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The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest

OPENING:
Saturday, September 17, 2016, 6 pm

EXHIBITION DATA:
September 17 to October 14, 2016
1335Mabini presents The Apocalypse Project: Urban Harvest, a solo exhibition by Catherine Sarah Young from 17 September to 14 October 2016.

The show explores potential futures under climate change through various forms including photographs, sculptures as well as soap and olfactory artworks crafted from unique saponification and distillation processes developed by the artist. The Apocalypse Project is an interdisciplinary platform that began in 2013 during Young’s art-science residency at the Singapore-ETH Zurich Future Cities Laboratory and has since then been showcased in several cities internationally.  Featured in the upcoming exhibition are new pieces from some of Young’s ongoing projects (Climate Change Couture, The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, and The Sewer Soaperie) and are a result of her month-long residency in Medellin, Colombia, held at arts organizations Casa Tres Patios and Platohedro, and supported by Arts Collaboratory and the Ministry of Culture of Colombia.

From the 1335Mabini website. Thanks guys!

 

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(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

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.

Colombian graffiti

Colombian graffiti

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 Asians I see behind my arepa?

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.

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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.

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Hello, Medellin!

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.

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

(Medellin, Colombia)—From June 5th, I will be on an interdisciplinary residency together with Casa Tres Patios and Platohedro to develop a new body of work about The Apocalypse Project, with support from the international network Art Collaboratory and the Ministry of Culture of Colombia.

From Platohedro’s press release (in Spanish only):

Catherine Sarah Young es una artista de Manila (Filipinas) con formación en biología molecular, arte contemporáneo y diseño interactivo, y utiliza su práctica interdisciplinaria para aumentar la conciencia sobre las problemáticas del medio ambiente. Fundó el Proyecto Apocalipsis, una plataforma creativa sobre el cambio climático y los futuros del medio ambiente durante la residencia de arte y ciencia en el Laboratorio-ETH Zurich Future Cities Laboratory de Singapur en 2009. Con este proyecto ha viajado por Singapur, Manila, Seúl, Palo Alto, y Nueva York.

Desde el 5 de junio realizará una residencia interdisciplinaria conjunta entre Casa Tres Patios y Platohedro para desarrollar la nueva versión del Proyecto Apocalipsis, con el apoyo de la red internacional Arts Collaboratory y el Ministerio de Cultura de Colombia.

Para conocer más del proyecto Apocalipsis http://apocalypse.cc/ y su obra https://theperceptionalist.com/

Catherine estará realizando una serie de actividades interdisciplinarias y abiertas al público. Les compartimos la programación:

Martes 7 de junio: Presentación de la residencia/socialización
6:30 p.m. en Casa Tres Patios

Martes 14 y miércoles 15 de junio: Lab de Aromas de Medellín
¿Cómo sería el aroma de un perfume de Medellín? En este taller, las/os participantes van a formar parte de una Caminata de Aromas, en la que nos conduciremos por puntos escogidos de la ciudad para recolectar objetos con fragancia. Luego destilaremos la esencia de estos objetos y los convertiremos en perfumes. También reflexionaremos sobre la importancia de los aromas, cómo el cambio climático está provocando la desaparición de estas esencias y qué papel juegan en nuestras vidas.
14:00 a 17:00 p.m. en Platohedro
inscripciones >> en este formulario

Viernes 1 de julio: Exhibición y Cierre de la residencia
Muestra de los procesos de investigación y producciones realizadas durante la residencia.
6:30 p.m. en Casa Tres Patios.

Sábado 2 de julio: Banquete Futurista: Arte y Ciencia
Banquete Futurista: Arte y Ciencia es un evento público que abre un diálogo con artistas y científicos en relación al cambio climático y el futuro de nuestras ciudades. Júntese a diferentes creadores en este encuentro para discutir, ilustrar, y manifestar cómo podemos adaptarnos al Antropoceno.
4:00 a 6:00 p.m. en Platohedro

I’ll be blogging about my progress as I go along, as usual! Deepest thanks for being part of this journey so far!

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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!

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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!