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This November I find myself in Seoul for the Bio-Art Seoul 2015 Conference. It’s great to be back here in Korea, which is turning into a yearly homecoming of a sort. Annyunghaseyo!

For my bit in the show, I presented the second volume of The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store. There were eight new scents I debuted here. The line was called “A Walk Home” and it was based on the scents of my childhood in the Philippines. These olfactory memories were especially potent when I moved to Manila last year after ten years of being away.

 

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store Volume 2: A Walk Home

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store Volume 2: A Walk Home

The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store: A Walk Home has these eight scents: Recess, A Chinese Apothecary, Time with My Mom, Swimming Lessons, Wild Grass, Manila Sunsets, Carnival, and Moments of Solitude.

Oh you kids. <3

Oh you kids. ❤

During the exhibition, it was fun to see families smell the perfumes. My favorite part was when I saw the little kids trying them on, especially the really small ones who had to tiptoe to reach the bottles. It was so cute when one group of little boys gathered around, each taking a bottle, and sprayed it on himself. (I pity the ones who got the perfumes marked “Recess” and “A Chinese Apothecary”.)

kids

Some of my favorite target audience.

 

Sometimes, reactions to my work are polarized. LIke so. (I hope the kid on the right is ok.)

Sometimes, reactions to my work are polarized. LIke so. (I hope the kid on the right is ok.)

And now, a cathartic release by writing about an embarrassing moment. It was the exhibition opening, and man, I was so excited to do my first Korean ribbon cutting—complete with the white gloves and golden scissors, yo! I was nervous to cut it in advance like I’ve seen people do when what I should have been worried about was not catching the darn things after you snip them.

My first Korean ribbon cutting ceremony! How exciting!

My first Korean ribbon cutting ceremony! How exciting!

I’m the sad chick second from left with the pile of ribbons on the floor. Sigh. No one ever tells me these things. Hmph.

Epic fail.

“Oh sh*t” was the first thought that entered my head. Epic fail.

For the record, I still think it’s a lot cooler to let everything dramatically fall to the floor. Hello. It’s a grand opening. Just kidding.

Artist Talk: Wet Media Conference

In Sogang University’s Department Art and Technology, artists (including yours truly) gave talks on their work. My talk, entitled “Living SciFi: Bio-Art and our Futures” drew on my journey through science, art, and design, ending with the show at the Institute for the Future and what I’ve learned here so far.

It was also great to meet some bio-artists. Personally, I identify more with the terms “conceptual artist” and “sci-art” since I currently work with so many different fields of sciences and haven’t stuck to just one, so it was great to learn from these guys, especially those whose work I’ve heard so much about. Mad props to Anna Dumitriu, Vicky Isley and Paul Smith of boredomresearch, Sonja Baeumel, Roberta Trentin, etc. It was cool to meet you guys!

Workshop: Making Smells of Perfumes

You know I'm in Korea when I'm doing a lecture in my hiking clothes.

You know I’m in Korea when I’m doing a lecture in my hiking clothes.

A week after the opening, I also did a perfumery workshop with some high school and university students in Korea. There was a group of biology students that were accompanied by their teacher. In the beginning, the students participated in my olfactory memory experiment where they were given mystery smells and then were asked to recall the memory that came to mind.

The students did my smell memory experiment where I gave them mystery smells to sniff and asked them to recall the memory that came to mind.

The students did my smell memory experiment where I gave them mystery smells to sniff and asked them to recall the memory that came to mind.

Later, I asked them to do a Smell Walk and gather objects from nature that they want to make a perfume of. We distilled essential oils and also used some from my own collection of essential oils. It was exciting as one distillation flask caught fire (the kids put it out in time and no one was hurt).

The students took a Smell Walk and gathered fragrant objects from nature.

The students took a Smell Walk and gathered fragrant objects from nature.

 

The haul from the Smell Walk

The haul from the Smell Walk

 

Gathering fragrant things in nature

Gathering fragrant things in nature

 

Mashing things up for distillation

Mashing things up for distillation

 

A simple DIY distillation set-up

A simple DIY distillation set-up

 

Whattup, Korea!

Whattup, Korea!

I loved that one of the museum staff participated and insisted on making a banana-flavored perfume. He was a fun student. For the record, I insisted that he tuck his tie so it wouldn’t catch fire.

This museum staff member joined our workshop and he made a banana perfume.

This museum staff member joined our workshop and he made a banana perfume.

After the distillation, I also got them to create perfumes using the commercial essential oils I have in my personal collection.

Day 2: I was back in my apocalypse suit. Ole!

Day 2: I was back in my apocalypse suit. Ole!

SAMSUNG CSC

Making perfumes

 

Another experience of making a perfume using commercial essential oils

Another experience of making a perfume using commercial essential oils

I gave them Apocalypse Project Commander badges as a reward for all their hard work. Thanks, guys!

Apocalypse Project Commander badges for everyone! Whee!

Apocalypse Project Commander badges for everyone! Whee!

Aaaannnd that’s officially it for me for 2015. No more exhibitions, talks, workshops, interviews, etc. for the rest of the year. I’ll be in Seoul until November 29th reflecting on the year that was and what to do next. You know I’m not a big fan of this part. A bit of Korean hiking should knock me to my senses. Are you in town? Come join me!

Many thanks to Bio-Art Seoul 2015, Biocon, Seoulin Bioscience Co., and Digital Art Weeks International. Thank you especially to Dr. Sunghoon Kim and Helen Kwak!

 

 

About a week ago, I picked up a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better than Before, and read it in one sitting in a bookstore. The book talked about our habits and classified people into The Four Tendencies. (I got Questioner. No surprise there!) After reading, I decided to make a list of habits I wanted to pick up or break. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with so many projects lately and decided it was probably time to audit my processes and see how I can be better.

One habit I decided to take up is meditation. It’s difficult for me to do absolutely nothing, so I decided I would meditate by doing 100 deep breaths. Just that—breathing deeply (and counting!). For the past week at around 9 pm, I’ve been doing this for 10-20 minutes,  lying on my back and in the dark. After the meditation I would start another few hours of work before sleeping at 3 am.

On the first day of this habit I had a very strange surprise: a tingling on my head, face, and hands. It was intense enough for me to notice. It’s not painful or anything. I would even say it was pleasant—it’s how I imagined it would feel like if someone sprinkled fairy dust on me. Here are some journal entries that showed how I felt:

April 19, Sunday

I started a 100-breath meditation practice last night. I’m pretty sure I have ASMR. I feel it around the 20-something breath. It’s stronger on the top of my head. I feel it behind my ears, my face (especially lips). and on the collarbone. Later on, I feel it in my hands. 

I realized that stress and hot weather didn’t help.

April 20, Monday

I did 150 breaths, but only felt a bit of the tingling in my hands and face (a little in the chest). Maybe it’s because I slept at past 3 last night and because it’s so hot today (Manila is having a heat wave right now). And because I’m thinking too many things. 

By Day 4, I was panicking that I lost it. It was a stressful day.

April 21, Tuesday

Oh no. I think I lost the power!

By Day 5, I was relieved. 

April 22, Wednesday

I still have the power! My parents installed a new AC so the air was at 23 degrees Celsius. I started feeling it around breath #25. By breath #50, I sat up to see if I could feel it in the back of the head and neck without the interference of a pillow. I definitely felt it at the back of the neck, but not the spine, but then again I did a lot of side kick stretches at the bar in the dojang, so the sides of my back are killing me. 

The tingling actually persists after my meditation practice. Here is a sketch to show where I feel it:

A page from my journal which shows where I feel it—on top of the head, on the face, and back of the hands and fingers.

A page from my journal which shows where I feel it—on top of the head, on the face, and back of the hands and fingers.

When I shift my position, or when I’m exposed to light, the tingling is affected. Breathing controls the flow of the tingling.

Movement and sudden light (someone entered the room) didn’t stop it, but diminished it a bit, and resumed on the next breath. Exhaling / inhaling seem to control the flow of the tingling, especially on the exhale. [Doing] 100 breaths now takes me around 18 minutes. 

It tickles!

And later:

April 23, Wednesday

I can feel when it’s about to happen, like when you know you’re about to sneeze. 

I immediately thought of ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, since it trended online a few weeks ago and there are lots of articles about it. I tried the Youtube videos of whispering and other triggers, but it’s this breathing practice that really does it for me (though I breathe through the nose and throat as in yoga, so perhaps the sound of that helps, too). Science is skeptical about it, but I hope that I can get an MRI to check and see what is going on with me since it looks like I can control it.

All I know for sure is that I feel a tingling when I do lots of deep breaths. It’s like a meteor is about to burst from me. After I meditate, I feel like my to-do list becomes more manageable. I’m more focused and relaxed. As for the ASMR, I’m not sure if that also helps with my focus or if it’s just another consequence of the meditation, but I like visualizing myself as a superhero with a very strange (and perhaps useless) superpower.

As someone who is very interested in perception, discovering this about myself is fascinating. I’m already extremely sensitive to smell and sounds, so this makes me feel like another dimension is opening up for me. In any case, meditating amidst all the stress should be a good habit to pick up.

Next habit on my list: apply hand lotion every day.

[Manila, Philippines]—Hey everyone! The third edition of The Hug Vest is now in The Mind Museum in Manila. This changes from black to seaglass green when touched. Check it out (in both adult and kid sizes) and give a willing volunteer a big hug!

The Hug Vest 3.0

The Hug Vest 3.0

The Hug Vest 3.0

The Hug Vest 3.0

This Sunday, September 23rd, I’ll be presenting this project together with my other sense projects at The Mind Museum in Taguig, Manila. I absolutely LOVE this museum—its exhibits, staff, and spaceship-like architecture— so if you’re in the area, hope to see you there! There are two other speakers in the afternoon: Alex Hornstein who just launched a successful Kickstarter project, The Solar Pocket Factory, and Dr. Jerrold Garcia, a physicist who asks, “Why are we so afraid of science?”

 

I also have to remember that in Manila, people call me “Cathy.” It’s so strange. I’ve been “Catherine” and “Cat” for so long. (There was an anchorwoman named Cathy Yang years ago; I suppose that’s why “Cathy Young” is easier to remember.) So you know, this is still me:

 

Book tickets at www.tickets.themindmuseum.org. Hope to see you!