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Simon Hirsbrunner, media researcher from University Siegen, Germany, visited The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures at the Institute for the Future and sent us these lovely photos. Many thanks for coming!

Lately, I’ve been doing research on Philippine art, so it was wonderful to spend a Tuesday afternoon with my dear friend Tiffany at Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, about an hour outside Manila.

Right away, the details of the museum gave it a quaint Mediterranean and Philippine charm.

Such a cute bell!

Such a cute bell!

Beautiful colors

Beautiful colors

I love this spot

I love this spot

I really appreciated the art inside the cavernous halls, as well as the fact that it was wheelchair-accessible.

Beautiful gallery

Beautiful gallery

Lovely and wheelchair-accessible

Lovely and wheelchair-accessible

Oh if only I can live here, and write and make art all day.

Such a lovely windowsill

Such a lovely windowsill

I’ve been really interested in Philippine textiles lately, so this gallery of indigenous art was one of my favorites.

I love this gallery of Philippine indigenous art

I love this gallery of Philippine indigenous art

A rocking horse before sunset

A rocking horse before sunset

I love this spot: a meditation garden dedicated to the love of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal and Leonor Rivera.

Squeal! A meditation garden dedicated to the love between Jose Rizal and Leonor Rivera

Squeal! A meditation garden dedicated to the love between Jose Rizal and Leonor Rivera

Inside was an old-fashioned writing cabinet with the instructions to write a letter to The One Who Got Away. The letter should be placed in the cabinet undelivered. Then the person is instructed to move on with his life. I was so tempted to read the letters but I swear I didn’t touch them.

The instructions: Write a letter to the one who got away. Place it in the cabinet undelivered. Move on.

The instructions: Write a letter to the one who got away. Place it in the cabinet undelivered. Move on.

The museum was bigger than I thought. I didn’t have a clue where we were on the museum map.

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I feel like I’m back in Barcelona.

Thanks for a lovely time!

Pinto Art Museum

Pinto Art Museum

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11 October 2014, Seoul—I was part of a panel on Science Day at the Innovation Forum of Digital Art Weeks held at Seoul National University Museum of Art. Dr. Denisa Kera of Swiss Hacketeria and National University of Singapore gave the keynote speech. My fellow panelists included Dr. Tae-Sub Chung of Yonsei Medical School, Dr. Min Suk Chung of Ajou University School of Medicine, and Dr. Tai Hyun Park of the Advanced Institute of Convergence Technology of Seoul National University. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sunghoon Kim, Director of the Integrated Bioscience and Biotechnology Institute at Seoul National University.

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The Innovation Forum is a three-day symposium spread out during Digital Art Weeks Seoul, which runs until December. Science Day explores common themes on the crossroads between Neuroscience and Aesthetics in the arts and Bioinformatics and Biohacking art movement, bringing in and raising questions about the creative process, scientific inquiry and realm of empirical aesthetics. The panel I was on, “Convergence in Arts and Sciences”, raised questions around convergence of science and art and how they have been inseparable.

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I gave a talk on “Art, Science, and Planetary Futures”, chronicling my experiences in science and art through the different residencies and fellowships I’ve had in the world. I spoke about how art and science converged to give people new experiences, to empower audiences, and to break traditional formats. It was great to see familiar faces in the audience—from fellow alumni of the School of Visual Arts, the staff at the National Art Studio of Korea (now known as the MMCA Residency Changdong), and the Future Cities Laboratory. Even Denisa is a familiar face—she moderated our panel at ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands last year. It was like going to a big family reunion. Thanks, guys!

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Thanks to DAW International for the invitation, SNU MoA for the lovely venue and staff, and Kate Kirkpatrick for the photos.

 

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Here are some photos from The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store’s exhibit at the Open City / Art City Festival last October 4, co-organized the Institute for the Future and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Many thanks and huge congratulations to my friend Zoe Bezpalko (who also modeled one of the Climate Change Couture garments last year and is shown in the above photo wearing an Apocalypse Suit), for handling this single-handedly.

I’m here in Seoul for the moment for some exhibitions and a panel, so I’m very grateful for my friends and collaborators from all over the world who can take over when I cannot physically be there.

Photos courtesy of Zoe Bezpalko

The past year or so has seen me venturing into the mysterious field of “speculative design.” In The Apocalypse Project, I’m trying to see possible futures under climate change, which are generally not pretty visions of tomorrow.

There are lessons I’ve learned as well as experiences whose lessons I’m still trying to find. Here they are:

1. Stories rule.

When it comes to something as dry and political as climate change, the best way to get people to care is to let them find a personal story. Climate change is humanity’s story, not just a few individuals’. It is also complex and multilayered; a photo of a melting glacier might trigger the emotions of people living near them, but it might not be as effective to a person who has never experienced a winter. Here in Southeast Asia, I notice that people paid more attention to stories about rising sea levels, extreme heat or supertyphoons, because those are the things that they have personally experienced and have something to say about.

However, this isn’t to say that people in the tropics will never care about polar bears. I think that another property about the climate story is that so many things are connected—a melting glacier may further alarm people who are experiencing drought, for example—and there are opportunities to connect these dots that people never realized existed.

2.  The power belongs to the people.

When people want to buy these hypothetical products, I’m taken aback and get a conscience attack of sorts. My goal was to show people how bad it could get, but instead people’s consumerist tendencies prevailed.

But then, why wouldn’t they want to buy these? I had made them so real that they only thing that was missing was a PayPal button.

I realized the power of people as consumers; the exchange of money for product allows for the existence of these objects. These transactions keep these products—and the ideas behind them—alive. If people refuse to buy the product, then it marks the end of it.

What does this mean for futures? For me, it gives me a barometer to see what types of people are out there. I’ve realized that the point of speculative design is to ignite debate. By making these projects, people have the opportunity to talk about these issues. There are so many opinions out there that

Should I sell these? This is something I keep thinking about. Perhaps letting people buy them allows for even greater awareness, as long as they know the intentions behind it. Let me get back to you.

3. The true test is converting a denier.

The bulk of the people who have emailed me or tweeted about how the like the project are usually futurists, artists, or other people who are already aware of climate change to begin with. While I’m extremely grateful for this, especially for the future collaborations that it could ensue, to put it bluntly these people are already smarties. The next cohort of people that I’ve impacted are the “laymen”—those whose work has nothing to do with design or sustainability, but are folks who can see their personal stories in these projects. I think this is wonderful because I’ve always wanted my designs to exist beyond, well, design. Children have always been among my primary—and usually the sharpest—audience and I usually prototype my ideas on them to see if I’m being too unnecessarily confusing.

Perhaps the pinnacle of “success” in doing projects like this is when I am able to convert a climate change denier. This is the final cohort of people who are going to be the hardest to convert but are those who will give me the greatest pleasure to impact. When the initial wave of press for my projects hit, I get trolling tweets from climate change deniers literally seconds later. It’s usually how I know that my projects are being written about. I would often joke to my friends about how they’re usually just a bunch of old white guys, usually in the US, who’ve never experienced the scale of a tropical typhoon and probably don’t get out much anyhow so who cares. I never engage in them, but the more I think about it, these are the ones that, if converted, means that I was extremely effective in conveying ideas.

But I just think they’re so gross. What to do, hmm. Any ideas?

4. Everyone can contribute to this.

In Future Feast, I got a bit floored towards the end because I truly felt that it was transformative for a lot of people. Having multiple talents together—musicians, artists, designers, scientists, etc.—can feel like high school because they have very different personalities, and I as the one behind this was a bit anxious that the dots wouldn’t connect because everyone had their own vested interest in the project. However, I realized that it was in this multilayered experience that gave people a meaningful experience. In the end, it was great to feel that it wasn’t just my project anymore—it was everyone’s, which was the point.

I’m still evaluating the impact of the work I’ve done in the past few months. Stay tuned here for updates on what’s next, and thanks so much for keeping up with the projects!

 

For Future Feast happening this Saturday, July 26 at The Mind Museum, I am honored to collaborate with these accomplished chefs. Meet them now:

1. Erik Capaque and Claudette Dy
“Let’s prevent the apocalypse by taking care of our environment so our food sources will not be endangered.  Practice a sustainable lifestyle.”

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Erik enjoys exploring ingredients, cooking techniques and procedures and makes his own creation inspired by them. He is known for putting his signature touches to the dishes that he creates, and for his modern approach in traditional dishes. He was exposed to food and cooking at a very young age. Raised under great influences of traditional Ilongo and Bulacan cooking, as a kid he cooked his recreations. During his elementary school days he was able to create several interesting dishes like gumamela (hibiscus) chips, Candied Calamansi Peel, Tomato Jam, Homemade Cured Ham and Bacon to name a few. He pursued his interest in cooking and took up Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management and trained under a Belgian chef at The Old Manila in The Peninsula Hotel. He headed the School of International Hospitality Management of one university in Antipolo, Rizal for 4 years. He is accredited trainer of Commercial Cooking and Baking of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). He finished his Masters in Business Administration and pursued his culinary education at Centre International Culinaire and Culinary Institute of Asia. He is now the Chef and the Manager of Eat. at V Hotel in Malate, Manila.

Claudette Dy

True passion is never extinguished. JV Claudette Dy had always been fond of creating food—cooking, baking, as well as being a resident food critic. After graduating with a degree in management from De La Salle University and having kids, she realized this so she pursued the knowledge at Enderun. Balancing raising kids, a day job, and a full course load at a prestigious culinary school was definitely a challenge which she surpassed and used well. She now channels this passion and love for food in her cafe at a boutique hotel in Malate, Manila.

Eat. At V Hotel Manila

(63 2) 328-5553

2. Ian Carandang

“Let’s prevent the apocalypse by doing what can be done NOW instead of regretting what we should have done in the future.”

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Ian Carandang is the owner and head Chef of Sebastian’s ice Cream, the country’s premiere artisanal ice cream brand in Manila. Opening Sebastian’s in 2006, he pursues the dual ethos of excellence and creativity, believing them to not be mutually exclusive. This self-taught sorbetero is a pioneer in artisanal ice cream and constantly strives to elevate, innovate, and discover what can be done within the realm of ice cream and frozen desserts.  Among the dishes he has been recognized for are the Champorado Kakanin Ice Cream with Candied Dilis, Green Mango Sorbet with warm sweetened Bagoong, and “Once In a Blue Moon”, his Blue Cheese Ice Cream with Palawan honey and walnuts.

Sebastian’s Ice Cream

sebastians.icecream[at]gmail[dot]com

3. Sau del Rosario

“Let’s prevent the apocalypse by giving love and respect to Mother Nature.”

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Chef Rosauro del Rosario is a native of Pampanga, one of the Philippines’ culinary centers. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from the University of the Philippines. He first worked in several hotels in Manila before moving to Nice, France where he worked with one star Michelin chef Christian Plumail of Restaurant l’univers. He then moved to Paris and worked with three star Michelin Chef Jacque Divellec of Le Divellec Restaurant. Shanghai later lured Sau, where he opened the Mediterranean-themed restaurant Luna. Afterwards, he moved to Singapore to be a chef at Raffles Hotels and Resorts.

Back in Manila, Sau has opened several restaurants: the popular Museum Café, Chelsea Market and Café, and Le Bistro Vert, a sustainable organic restaurant that helps local farmers, with his partners. Le Bistro Vert earned recognition from MBKS Awards as Best New Restaurant and recognized him as among the Best Chefs of the Year. Sau uses his classical yet chic style of cooking by incorporating local ingredients. He is the Executive Chef of F1 Hotel Manila, a consultant for Bluewater Maribago properties and Cauayan Resort in El Nido, and the founder and owner of Food Garage that produces artisanal breads.

 F1 Hotels and Resorts

sau.delrosario[at]f1hotelsandresorts[dot]com

4. Kyle Imao

“Let’s prevent the apocalypse by polluting the environment less. Let’s ride bikes and patronize local produce.”

“Let’s prevent the apocalypse by living a sustainable lifestyle and by just getting enough for our needs and not our greed.”

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Kyle is a young cooking prodigy.  At the tender age of 11, he was the Philippines’ first grand winner of Junior MasterChef Philippine Edition.  Now, 14 years old, his climb to the culinary world just keeps on soaring.  He owns and operates his own café inside The Mind Museum, at the Bonifacio Global City, aptly named Kyle’s Lab –a science themed café created by a kid for kids.  He has also been a contributor for Junior Inquirer and other publications, sharing his recipes and creative cooking creations.  He teaches cooking to kids at The Maya Kitchen and does cooking demos at various events, conventions and TV programs.  Truly an inspiration and a shining example that age is not a limit to what one can strive for and achieve.

Kyle’s Lab  (0916) 310 0704

5. Judy Lao

“Let’s prevent the apocalypse by taking care of our environment now.”

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Judy Lao is a baker and the owner for Ju.D’s Fruitcakes since 1975. She is the maker of the world’s first fruitcake cookie and coffee fruitcake made with Blue Mountain coffee from Australia which she specially selected. She has been a vegetarian since 1998. She is a volunteer / commissioner of Tzu-Chi Foundation, teaches vegetarian cooking on Taiwan DaaiTV and at Tzu-Chi Foundation Manila. She wrote two vegetarian cookbooks, “Western Vegetarian Cooking” in 2002 and “Children’s Vegetarian Feast” in 2005.

Ju.D’s Products Philippines / Ju.Ds Fruitcakes

(02) 633 0260, 633-1188

 6. Nancy Reyes Lumen

“Let’s prevent the apocalypse by committing to a new lifestyle of sustainability in food and beverage, for now and for the future of God’s children. God told us to take care of His Creation, so we should.. Amen.”

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Nancy Reyes Lumen is the self-proclaimed  ”Adobo Queen”  because of her advocacy that Adobo will be the National Dish “because it is the favorite dish of every Filipino.” She wishes for world gastronomy to recognize this as a Filipino dish.  She is the co-author of bestselling books: “The Adobo Book and World Gourmand Winner for the Philippines” and “Make Good Money with Malunggay”. She is a freelance multimedia cooking show host.

Pinoyfoodies

09189135834 / 09178819314

Catch their dishes at Future Feast this Saturday, and check back here at The Apocalypse Project for their dishes and recipes!

Thanks to our collaborator, Radio Republic, for the beautiful photos!

Hello, apocalypters! I’m excited to announce that as a culminating event for The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures, The Mind Museum is collaborating with Radio Republic to bring you Future Feast, a celebration of human creativity and our hopes for a sustainable future. The event will be on July 26, Saturday, 12PM to 7PM at the Special Exhibition Hall of The Mind Museum.

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With the theme of Redesign, I am working with chefs who are creating new dishes for a Convenience Store of the Future. Radio Republic is bringing in their featured artists for July: Slow Hello, Jireh Calo, and Brisom. There will also be a performance by special guest artist Joey Ayala. This is an event for all ages, so bring in your families and get the kids to play at the Tinker Studio, watch spoken word performances and science shows, dress up in clothes from the Climate Change Closet and have your photos taken at the photo booth, smell the perfumes of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, participate in Mission Apocalypse Scavenger Hunt and win an Apocalypse Project Commander Badge, and think of how you can help build a sustainable future by making an Earth Pledge.

Future Feast poster by The Mind Museum, which highlights activities

Future Feast poster by The Mind Museum, which highlights activities

Future Feast poster by Radio Republic, highlighting featured artists, special guest artist, and the chefs

Future Feast poster by Radio Republic, highlighting featured artists, special guest artist, and the chefs

Ticket prices are as follows:

EXPLORE TICKET (All Day Pass to the galleries of TMM, Access to Live Performances, Mission Apocalypse Scavenger Hunt & Climate Change Closet): 500.00 PHP

TASTE TICKET (Access to Live Performances, Future Tastes (6 dishes), and Climate Change Closet): 300.00 PHP

DISCOVER TICKET (Access to Live Performances and Climate Change Closet): 200.00 PHP

TINKER TICKET (Access to Tinker Studio: Make your own Animal Art): 150.00 PHP

You can buy tickets online here. You can also buy your tickets at the museum on the day of the event. No reservations are required.

See you there!

 

This week, I and my fellow artist-in-residence Michael spoke in Tembusu College’s Singapore as Model City class.

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It looks like I’m singing, but I’m not. I was just saying hi and asking if they could hear me. Thanks, Dr. Margaret Tan, for the photo.

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I think I like it when the stage design is reversed and I’m looking up.

I won’t elaborate on parts of my talk that I’ve posted before, such as what happened during The Apocalypse Workshops or the comments on DrawHappy that made me rethink what the project could be about. So instead, I’ll emphasize some of the things I learned about experience design and collaborations between art and science.

Experience and memory
The image my have the last word, but for me, experience is the one that stay with you forever. I referred to a series of articles I wrote when I was a young journalist, oh so many years ago. This is a photo of me when I was 19 years old:

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In this photo, I was wearing the costume on the left, although I also wore the one on the right. These are mascots from Jollibee, a Filipino fast food chain that, for me, is one of the icons of modern Filipino culture and taste. It was for a series of articles called Temporarily Yours, where I took on a job for a day and then wrote about it. Looking back, these are exercises in empathy, albeit short ones, where I realized how it was to be on the other side of the fence. Most of these jobs were in food or customer service, such as a barista or a sushi chef. Others were about performance, such as a magician’s assistant or a zookeeper. In this particular article, I wrote about how it was to be a mascot and embody a character beloved by children. I still vividly remember these experiences more than a decade later, such as how the head of Hetty (the female character, short for “spaghetti”) was so big and difficult to balance, and how Jollibee’s butt was so huge, it took two guys to shove me through a door. You know, good times.

Projects like these have shaped my views on how I execute future projects. Though I don’t feel that my work fits just one area of inquiry, I think that the common thread between all of them is that of experience. Experience is very powerful. The image may have the last word, but in a world where we are saturated by images, I believe that experience makes these images last longer and gives them more meaning.

Korea and Experience Booths

My views on experience design have also been honed through seeing South Korea’s experience booths in festivals, which will always mark my memories of that country. In festivals in the US or in Europe, I would usually find people selling me a finished product, let’s say a ceramic pot. But in Korea, I will be sold the experience of making or painting my own pot. In this case, I will find myself sitting down at the booth and getting messy at the table, thus slowing down, making my experience more personal, and hopefully have a longer lasting memory than just having the generic festival experience. Perhaps I will end up treasuring the pot I made myself rather than just another cheap souvenir. I also think these booths give wonderful creative opportunities for families, children, and the elderly.

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A Korean experience booth on printmaking

Korea can get quite creative with their experience booths, such as this one I saw down south in Hampyeong.

I believe that the role of artists / scientists / designers is not just to have these unique experiences through their work, but to share these with others. Typically, we share that experience by writing about it for others to read. Through that reading, perhaps someone will profoundly connect with our writing. However, I think that human bonds can be stronger through a shared experience. Your audience can create their own experiences for themselves and yield results that are unexpected, like what I’ve learned from previous projects. This is when you realize that your audience teach you something as well, which is a wonderful thing. Projects become a conversation between creator and audience, which will only serve to fuel human creativity and progress.

Art, Science, and Sustainability

Personally, I believe that the wealth of human knowledge is too vast to just break down into two, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s go with these two fields: art and science. As I have been trained in both, I have felt what it was like on each “side”. I have been “the scientist” in an art/design studio, and “the artist” in a science lab. Both types of experiences have been very unique to me. Both sides have their own ivory towers. Those who choose to be in those towers, I think, should quickly parachute off. Our world is too vast and our problems too complex for petty squabbling. Unexpected things can happen when ideas from each side, as they say, have sex. Here is a nice comic by Bird and Moon that shows that.

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Image copyright by Bird and Moon

Collaboration is especially important in the realm of sustainability, which is a world I did not expect to enter. It’s quite a booming area, especially in Singapore. Everyone and your mother is doing sustainability.*  (That, and “cities” and “resilience.”) I referred (again) to this Ngram by xkcd.

*Did I really say that in a university class? Yes, I did.

Image copyright by xkcd

Image copyright by xkcd

Instead of being a part of the echo chamber that such “trending” fields create, perhaps new solutions can emerge by letting disciplines hang out together, as they used to do, way back when.

In the end, I emphasized empathy to these bright eyed young students who are in the middle of creating sustainable urban interventions for their class. I said this as someone from the Philippines, a developing country. I cannot tell you how many international consultants in there right now, wanting to save it from XYZ problems. Now, I am very grateful that these brilliant people are there, and I am sure they have great intentions. Certainly foreigners can see opportunities locals may have overlooked, as I have had, being a foreigner in four other countries. But I’ve seen enough projects that never get implemented or never have their full potential realized because of these gaps in empathy. I believe we can do better.

The first few weeks in Singapore, apart from battling a tropical superflu, one other war I was waging was contextualizing climate change in a way that was, well, less boring for people.

Put it this way, during the beginning of this residency, I was reading up on UN documents on the environment and we all know how enjoyable that is. I was beginning to be afraid that this project will be the most boring one I’ve ever done. When finally, it hit me.

Climate change has a branding problem. Not that I didn’t think so before, but it’s different when you are doing a project that is supposed to get people to want to act on climate change. My initial responses for my project were, well, meh. I felt like people were humoring me because I was a guest in their lab / college / country. I don’t blame them. People think climate change is too dry and inaccessible. Or more precisely, I believe it is seen as something separate from other concerns, when I think environmental “mindfulness” should be integrated in our lifestyles.

When I see climate change campaigns in schools and organizations, it’s mostly about recycling. Don’t get me wrong—recycling is important and we all should do it. I just don’t think that it is the cure-all for all our environmental woes. Climate change-related events are getting bigger and more serious—it’s critical to think beyond our current solutions.

Another field having a branding problem with respect to climate change is art. I think for the most part, people see it as frivolous. “Oh that’s nice,” but thinking “but let the important people do the important work” type of attitude. Again, I don’t blame them. The ivory towers and walls that distance disciplines from each other have served to alienate. (I also think that this is a one of the causes of professional burn-out, but that’s another post for another day.)

I need to get people in a state of “play” so that they will think outside the box. Hence the formation of this Apocalypse Project. It’s tricky to turn something as serious as climate change as something “fun,” but I believe that making it so will get people to start thinking beyond the box.  Dystopias and apocalypses pave the way for that. We already have these ingrained in literature and pop culture. But beyond that, ideas that seemed crazy in the beginning sometimes become the best solutions. Science fiction becomes speculative fiction and eventually reality, doesn’t it? As an example, just check out this TED talk by Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu on manipulated memories. 

Stay tuned for the next post on The Apocalypse Workshop, when the very creative minds of students here at NUS’ Tembusu college take a stab at thinking about a climate change apocalypse.

My friend Kate Kirkpatrick, who also serves as producer of my Seoul43 project, has been working making sure that its extension project, Pyeong Chang Mobile Garden, a piece currently in the 2013 Pyeong Chang Biennale, is finished. This weekend, she reported back to me (I’m currently in Manila in transit to my next project), with these photos.

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I smiled when I saw this photo with Pyeong Chang Biennale curators, Mr. Hyunchul Lee (left) and Mr. Yoonkee Kim (right), who helped finish the job. Kamsahamnida!

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View a previous post about the installation and another piece here.