Culture², a Toronto-based organization, is hosting their first online conference on community science, creative biology, and ancestral knowledge this Aug 28 + 29, 2021. I’m excited to be one of their speakers. Get your ticket here and see you there!
This August 28th + 29th, 2021 we invite you to join us for our first conference where farmers, community activists, climate educators, artists, and practitioners will be sharing their wisdom in relation to the pillars of community science, creative biology, and ancestral knowledge.
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!
Iconic photo of the first Earth Day (photo from Smithsonian Magazine)
The above is the most iconic photo of the first Earth Day. Held on April 22, 1970 in New York City, the first Earth Day manifested the emerging environmental consciousness of the US, largely due to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. On April 22, 20 million people marched to demonstrate for a sustainable environment. Currently, Earth Day is celebrated in more than 190 countries.
A black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a vintage gas mask and stretching his neck to smell some flowers became iconic of this day. The photographer is unknown; the credit simply read “Associated Press”, and AP identifies the person as a freelancer. In August 2010, Smithsonian Magazine reported his name as Peter Hallerman, then a sophomore at Pace College. Hallerman recalled that he was one of the 30 Pace students who held a demonstration in a park near City Hall. Hallerman wore a gas mask that he once belonged to his mother, Edith, who worked with Red Cross during World War II. The AP photographer told Hallerman to smell the flowers of a magnolia tree with his mask on.
This historic photograph is still relevant as we reflect on Anthropogenic climate change, and I used it as inspiration. After recreating the original photograph, I expanded it to reflect my current location. Medellin, Colombia is a city of rich history and culture. Once a hotbed of violence, it has emerged over the years as a city of innovation and urban design—a city of “cool”. Among other things, Medellin is known for winning the 2016 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize and 2013 City of the Year Award, as well as emblematic and permissive graffiti culture, though it hasn’t completely shaken off its violent past. The photographs were taken near the Museo Casa de la Memoria, a museum dedicated to victims of armed conflict in Medellin. The city also faces environmental challenges as it works to modernize itself and in the context of the Anthropocene. These photographs are meant to reflect the city’s character, culture, and contradictions as it projects its identity into the future.
(Medellin, Colombia)—On June 7th, my first Tuesday here in Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring, I gave an artist talk at Casa Tres Patios, one of my two hosting institutions for my residency here in Colombia.
Artist talk at Casa Tres Patios
I spoke about art and science, as well as how The Apocalypse Project came to be, as well as my residency project, The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest. Artist talks are always a walk of nostalgia, so kudos to all the previous residencies, grants, and collaborators whom I’ve met over the years!
Thanks to Estefania Piedharita and Tony Evanko of C3P for translating, and both C3P and Platohedro teams for organizing!
(Medellin, Colombia)—It’s my first time in Colombia (and actually, South America). For a week in Bogota, I sat terrified in the back seat of taxi drivers who went through the manic city as though they had a death wish. I stuffed myself with arepas, almojabanas, and pan de queso, without the usual reaction I get from wheat bread, because—whee!—these puppies are gluten-free. I walked through the cobblestoned streets of La Candelaria, full of history and stories and tourists and kitsch, feeling as though I were back in my birthplace of Manila.
Walking the streets of La Candelaria in Bogota
Colombia and the Philippines share very similar stories. Both countries were Spanish colonies, are very diverse in terms of landscapes, flora, food, and people, and have had histories of unfortunate violence. Filipinos are often considered to be the Latinos of Asia, and in fact many Colombians and Filipinos look a bit similar. Heck, they definitely look more Filipino than I, the apparent ambassador of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese faces. Food is similarly rich in meats and rice, though these people use way more avocados than I ever have.
I stick out like a sore thumb with a neon Band Aid here. Perhaps I look Colombian from the back, since they mostly have black hair as well, but spin me around and wham, awkwardness ensues. The only Asians I have seen so far are the two Korean tourists I saw in a Juan Valdez Cafe across the street from the Museo de Botero in Bogota, their hiking clothes a dead giveaway; and the Taiwanese woman who works in the vegetarian restaurant across the street from Casa Tres Patios, one of my two hosting residencies, in Medellin. At least they only look and don’t touch, I tell myself silently, sending mental shade to other places where I experienced more harassment.
Are those Koreans I see behind my arepa? Wassup, guys!
Colombia is gritty, its winding streets filled with stories of past violence, old but not forgotten, with its gnarled fingers clinging to the skirts of the new and young wave of modern and forward-thinking attitudes. It has surprised me so many times, from the first day in Bogota where I saw people betting on guinea pigs, to the free admission of its beautiful museums, the varying climate of Manila-esque heat in the city of Medellin to the stark cold of its surrounding mountain villages. It feels like Manila, if Manila had better urban planning and more condoms available. I am obsessed with their indigenous cultures—these ancient tribes have adapted for centuries and are still here!— and I even bought myself a pet ocarina (a type of flute) from their archeology museum. His name is Puck, and I can’t wait to do this residency with this little guy.
Buenos dias, Puck! Vamos a trabajar!
I am won over by the warmth of the people here. At Casa Tres Patios, I average seven morning hugs a day. There is almost always cafe tinto on the stove; I will never complain about the coffee here! There are more bridges that connect us than walls that separate us; Tony, the director of Casa Tres Patios, was also a Fulbright scholar and has a third degree black belt in taekwondo (I have to prevent myself from bowing—good God, my tic of bowing all the time!), and Sonia, their general coordinator, speaks better Mandarin than I do, owing to two years in China. People have been very kind, in spite of the language barrier I am determined to bridge. Both Platohedro and Casa Tres Patios have been incredibly supportive, and the vibe of both residencies have been very homey for me, a nomad with a broken suitcase. Speaking with my Spanish, rusty and with a Castillian accent, feels like riding a bike (if I rode bikes, ha). If you want to make a Latino giggle, just thank him with a Muchas grathias. And if I finally succeed in rolling my r’s instead of gargling them, I will get back to you.
I can’t not tell you why it was important for me to be here: because I’ve never been. It was a logical nightmare to get me all the way here from Asia, but so many people have helped bring me here, and I dare not waste a minute. Well-meaning friends have cautioned against my coming here, fearing for my safety or because of ignorance against Colombians and Latinos in general. In a world full of increasing hate and higher walls, which is even more terrifying in light of the borders we build around ourselves and the environment (hello, climate change), the only way to cure one’s anxiety against his unknown fellow human beings is to get to know them.
It’s my first time in Colombia, and man, I’m thrilled to be here. The Apocalypse Project will have an amazing time.
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!
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.
Hey everyone! I’m happy to announce my latest writing project, Field Notes from Planet Earth. It’s a site that collects my long form essays about the environment and its intersections with science and culture. You might see some topics similar to what I’ve blogged about here in The Perceptionalist, which has been my creative sketchbook of a kind since grad school. FNFPE will house longer essays with a more environmental theme, mostly collected from my travels. New essays published every Monday.
Why another blog? As a creative person, I feel like I need multiple channels to express my ideas. Also, this blog has been a hodgepodge of exhibition announcements, notes from my talks, and random taekwondo photos that I feel like I need one more focused outlet for my longer thoughts. Plus I’ve always wanted an excuse to use the name and the sexy Intergalactic theme from WordPress. I’ll still be keeping this blog for everything else.
You might remember the subject of the first post: the day I went to Jindo for the Miracle Sea Road Festival, which celebrates a legend that emerged due to tidal harmonics. I heart science, don’t you?