable land practices. Catherine Sarah Young will introduce her research and works in relation to the Australian bushfire crisis and Climate Change and invite participants to make their own ink. This will be followed by a choice of practical activity interweaved with breath exercises: either botanical ink making, free flow drawing, or the opportunity to colour-in drawings from the MVI collection of ‘the Swarms’.
Update: This was so much fun, thank you for having us!
It was a special afternoon for me today as I spoke with some winners of the Kids Care About Climate Change 2021 art contest.
First up is Shivom from Singapore, who is 7 (AND A HALF!). His poster talks about the importance of saving trees.
“If you treat a tree good, they will treat you good. They will give you more oxygen paper, fruits and medicines. Plant more tree so we can live happily. Do not pluck the leaves from the plants and let the greenery grow.” We also showed each other our plush animals.
My second meetup today is with Shaurya from Singapore, who won a People’s Choice Award. He drew something that you all know resonates strongly with me.
His artwork is entitled “Heart:Body = Tree:Earth”. He says, “If you want to breathe, SAVE the trees, so that the next generation can get oxygen for free. Have you realized, HEART and EARTH are spelled with the same letters? Take care of both, before it’s too late.” Shaurya just turned 10 and wants to be a pilot and artist. (Hey, me too!) He solved a Rubik’s cube while we talked.
I know you kids won me, but I feel that I won you. ❤
Kids Care About Climate Change 2021 is a project by fellow #TeamHB members Marji Puotinen and Colleen Filippa, and the resulting banner with all the artworks will be showcased in COP26 UN Climate Conference by Scottish Greens Senator Lorna Slater. Congratulations for receiving 2629 entries from 33 nations and 213 schools! Winners win a Zoom with the jury members, one of whom is yours truly.
(Madison, Wisconsin)—Last week, we wrapped up LunART Summer Arts Camp 2021! This was one of the most fun things I have done this year, and I’m really happy to have contributed a bit from all the way here in Sydney. LunART supports, inspires, promotes, and celebrates women in the arts through public performances, exhibitions, workshops, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The camp was held at Goodman Community Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and I taught remotely.
During the camp, the four of us worked in rotating teams of two so that the two remote teachers (Me and Maya) worked with those in Madison (Midori and Satoko). Each week, we had tons of short and fun activities built around key words such as Hello, Ground, Connect, Rest, Build, Community, Communicate, and Share. We used various mediums, such as music, poetry, scent, sculpture, gardening, and others.
(My favourite activity was a synesthesia exercise where we asked participants to sniff some mystery scents and to color and/or draw what they saw):
This is hands down one of my most favorite and meaningful events this year, and in light of lockdowns and disasters around the world where I sometimes wake up in despair and frustration, I am grateful to have been useful for a time and to have been part of a pioneering initiative where remote teams will increasingly work together in the future.
As well, I’m so happy to have worked with old and new friends, fellow Creative Peacebuilders for The Peace Studio Midori Samson and Maya Williams, and ace pianist Satoko Hayami . After all these weeks, I am going to miss you and the camp participants putting me to bed on a very late Tuesday night. Thank you LuNART and Goodman Center for hosting us, and to Midori for reaching out!
Images courtesy of Midori Samson, LuNART, and Goodman Center
Find out more about the LuNART Summer Camp 2021 here.