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
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


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.

Some official photos from the Cultural Center of the Philippines of The Weighing of the Heart, a sculptural series depicting human heart sculptures cast out of the ashes of the Australian bushfires, for the exhibition of the 2021 Thirteen Artist Awards, the oldest government award for artists from the Philippines.

The show runs until 5 June 2022 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Visit bit.ly/visit2021TAA for health protocols.

Support for this project includes funding from the UNSW Scientia scholarship and technical support from the UNSW Design Futures Lab.

(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

Critic John Alexis Balaguer of art and design magazine Kanto writes about the CCP Thirteen Artists Awards exhibition and features The Weighing of the Heart. Thank you very much!

“Catherine Sarah Young’s sculptures of human hearts, The Weighing of the Heart (2022) are cast from the ashes of the Australian bushfires in 2019-2020 and are exhibited wall-bound in grid-form, creating emphasis on the iterative subject. Referencing the Egyptian scene of the weighing of Imhotep’s heart against a feather, the works touch upon notions of grief and loss, and our emotional memories from crises. “The climate emergency will continue to be one of the biggest challenges of our time,” Young shares, “The arts have an important role in creating inclusive spaces for us to process our collective grief with the damage to the planet and to vulnerable communities worldwide.”

“The artist-awardees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Thirteen Artists all exhibit critical perspectives on contemporary challenges in society, from invoking socio-political histories, critiquing structures and systems, listening and giving voice to minorities, exercising climate consciousness, and providing avenues for sharing interpersonal realities. In this time of crisis, one might ask how art might provide reflections, solutions, safe spaces, or possibilities in reimagining a new world–a daunting task for the art community, no doubt, yet readily acceded by thirteen young artists of the new contemporary. With this award and exhibition, more than the showcase is the show of cases, that the world might be presented as it is, so we are able to see art and life as no different. “This year’s artists call into question the very notion of presence,” curator Shireen Seno declares, with a radical evaluation, “this is a show about the gaps, the lapses, and the others that characterize our time.”

Read the article here.

Balaguer, J.A. “CCP Thirteen Artists 2021: Presence and Possibilities.” Kanto magazine. 29 March 2022. https://kanto.com.ph/objects/ccp-thirteen-artists-2022/

(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!