I don’t know how I missed this, but one of our Supercharge art sessions is on the Obama Foundation Asia Pacific Leaders webpage together with the amazing activities of other leaders. Friends and colleagues in art, education, environment, and advocacy, I’m now taking expressions of interest for those who need free art classes for their communities. Open to everyone around the world, and anytime within 1PM-12AM AEST! ❤
[Bangkok and Zoom] June 10, 2020: For the FuturesX series of Speculative Futures Bangkok, I was invited to do an online talk on my work in the context of these pandemic times:
How can we use speculative futures to think about systems and enterprise in the COVID-19 era? In this part-science, part-art, part-design talk, Catherine Sarah Young elaborates on her experimental practice that explores our environmental and collective futures, and how using a systems-led way of thinking and global perspectives can help shape the new world emerging from the pandemic.
My favorite thing about today aside from talking art, science, design, and taekwondo: finally being able to do my first acknowledgement of country as this is my first talk in Australia: I am on Gadigal Land of the Eora Nation, traditional custodians of this land. I pay my respects to elders past, present, and future.
Drawing from my martial arts experience, I also talk about how dismantling the apocalypse is a way of life and how we should train for this for the foreseeable future:
Thanks, Speculative Futures Bangkok!
[SIARGAO, THE PHILIPPINES] From January 27 to February 2, I participated in ColLaboratoire 2020, a week-long Research Residency program in multiple-disciplinary research and sustainability, especially in the context of Philippines. During the residency, ColLaboratoire Fellows explored applying imaginative, methodologically innovative, and radically multiple-disciplinary approaches to six Research Challenges related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For one week on the island of Siargao, a Protected Landscape and Seascape that is home of the largest marine protected area in the Philippines and is famous for its surfing, ColLaboratoire Fellows looked at innovative ways to address the Research Challenges that combine teaching with applied and multiple-disciplinary research practice.
Inspired by the successful ColLaboratoire 2016 research summer school, ColLaboratoire 2020 is a collaboration between the University of the Philippines Open University, the University of Plymouth, the CogNovo Foundation for Cognitive Innovation, and local and international partners from industry and civic society.
Having chosen the sixth Research Challenge, Reimagining Sustainability, this is what the brief included:
Different definitions of sustainability have been offered, and many of these emphasize the idea of development without compromising the needs of future generations. We start from the premise that like all conversations, the one around sustainability is a product of its time. To what extent are the UN Sustainable Development Goals shaped by current dominant ideologies, and how have ideology and language historically shaped the way people have thought and talked about sustainability? What happens when we consider the related notions of deep time, deep history, deep future, and geological thinking in our understanding of the problem? To what extent do current definitions of sustainability promote an endless perpetuation of life as we know it? What happens when we look at provocative or radical ideas surrounding sustainability to build a reconceptualization of it that pushes the boundaries (such as Angelo Vermeulen’s notion of “molecular sustainability”)?
Because sustainability is generally predicated on concern for multi-generational well-being, how might we bridge the gaps in priorities across populations and sectors, given that the most marginalized sectors–who comprise the majority of the world–are often concerned with pressing concerns of daily survival? To what extent can we leverage popular activities (such as digital and mobile games and esports) and arts-based practices as potential research tools or interventions, in order to develop critical perspectives and interventions on sustainability?
Working with other fellows from different disciplines and guided by facilitators, we focused on identifying gaps in sustainability and mapping out frameworks on what these are and what projects we could create around them. I appreciated how we spoke about our work and everyone in my group were given an opportunity to give feedback from their own perspective, which gave me a lot more ideas to keep moving forward. We were also mixed with the other groups sometimes in order to cross-pollinate ideas.
I was happy to share what I have learned from all my art residencies and fellowships, especially from The Apocalypse Project series. As my audience for that morning had a lot of younger people, I emphasised an attitude of continuing despite logistical or personal challenges, and how I was able to build a body of work over time despite initial failures and rejections.
One thing that I stood out to me in our discussions was talking about the divide between academic thinking and what actually goes on in the real world. I have always felt that academic jargon, while helping to unify concepts into a discipline, have also served to exclude a lot of people and further, to make things less clear. The English language is lacking when it comes to articulating indigenous concepts, and even the Filipino “translation” of sustainability—”likas-kayang-pag-unlad” feels like a forced concatenation of Filipino words of “nature”, “capability”, and “development” that still feels off the mark. We reflected on how local words like “pakikiramay” (“to grieve with”) or “kapwa” (“the self in the other”) are more understandable to local communities and feel like more authentic translation of academic terms such as “staying with the trouble” or “multispecies entanglement”.
Gaps in Sustainability
Looking at gaps in how sustainability has been defined and discussed, here are some gaps the Reimagining Sustainability group noted:
- Redefining Prosperity: post-consumerist resignification of well-being, mental well-being
- Questioning the Growth Dogma: post-growth paradigm for the SGDs
- Affective Education: Integration of cognitive and somatic knowledge (senses, emotion)
- Scale: Integrating techno-scientific and indigenous knowledge (ritual, liminality, connectedness
- Temporality: Deep history, space, time
- Revolution as a movement not as strife and chaos
- Need for chaos and disruption
- Multi-agency perspective
- Enveloping dynamic membrane
- Decolonizing sustainability
- How to avoid a “prison” – excess?, systems that open and close as required
- Commons/emergence – top-down monopolies
- Complex systems
- Thriving arts and culture
- Media literacy
- Council to oversee
- Only top-down management
- Lack of expertise, knowledge, co-creation, education, disaster recovery plan / budget, long-term planning, basic needs
At the end of the week, each group proposed a project to do for the next few months. Here is what we came up with:
A Creative Sustainability Policy that allows for the issuance of a Kapwa Certificate (“self in the other”) when a person goes through Liminal Space Training that Culminates in Padayon Fiesta (“to continue”) that aims to educate and empower the community on sustainability through arts and sciences
- A sustainability council that comprises different sections of the SDGs with members from marginalized communities such as women, etc. that issues a Sustainability Compliance Certificate that we call a Kapwa Certificate. This certificate allows them to design products and run businesses etc.
- The Kapwa Certificate can be earned by a Liminal Space Training or a Shamanic Somatic training that occurs year round.
- Experiential Role Play – disaster gym, aging simulations, environmental empathy, planetary renewal spa
- Floating evacuation center that functions as a community center when not in use
- Art classes in school where outcomes are to be exhibited in the fiesta, mangrove nurseries,
- The Padayon Fiesta (padayon means “to continue”) is a one-week fiesta that happens before the rainy season that serves as a culminating event to the training as a way for people to look forward to discussing these gaps in sustainability and as a tool to evolve a thriving community. Apart from base funding, the fiesta operates through a barter system where people can contribute their time and resources in exchange for knowledge and food throughout the fiesta.
- Citizen science scavenger hunts to get people on fact finding missions to generate knowledge for the community
- Tourists who come can barter their skills
- Disaster gym
- Teleserye that educates people on sustainability concepts
- Poetry workshops to define sustainability concepts in their language
- Cook-a-thon of ingredients that are remaining after a disaster to get people creative with their recipes
- Intergenerational talks to share resilience stories, design their community’s future, etc.
Beyond these five days, one of my favorite moments last week was reconnecting with some members of Biomodd, a socially engaged art installation that creates symbiotic relationships between plants and computers, and ignites conversations among the community around them. I was the Internal Communications Coordinator 11 years (11! My triplet cousins are this old!) ago in the Philippines before I moved to Barcelona. I checked the website and our old bios (and photos, lol) are still on it! Glad to reconnect with Diego Maranan, Collaboratoire 2020 project co-lead and Angelo Vermeulen, Biomodd founder, senior TED fellow and Collaboratoire 2020 Reimagining Sustainability co-facilitator, an Al Librero, assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Open University. Oh, you rockstars.
Reflecting on this week now that I’m back in Sydney, ColLaboratoire 2020 took me away from my usual ideate-as-fast-as-you-can thinking that years of being an artist-in-residence has developed in me. While thinking fast on one’s feet is a useful skill to have, I think this type of big-picture meta thinking is refreshing and definitely necessary in world with very integrated systemic challenges—something that short periods away from the studio such as ColLaboratoire and the Obama Leaders convening have given me. Thinking like this allows me, as an artist with very specific projects that can continue on indefinitely, to see how these connect with larger issues and what impact they can possibly have. I realise the utopia we were in, being in the amazing island of Siargao, while the bushfires, Taal volcano eruption, and coronavirus outbreak happened around the world, and it was quite a privilege to be able to be in a space like this. I look forward to what’s next.
Many thanks to the ColLaboratoire 2020 team, especially Project Co-Leads Diego Maranan and Mona Nasser, and Reimagining Sustainability facilitators Mona Nasser and Angelo Vermeulen. ColLaboratoire 2020 gave me a scholarship to attend the residency, while the UNSW Scientia scholarship facilitated my travel from Sydney to Manila.
It’s been a rollercoaster year! I can’t believe 2019 is over. Here is how 2019 rolled:
• I kicked off the year in Berlin for The (Un-)learning Place of Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
• While this year was more for learning refocusing, I did take part in some exhibitions, most notably the DISPOSABLE exhibition of my favourite Science Gallery Melbourne and their presentations at National Science Week at the Victorian Parliament, as well as part of Poklong Anading’s Seawall project at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The Victor Papanek exhibition that features The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store has also moved from the Vitra Design Museum to the Museu del Disseny / Design Museum of Barcelona.
• I was featured in Burning Worlds (USA), C-Platform (China), and Unbore (Netherlands) and spoke at the Vox Pop Video Address at Global Landscapes Forum. I’m also in the book, “Research in the Creative and Media Arts: Challenging Practice” (2019, Desmond Bell, Routledge).
• I did a major move to Sydney as a Scientia scholar at UNSW, being supervised by the venerable Douglas Kahn, Lindsay Kelley, and Kate Dunn.
• I had my first fiction story published (in a while) with “Our Entangled Future” in Norway, with The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store winning third place, hurray!
• I was one of the 200 Obama Leaders for Asia Pacific.
• I was awarded a couple of grants to go to Finland next year to do a residency at the Saari Residence via the Trans Siberian Railway, courtesy of the Kone Foundation.
Thank you to all who have been a part of this!
Netherlands—The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store is featured in the article “Apocalyptic Visions: How do these Artists and Designers face the impending future of the Climate Crisis and other Global Disasters,” written by Lindsey Walsh on the website of Dutch cultural collective Unbore.
From the article:
Catherine Sarah Young’s The Ephemeral Marvel’s Perfume Store (abbreviated to “TEMPS” for short, referencing the French word for time) presents a futuristic perfume line of smells that may soon disappear from our daily lives. The various fragrances are smells that stand to be lost with the catastrophic impacts of global warming. From coffee to our coast lines, Young’s olfactory artwork asks the audience to inhale and remember our relationship with these sensorial features of our planet. Lastly, Young asks if we could stand to live without these odours being a part of our world?
Deepest thanks for the kind inclusion of this project!
(Kuala Lumpur)—I’m stoked to be selected as one of the 200 Obama Foundation Leaders for their Asia-Pacific Program heading to Kuala Lumpur in two weeks. The Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific Program is a one-year leadership development and community engagement program that seeks to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region, and I am one of those under the “Arts and Culture” issue area. Find the official website with the full list of Leaders here.
I have often wondered how artists can lead, especially if one tends to be on the quiet side and is semi-reclusive. (As a side note, it looks like I’m the only artist who is not a director or a boss of anything, and wow, my fellow participants have quite impressive titles!) Since my first leadership program with SEAD and the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council, and the many international residencies given to me in the past decade, I have realised that artists have a responsibility to keep working towards a just society using creative ways that only artists can think of. The freedom of an artist is such that we can keep learning and making and use these skills to build communities and frameworks to imagine a better future for all of us, and what better thing can one do to spend her days?
Since moving to Sydney, I am grateful for the very supportive research community in a safe and privileged environment where I can keep working on my practice in peace. This program will help me to not lose sight of the bigger picture and to remember that there is a world out there that needs fixing which requires all of us.
I am very much looking forward to participating, asking lots of questions, and learning from my fellow Leaders. It’s quite an intriguing word—to lead—and I can’t wait to see what that word means to me.
Thank you to my friends, colleagues, and an ace supervisory team for their support!
Below is the press release from us Leaders in Australia (FYI: I am a Philippine national who is part Chinese and part Filipino and recently relocated to Sydney, so hello to both my Aussie and Philippine colleagues!)
November 21, 2019
Nicole Anaejionu, email@example.com
Farah Zuber, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fourteen Australians Announced as New Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leaders
President Obama and Mrs. Obama to Join Leaders: Asia-Pacific Program Gathering in Kuala Lumpur; Plenary Speakers Include YB Hannah Yeoh, Tan Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes, Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Tim Brown, Arthur Huang, Helianti Hilman, Aaron Maniam, and Pat Dwyer
Fourteen Australians have been selected as part of the inaugural cohort of Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific, a cross section of 200 emerging civic leaders from 33 nations and territories in the region, who will convene in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from December 10-14. The 200 Leaders represent public, private, and non-profit sectors, and they work on a variety of issues, ranging from education to environment to entrepreneurship.
Among the Australian leaders who have been selected for the program are:
- Usman Iftikhar, Sydney, 29, is an award-winning social entrepreneur, passionate about solutions to global warming and the global refugee crisis. He is the co-founder and CEO of Catalysr, a startup pre-accelerator that empowers migrant and refugee entrepreneurs to launch their own startups. In its first three years, Catalysr has supported 181 migrapreneurs to launch 50 businesses. For his work, Usman was named the 2018 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year.
- Dan Ilic, Sydney, 38, is a comedian and journalist who hosts the satirical comedy podcast A Rational Fear. He has worked in radio and television in Australia and the USA. Most recently, he was the Executive Producer of Tonightly with Tom Ballard (ABC), the Executive Producer of Satire for Fusion Network (USA) and senior satire producer for Al Jazeera’s AJ+ (USA). Dan also serves on the board of youth community broadcaster, FBi Radio.
- Noel Kwon, Canberra, 28, is passionate about human rights and achieving efficiency and equality in organizations. Having been a cultural and linguistically diverse consultant in community organisations before government, Noel still provides strategic advice to community organisations in the Australian Capital Territory.
- Alice Mahar, Melbourne, 32, is the founder and director of The Corner Store Network, a non-profit working towards food security, improving nutrition, climate adaptation and minimising food waste in Australia and Timor-Leste. She is the co-founder of the initiatives Stock/Store, Harvest/Store and WithOneBean. Alice is passionate about feeding a growing global population in an environmentally regenerative way, and ensuring that no person is left behind.
- Nicholas Marchesi, Brisbane, 25, is a Co-Founder and Co-Director of Orange Sky, a world-first, free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness. On a mission to improve hygiene standards, Nic and Co-Founder Lucas stumbled on something more significant – the power of a conversation. Now facilitated by more than 1,800 volunteers, operating over 250 shifts a week, Orange Sky aims to positively connect communities across Australia and New Zealand.
- Jaclyn Mclendon, Brisbane, 38 is the lead of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, an international cultural initiative bringing together the 70 countries and areas of the Asia Pacific. She is passionate about film as a common language to bring understanding to our global dialogue. She recently launched the Asia Pacific Screen Forum to provide a fertile ground for collaboration for filmmakers across the region.
- Hayley McQuire, Canberra, 28, is a proud Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman. She is the National Coordinator and Co-Founder of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition, and the Head of Education for the Foundation for Young Australians. Hayley previously served on the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group, and was a UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador.
- Tim Middlemiss, Sydney, 32, is a consultant who partners with global institutions like World Vision, government departments, and local organisations like Taronga Conservation Society to build and engage their communities for social impact. Tim was a founding director of for-purpose creative studio, Agency, co-founder of social impact conference, Expanse, and is senior strategic advisor to Rev. Tim Costello AO.
- Skye Riggs, Sydney, 33, is the Founder of Y Vote, an edu-tech social enterprise focussed on building the civic capabilities of young people to create a stronger democracy. Alongside ongoing community engagement and youth voter drives, Y Vote’s action-based civic education programs are delivered by local government organisations throughout Australia.
- William Smith-Stubbs, Brisbane, 32, is a social entrepreneur, mental health activist, and writer. As co-founder of social impact venture studio spur: and award-winning mental health non-profit spur:org, William has worked across human rights, refugee health, child safety, and youth mental health. William is also a member of the Leadership Advisory Council for the World Economic Forum Global Shapers, an UNLEASH Global Talent for the Sustainable Development Goals and a Gates Foundation Goalkeeper.
- Zohar Spatz, Brisbane, 37, is an arts and cultural leader working within a multi-disciplinary context. She is currently the Executive Director of La Boite Theatre Company, Australia’s longest continuously running theatre company. She is also President and Chair of All the Queens Men, an independent Australian arts organisation that collaborates with communities of all shapes, sizes, and identities to produce transformative creative experiences that champion equality, social health, and human connection.
- Alan Wu, Canberra, 35, is the youngest member of the Board of Directors of Oxfam Australia, one of Australia’s largest international development organisations. After serving as an executive and lawyer with the Australian Government, he is now also the Regional Coordinator for Asia Pacific at the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that brings governments and communities together to advance reforms to make governments more inclusive, responsive and accountable.
- Catherine Sarah Young, Sydney, 36, is an award-winning artist, designer, and writer. She uses her background in molecular biology, fine art, and interaction design to create interdisciplinary and experimental artworks on the environment. She has an international award, exhibition, collaboration, and fellowship profile, most recently in China, Southeast Asia, Austria, and the Amazon rainforest. She is a Scientia scholar at UNSW Art and Design, working on climate change and sustainability.
The Leaders: Asia-Pacific gathering will serve as the kick-off event for a year-long leadership program and is designed to further inspire, empower, and connect the emerging leaders to change the world. While in Malaysia, the Leaders will be joined by prominent speakers and thought leaders who will discuss topics such as progress and opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region, values-based leadership, and the intersection of purpose and entrepreneurship during a series of plenary sessions.
In addition to President and Mrs. Obama, confirmed speakers include:
- YB Hannah Yeoh, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development;
- Tan Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes, Malaysian entrepreneur and co-founder of AirAsia;
- Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Director of External Affairs at the Green Climate Fund;
- Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds;
- Arthur Huang, Taiwanese entrepreneur and founder of Miniwiz;
- Helianti Hilman, Indonesian entrepreneur and founder of JAVARA;
- Aaron Maniam, member of the Singapore Administrative Service; and
- Pat Dwyer, Director and founder of The Purpose Business.
The five-day convening in December will also consist of skill-building workshops, leadership development training, and opportunities for Leaders to connect with one another. Leaders will have a chance to apply their skills and knowledge to various real-world scenarios while using creative, values-driven approaches to problem-solving. Additionally, to underscore the important relationship between service and leadership, Leaders will participate in a community service project.
Although the gathering is closed to the general public, the plenary sessions will be made available via livestream at obama.org.
Each Leader’s journey of growth will continue remotely for a year after the gathering, through webinars and a virtual speaker series, as well as support, amplification, and other opportunities from the Foundation.
The Asia-Pacific program follows the Obama Foundation’s inaugural international Leaders program launched in Africa in 2018 and represents the Foundation’s commitment to the region, along with the belief that these emerging leaders, through the extraordinary work they do in their own communities, have the potential to positively affect change across the globe.
Meet the inaugural Leaders: Asia-Pacific cohort and learn more about the program here.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Select sessions during the gathering will be open to media, although space will be limited. Members of the media interested in applying for credentials must send an email request to AsiaPacificLeaders@edelman.com by December 2 at 1:00am MYT / 12:00 pm ET (Dec 1).
For interview requests or other press related questions, please email AsiaPacificLeaders@edelman.com or email@example.com.
I’m excited to let you know that I have moved to Sydney to join the Arts-led Energy Humanities group at the Faculty of Art and Design at UNSW as a Scientia scholar, continuing my art-science work on the environment! Hurray for deep work in what looks like a supportive community. (TLDR: same schtick, but deeper and down under.)
I am honored to be supervised by the amazing Douglas Kahn, Lindsay Kelley, and Kate Dunn. Thank you to all who’ve advised me on this major relocation. Wish me luck!
I saw a kookaburra on my first day so I hope this is a good sign!
I talk art, science, Beijing apocalypses, and taekwondo (among other things) in this rad interview with Dr. Amy Brady of Guernica Magazine and the Chicago Review of Books for her monthly “Burning Worlds”! Here I mentioned the fellowships I just concluded and will continue and how they have shaped my practice, in Beijing with China Residencies and Red Gate Residency, Southeast Asia with Mekong Cultural Hub, Vienna with KulturKontakt Austria, and Berlin with Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Thank you very much!
Check out the interview here: https://mailchi.mp/9dc8381fcb68/burning-worlds-climate-change-in-art-and-literature-514617?e=%5BUNIQID%5D on Artists and Climate Change: http:// https://artistsandclimatechange.com/2019/02/05/an-interview-with-interdisciplinary-artist-catherine-sarah-young/
C-Platform, a culture and art research and curatorial organization focusing on current trends and future concepts in the realm of mixed media based in Xiamen, China, profiles The Apocalypse Project series. Many thanks to all the residencies and grants that have supported this work. I trace my Chinese half from Xiamen so this is quite special for me, indeed. Xie xie!
Article in Chinese and English: https://www.c-platform.org/event/%e6%9c%aa%e6%9d%a5%e5%90%af%e7%a4%ba%e5%bd%95/?lang=en
What’s up, Taipei! I’m honored to be one of the 10 inaugural SEAΔ fellows for 2018-2019, with my aim to develop the arts-led climate change educational program of The Apocalypse Project. Very excited for what looks like a kick-ass program and to meet some incredible people. I’ll be in Taiwan from November 25 to December 8; an obvious invite to meet up of you’re there! 😙
SEAΔ is a program co-created by Mekong Cultural Hub @mekonghub and the British Council @britishcouncil 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.
Learn more about the program and the other fellows here: https://mekongculturalhub.org