The story revolves around a female perfumer who lives in a future time when climate change has eradicated a lot of scents and she tries to preserve as many of these as possible. One day, she receives a knock on a door from a client who searches for her to create a perfume that has not been smelled in a very long time.
The Sewer Soaperie, part of The Apocalypse Projectbody of work, will be at the month-long DISPOSABLE group exhibition by Science Gallery Melbourne beginning August 1.
The Sewer Soaperie is an interactive experimental art project about turning raw sewage and used fats into soap to raise awareness on the fatbergs clogging sewer systems around the world, and how this will worsen flooding brought about by the more intense storms of the Anthropocene.
The audience will be invited to wash their hands with the soaps, but please do so at your own risk. There are three types of soaps: those made from palm oil, those made from used oils, and those made from sewage. These were all boiled and then mixed with the appropriate amount of sodium hydroxide method to create soap. If you’d rather not touch the soaps (I don’t blame you), there are other ways of perceiving the work, such as through sight (Observe the physical differences and ask what type of fats might be in these different-colored soaps?) and smell (Some have said they smell like cookies, others have said chicken. What do you think they smell like?)
Follow the hashtag #SewerSoaperie for updates!
Image credits: First image – 1335Mabini; all the rest: Studio Catherine Sarah Young (Photography by Rache Go, hair and makeup by Rori de la Cruz). Thank you to Science Gallery Melbourne curators Tilly Boleyn, Veronica Dominiak, and Ryan Jefferies, and the fantastic Science Gallery Melbourne team!
Ice Chess examines the Arctic crisis and inspires viewers and participants to reflect on the situation up north. A map of the Arctic with its indigenous peoples is printed on a chessboard with pieces cast out of ice. Inside the pieces are toy soldiers and that represent the players in the emerging “battle” of the Arctic—the political and industrial figures that have big stakes in oil and shipping that stand to gain from melting ice and the emerging maritime routes as a result, and the pawns that represent the countries that will be affected by sea level rise and that are sacrificed in order to achieve these goals.
In these urgent times, now is not the time to romanticize the Melt. In a game with high stakes, who is responsible? On the edges of the board are freestanding soldiers and figures that represent observer countries and other affected nations, and anonymous figures that represent globally concerned distributed people. The battle is on, and we are all watching with bated breath. Ice Chess uses art and science to interrogate, to speak truth to power, to point to the powerful entities who are primarily responsible for what is affecting the whole planet.
Chess is one of the oldest skill games in the world and has been
played for over 5000 years. Chess spread around the world through
colonization and trade. The objective of chess is to trap the king—to
checkmate him—and it wins the game. Chess is historically played
by the wealthy. In this project, it references wealth inequality, one of
the systemic causes of climate change.
Chess is metaphorical of how humanity has treated nature—as a
game of strategy where we seek to exploit it and each other. It takes
this further by actually melting the project with the aid of the
players—a reference to how we collectively have caused the Arctic
to melt and how we can also put a stop to it.
This game does not intend to pit one human being against the other (or one country against the other), which risks oversimplification. Rather, each player represents a set of alternative possibilities that, when the game is played, clash to produce permutations of consequences. In the game, players and the audience are allowed to view the many entanglements that a wicked problem such as the Arctic crisis can provide.
A primary reason for economic interest in the Arctic is the emerging
Northern Sea Route, which will connect Western Europe and Asia. This
could make shipping up to 14 days faster than the southern route via the
Suez Canal. In 2018, the Venta Maersk, owned by Maersk Line and
carrying 3,600 containers, successfully set sail from Vladivostok to St.
Petersburg—the first container ship to tackle the Arctic sea route north of
The Chessboard & The Pieces
The board is a map of the Arctic labeled with indigenous communities,
seas, emerging shipping routes—all of these will be names we would hear
more about in the coming decades. This map represents the battleground
where a literal and figurative cold war is already happening.
The powerful row of pieces—the king, queen, bishop, knight, and
rook—represent the Arctic Council nations: Russia, USA, Iceland, Finland,
Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Denmark. The row of pawns represent
countries around the world that are and will be most affected by sea level
rise. Surrounding the board are Arctic Council observer countries, other
nations affected by sea level rise, and anonymous figures that represent
globally distributed concerned people.
Climate Change & the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes contain 5,500 cubic miles of freshwater, one of the biggest freshwater resources of the world. It supports more than 34 million people who live within its Basin. These people rely on the lakes for drinking water, fisheries, recreation, and industry. Climate change is already affecting these ecosystems through extreme weather, decreased crop yields, heat waves and consequent poor air quality, stress on water quality and infrastructure, affected navigation and recreation, and impact on wildlife.
Thank you to curators Mark Valentine Sullivan and Antajuan Scott and the rest of the Science Gallery Detroit team!
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!
The Planetary Renewal Spa (2018- ) is a series of self-care performance rituals that illuminate the effects of climate breakdown. The spa currently offers two services: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes and Disappearing Honey Facial.
The Planetary Renewal Spa: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes
Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes takes clients on a sensory experience of a hurricane, from light feathery touches of the coming storm to a full catastrophe.
The Planetary Renewal Spa: Disappearing Honey Facial
Disappearing Honey Facial gives clients a relaxing facial massage using raw honey while the artist narrates the story of bees disappearing because of climate change.
The Planetary Renewal Spa: Back Massage to Simulate Hurricanes
The Planetary Renewal Spa was first performed at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing as part of my residency as the 5th Crystal Ruth Bell resident of China Residencies.
I’m honored to contribute an article to the October issue of Vienna-based springerin – Hefte für Gegenwartskunst, a quarterly magazine dedicated to the theory and critique of contemporary art and culture. Entitled “A Different Shape of Progress” (Fortschritt in anderer Form), I write about contemporary art and social inclusion through the context of my interdisciplinary art practice.
The article is in German but send me a message if you want the original English article.
From the editor:
Is our society developing further? “Further” in the sense that efforts are made, in real practical terms, to remediate circumstances recognised as unjust and to actively set in motion processes that aim to promote balanced modes of living together? Is progress, which has so long determined the narrative of modernisation and social redistribution, still a significant category today? Are aspects of progress or more viable approaches to overcoming unjust, non-egalitarian relations perhaps to be found in the cultural realm rather than elsewhere? And should we give credence to ideologies of progress that locate such progress above all in the technological realm, possibly harbouring as a hidden agenda a conviction that societal mechanisms will somehow or other come into play in the wake of developments on the technological front? Contemporary art may perhaps always be one step ahead of all this, in that it seeks to impact on an irksome Here and Now from the perspective of the future, of a vision drawn with idealised or utopian brushstrokes. The fall issue unfurls scenarios that engage with this impact, asking to what extent it offers a viable means of working toward (also social) progress that genuinely merits this designation.
Hello friends! The online voting polls for the Best Climate Solutions Award are open from September 24 until October 15 (5:00 PM CEST). The Apocalypse Project is in the running under “Education and Media”. I’m hoping to fund a future series of projects benefiting an indigenous rainforest community in the Philippines, and to create an arts-led curriculum that outlines the frameworks of the climate change adaptation projects and workshops I’ve been leading in all of these places around the world you’ve seen me in. If you can please take a few minutes to vote and/or share with your friends, that would be great. Thank you very much!
Bestclimatesolutions.eu is a new platform to showcase the most innovative and compelling efforts from around the world to build a climate-smart and resilient future, and engaging with local developers, innovators, business operators, and researchers to support the scaling up of tools, technologies and business models that can generate tangible impacts.
Best Climate Solutions builds on the unique experience of the Best Climate Practices observatory, an initiative developed by ICCG in partnership with the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC). Since 2012 the Best Climate Practices observatory has collected and promoted a wide range of concrete actions for dealing with climate change challenges such as energy access, water management, climate finance, disaster risk reduction.
I’m delighted to announce that The Apocalypse Projectis in the running for the Best Climate Solutions 2018 Award for “Communicating Climate Change Threats and Opportunities”! I’m hoping to fund a future series of projects benefiting an indigenous rainforest community in the Philippines, and to create an arts-led curriculum that outlines the frameworks of the climate change adaptation projects and workshops I’ve been leading in all of these places in the world you’ve seen me in.
The online voting procedure will be open from September 24, 2018 until October 15, 2018 (5.00 pm CEST).
I’m concurrently exhibiting two editions of An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest in Dublin and Manila. These editions were selected for the exhibitions to fit their themes, and it’s been fun making them for these two very different cities. The one for Science Gallery Dublin’s In Case of Emergency exhibition features scents I smelled during my residency with LABVERDE in Brazil. These are things I encountered in the forest that are at risk from climate change and other human impacts.
The other one at the Manila Biennale which just opened is an edition that interprets the olfactory memories of 18th & 19th century explorers such as Alexander von Humboldt and Henry Walter Bates. I’m uncomfortably aware that these are narratives of a bunch of white guys as they were all I could find, though I intentionally picked those of naturalists. I’m still on the lookout for records that show a diversity of perspectives if you know of any (language doesn’t matter) as this is an ongoing project that is one of my favorites.
(Hey, at least the one in Dublin is based on the account of a woman, of color, from the developing world and is mixed and multi in most things: me.)
Check these out in Dublin and Manila, and
follow the next steps of this project and other works of The #ApocalypseProject on http://www.apocalypse.cc or #OlfactoryAmazon
Image credits: Science Gallery Dublin (top) and Studio CSY
The Apocalypse Project‘s Sewer Soaperie and An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest are exhibited in the first Manila Biennale in the walled city of Intramuros. The theme, “Open City,” refers to Intramuros as the origin of Manila’s culture. It is a tribute to the walled city’s beginnings as a port for the Galleon Trade, a time when Intramuros opened itself up to the world and welcomed new ideas, products and people.
Image credit: Manila Biennale
The Sewer Soaperie consists of soaps made from different points in the cycle of oil in human consumption, from palm oil to used oil to raw sewage and fatbergs, to highlight the effects of our impact on cities. Support for this project was given by Arts Collaboratory, Ministry of Culture of Colombia, and Medellín-based arts organizations Platohedro and Casa Tres Patios, where I did a residency in 2016.
This edition of An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest features scents based on the travel narratives of 19th century explorers of the Amazon, where naturalists such as Alfred Russell Wallace and Alexander von Humboldt encountered this ecosystem for the first time, which relates to the “openness” theme of the biennale. Visitors are allowed to smell these scents and inhale the stories of how these explorers encountered the Amazon. On the wall is text that features the passage of the books where I based these scents from. This project was inspired by my residency in the Amazon in 2017, with the support of LABVERDE and the INPA National Institute of Amazonian Research.
Manila, Medellín, and Manaus are cities that are similar in their colonial history, richness of culture and stories, and vulnerabilities to climate change, which the works highlight. It’s been great fun to bring these together for this historic biennale as well as be reminded of my enriching residency experiences in South America, of which the Philippines share very similar characteristics.
The Sewer Soaperie and An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest
This edition of An Olfactory Portrait of the Amazon Rainforest interprets the olfactory memories of 19th century explorers into scent, based on their travel narratives
The installation can be viewed at the biennale lounge. Image credit: Manila Biennale
Manila Biennale 2018 is led by Executive Director Carlos P. Celdran, and this installation is curated by Alice Sarmiento. Thank you!
Image credits: Photos 1-4 by Studio Catherine Sarah Young, 5-7 by Manila Biennale