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June 17, 4-5PM AEST: How can art and science work together to contribute towards sustainability? I’m stoked to give a talk on The Creative Resistance: Art, Science, and Systems Change, and be on the panel on Arts-based Methods for Transformations 2021! I’ll be speaking about my art practice since 2013, and will focus on my PhD work here in Sydney. See you there!


About Transformations 2021: Enabling Positive Tipping Points in an Uncertain World


In 2020 a tipping point may have been crossed on how societies worldwide deal with multiple overlapping crises. On an unprecedented scale we see groups and communities mobilizing to re-imagine and transform the pre-pandemic systems which led to current vulnerabilities, risks, and unsustainable practices. This challenging but also fertile moment calls for urgent knowledge synthesis able to enact positivetipping points and tipping interventions towards new regenerative development trajectories.

Keynote speakers:
Jessica Clark – Research affiliate at MIT Open Documentary Lab, publisher of Immerse.news

Kate Raworth – Co-founder of Doughnut Economics Action Lab

Ailton Krenak – Philosopher and indigenous movement leader of Krenak ethnicity, Brazil

Heila Lotz-Sisitka – Distinguished Professor at Rhodes University


More at https://www.transformationscommunity.org/conference-2021


#transformationsconference2021

I’m stoked to be interviewed by Jo of Occupational Hazards! Thank you for having me!


• • • • • •
Catherine Sarah Young is an award-winning artist, designer, and writer. She uses her background in molecular biology, fine art, and interaction design to create interdisciplinary, experimental artworks on the environment.

We discuss her unique approach to climate change awareness, including taking inspiration from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to produce art on the Australian bushfire crisis, as well as creating perfume and sewer soap to make the effects of climate change more tangible (because, as she points out, we all have “dying polar bear fatigue”).

Cat has collaborated with researchers, industry, and non-profit organizations all over the world. She is currently a Scientia scholar at UNSW Sydney working on climate change and sustainability, an Obama Leader for Asia-Pacific, and part of Team HB6 of @homewardboundprojects for Antarctica (100 women with a background in STEMM – science, tech, engineering, math, and medicine).

Despite the international acclaim she has received, she places more value on “milestones of resilience” and incremental improvement, drawing from her taekwondo training (she’s a second-degree black belt) to impart life lessons.

This episode is dedicated to all the interdisciplinary thinkers, martial artists, anyone trying to approach a problem from a creative new angle, as well as everyone going through the process of “unlearning.”


OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS is a series of candid conversations with inspiring people as they share their path to finding their calling and all the gritty realities of their jobs. Whether you want to demystify your dream job or get a peek into other people’s work lives, then this is the podcast for you.

Available via the link in bio, Apple, Spotify, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

I’m beyond excited to be selected for cohort 6 of Homeward Bound, a ground-breaking, global leadership initiative, set against the backdrop of Antarctica, which aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet. I will be joining 99 other women in STEMM, first through a virtual leadership program, followed by an expedition to Antarctica in 2022 (depending on the Covid-19 situation).

Thank you to friends and mentors who encouraged me to say yes, and to my colleagues and friends at SEAD and the Obama Leaders Asia-Pacific—my first leadership programs—to make an artist feel that she’s up for this!

I can’t wait for the journey of growth ahead. Stay tuned!

It’s been a strange year yet I tried to make the most of it. Here is how my 2020 rolled:

• I did my lone residency outside Australia for Collaboratoire in the Philippine surfing capital of Siargao island for the Reimagining Sustainability module.

• Now in Sydney with a travel ban, I did residencies and fellowships online with the Space Art Summer School hosted by the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics, Saari Residence, and The Curator is the Weather with 68Art Institute Copenhagen.

• One of my short stories, “Good Harvest”, won first place at the Bright21st Stories of Inspiring Futures and Alternate Realities. I wrote for or was written about in the Culture360 magazine of the Asia-Europe Foundation and Tvergastein Interdisciplinary Journal of the Environment in Norway.

• “The Weighing of the Hearts” was exhibited at das weisse haus in Vienna and The Peace Studio in the US; and “The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store” continues its odyssey with the Victor Papanek retrospective in the Museum del Disseny in Barcelona, the Design Museum den Bosch in the Netherlands, and C-mine design centre in Belgium. 

• The year-long virtual program of the Obama Leaders Asia-Pacific with the Obama Foundation ensued, and I had a lot of fun running Supercharge art sessions with some  of the leaders’ communities and the children of some of my fellow Obama Leaders.

• I spoke in Speculative Futures Bangkok, Speculative Futures Sydney, inVivo Conference for Planetary Health, and the University of the Underground as one of their educators for their New Politics and Afrofuturisms program.

• I now speak better German and some basic Russian. I also learned some more making skills thanks to the immense patience of the UNSW Design Futures Lab. 

• I passed Year 1 of my PhD! Hurray!

If you’ve been a part of my year at all, thank you very much! I hope 2021 gives room for more ways to make art and connect with people and make the world better for everyone. See you all next year!

[COPENHAGEN] Stoked to hold a recorded Zoom conversation with Hugo Hopping of SixtyEight Art Institute for The Curator is the Weather, to which I was supposed to participate in person except that I am in Sydney and cannot leave because of the Australian travel ban. Gracias and tak for including me despite these challenging circumstances. Have fun, you all!

From the organisers:

THE CURATORIAL THING (4th Edition)

The Curator is the Weather
Organised by SixtyEight Art Institute
1 – 9 October, 2020

Evening Talk Series: 2, 6, 7, and 8 of October
From 18:00 to 21:00
Location: Gothersgade 140
At the Social Sciences Faculty Library of Copenhagen University

SixtyEight Art Institute is pleased to announce that our 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 8th of October Evening Lecture Programme is ready!

The Evening Lectures will be open to the (physical) public for free (observing the Covid-19 Danish Health Authority recommendations) and it will be streamed and made available online for 120 DKK/16 EUR. This fee helps cover our film production expenses and it gives access to all four days of Lectures to our (virtual) public from remote locations.

The Curatorial Thing, Evening Lecture Programme, will be inviting the voices of artists and curators who are bringing particular attention to issues such as climate change and new technologies that can contribute to a more nuanced understanding of how #art, #science, and #technology can approach the building of a future of mutual relations, taking into account the continual #evolution of human nature in and with the natural world after #climatechange.

The evening lectures will be held at the Social Sciences Faculty Library of Copenhagen University (Det Samfundsvidenskabelige Fakultetsbibliotek) at Gothersgade 140, 1123 Copenhagen next to the Botanical Gardens.

The Curatorial Thing (4th Edition) is being organised/led by Hugo Hopping and Christopher Sand-Iversen for SixtyEight Art Institute.

REGISTRATION is on EVENTBRITE

Registration for physical or ‘in-person’ attendance is free while live streaming is 120 DKK/16 EUR. But register and choose via this Eventbrite Link or in Bio:

https://www.eventbrite.dk/e/the-curatorial-thing-the-curator-is-the-weather-tickets-121918059197

See the full programme here: https://madmimi.com/p/7fbf411/ or on Eventbrite to access the presentation summaries. Looking forward to your participation and support.

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! ❤

Dismantling the Apocalypse: Speculative Futures in Pandemic Times

[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:

𝗙𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗫 𝘀𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀

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:

Dismantling the apocalypse is a way of life. Let’s train!

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.

ColLaboratoire 2020 fellows and facilitators. Image courtesy of ColLaboratoire 2020

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?

 

Image by Pam Cajilig

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.

Image courtesy of ColLaboratoire 2020

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.

Artist talk! Image courtesy of ColLaboratoire 2020

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”.

The Environmental Empathy group discusses Environmental Embodied Cognition. Image courtesy of ColLaboratoire 2020

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
  • Cosmologies
  • 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

The group on Transforming Education for All discusses their project. Image courtesy of ColLaboratoire 2020

Project Proposal

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

  1. 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.
  2. The Kapwa Certificate can be earned by a Liminal Space Training or a Shamanic Somatic training that occurs year round.
  3. Experiential Role Play – disaster gym, aging simulations, environmental empathy, planetary renewal spa
  4. Floating evacuation center that functions as a community center when not in use
  5. Art classes in school where outcomes are to be exhibited in the fiesta, mangrove nurseries,
  6. 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.
  7. Citizen science scavenger hunts to get people on fact finding missions to generate knowledge for the community
  8. Hackathon
  9. Tourists who come can barter their skills
  10. Disaster gym
  11. Teleserye that educates people on sustainability concepts
  12. Poetry workshops to define sustainability concepts in their language
  13. Cook-a-thon of ingredients that are remaining after a disaster to get people creative with their recipes
  14. Intergenerational talks to share resilience stories, design their community’s future, etc.

Biomodd Reunion

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.

Image by Pam Cajilig

Final Thoughts

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.

• In March I returned to Beijing to finish the Crystal Ruth Bell residency. I also spoke at this Global Shapers sustainability event.

• I continued the SEAD fellowship with Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council, recommencing in Cambodia, presenting work in Thailand, and reflecting on the year in Myanmar.

• 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!

—Catherine

 

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!