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Thank you, DJ Marie of NYC-based online radio station BreakThru Radio for interviewing me on her show, Sew and Tell, about The Apocalypse Project, particularly Climate Change Couture and The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store.

Here I talk about what led me to do The Apocalypse Project, from my roots in art, science, and interaction design, to my research in South Korea and Singapore, how being a journalist in my past life helped me think of Climate Change Couture, and how this project has made me rethink my own fashion choices.

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Listen to the interview here. Thanks, DJ Marie!

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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.

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!

 

I can classify the past few days as Learning Things I’m Very Interested in But I Probably Won’t Want a PhD In. It’s great to be learning from others while on a residency. Here are two events:

1. Numbering Climate Change: A Carbon Workshop by Dr. Ingmar Lippert

It is the middle of my residency, and one thing I realize is that while I am currently doing a project on climate change, I don’t want to label myself as a “climate change artist” necessarily. I think that I specialize primarily in how I do things, instead of what I do them for (i.e. a focus on systems over outcomes, though it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the latter). There has been and always will be a leaning towards environmentally themed projects—something I cannot undo, since I travel a lot and I’m usually outdoors. But I don’t think the bulk of my day has been about reading climate change reports (thank goodness). As an interaction / experience designer I have mainly been looking into turning bigger, more macro issues, into personal experiences that people can relate to (and hopefully care about after they encounter the project).

That being said, I think that projects should have a lot of research going on in the background, even those things I’m not particularly thrilled about. And in this case, it meant me voluntarily going through a workshop this Saturday on how the carbon market works. Led by Tembusu instructor Dr. Ingmar Lippert, it was about the politics of carbon trading and how the carbon market entered its current state.

Ingmar, laughing at my horror of dry academic papers. Thanks, man.

It was a whole day affair, and I missed taekwondo that day (and you all know that never happens). But for the record, I was very enlightened and I do not regret doing it, even if it meant reading all these depressing academic papers. I also caught myself repeatedly talking about how the users (meaning the people) should have been more involved in these systems, especially as local communities suffer the most during carbon offsetting projects. Like I said, I’m definitely here as a designer. Does anyone remember this line from a certain awesome movie?

2. Is Singapore a Model City?

This Monday, the Tembusu Forum hosted four speakers to talk about and debate  the question, “Is Singapore a Model City?” Included were Professor Heng Chye Kiang, Dean of the School of Design and Environment of the National University of Singapore; Mr. Khoo Teng Chye, Executive Director, Centre for Livable Cities, Ministry of National Development; Professor Ian Smith, Principal Investigator of the Future Cities Lab; and Dr. Cheong Koon Hean, CEO of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board and Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of National Development (a wonderful speaker, by the way!). Professor Tommy Koh introduced the speakers and moderated the discussion afterwards. They gave great talks, but it was even better when the students asking really smart questions. As an expat, it’s always interesting to have a crash course of a city’s history and dreams for the future.

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L-R: Prof. Heng Chye Kiang, Dr. Cheong Koon Hean, Prof. Tommy Koh, Mr. Khoo Teng Chye, Dr. Ian Smith

Last weekend, I visited Singapore’s army market to pick up some things for prototyping. I usually go to dollar stores or markets to buy cheap readymade objects that I can potentially hack into, but this is the first time I’ve visited a market that specializes in military gear. Of all the fields I’ve looked into, the military is the one that uses wearables in potential apocalyptic scenarios I am looking at.

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These patches give me ideas.

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I bought a pair of goggles, a head mask, and a face mask. I’m trying to see how the design of each can possibly fit into one of my projects.

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This design space is fun. A bit scary, but fun.