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It’s that time of the year when I finish all residencies, fellowships, talks, and exhibitions, and reflect on the year that’s about to pass. It’s been a wonderful year of learning from different cultures and finding other ways of pursuing my practice. In 2018, I held residencies and fellowships in Vienna (KulturKontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery), Beijing (China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery), and Taipei (Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council). This post recalls some of my favorite memories during Part 1 as a SEAΔ fellow. Head to this post for thoughts about my Vienna residency, and this one for my Beijing residency.


Hot off the heels of my residency in China was my fellowship as part of the inaugural SEAΔ Program of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council. I flew to Taipei from Beijing and got to work.

SEAΔ is a program co-created by Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council which creates space for cultural practitioners to reflect on how their work in arts and culture can contribute to sustainable development within South East Asia through their individual and collective leadership.

The inaugural SEAΔ fellows from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UK, together with staff from the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council. Image credit: Mekong Cultural Hub

Each year 10 Fellows are selected from 10 countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. The program has 4 main gatherings spread over a one-year period where Fellows get together. Each gathering takes place in a different country and has a unique purpose: exchange, create, share then reflect.

The first gathering, SEAΔ Exchange, was held in Taipei, and after the week-long exchange, we were split into four groups based on our proposed projects, which we were going to iterate for the second part of the program, SEAΔ Create. I was with my co-fellows Sinath Sous (Cambodia), Zikri Rahman (Malaysia), and Thet Oo Maung (Myanmar)—a great fit since we were all working on sustainability in some way. For SEAΔ Create in May, our group will gather in Cambodia to execute the project.

Our project is in conjunction with Arts and Environment Festival 2019 in Kampong Thom, which SEAΔ fellow Sinath Sous is spearheading.  The platform will be opened for artistic exchange to encourage experience sharing of arts and environment to better address climate challenges. The objectives are to focus on capacity-building workshops based events to support the team in climate action and to promote local knowledge among development experts and governments on this topic of sustainable development project in the future. My part here involves co-designing art workshops and scavenger hunts for the participants to reflect on climate change impacts in Cambodia.

During the exchange in Taipei, the fellows finally met each other and it was great to learn about their work. We engaged in design thinking workshops, met with the creative community of Taipei, and learned from stellar speakers who shared their work. We also had opportunities to go outside of the city, such as meeting the staff and artists of the Bamboo Curtain Studio. Taiwan is an island bustling with creativity and promise.

The SEAΔ program was the most unique in all of the fellowships I’ve had, and certainly stands out among all of the things I’ve done this year. Frankly, this is one of the few fellowships I’ve had in Southeast Asia—an involuntary choice, seeing that most opportunities available to me have been in the West and in East Asia where I felt more culturally adapted to as a Chinese-Filipino who grew up in a Chinese community, and in the Philippines where American culture is widely available. While I have tried to pursue projects in my home region, such as a research trip earlier this year to Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat in Palawan, the Philippines with the Centre for Sustainability PH and Great Escapes Philippines, and the art residency I did with Plan International and the International Climate Initiative last year, finding funding for the projects I want to do will take time (and a bigger network and fairy dust), and it has been a lot easier and more logical to accept all these foreign opportunities while there were available and while I was within their age limits.

Applying to SEAΔ was my way of filling in the gaps in my world experience, and to be able to find something worthwhile to do considering that this region will bear the brunt of climate change impacts. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and am really excited for the rest of the fellowship. It was my first time in Taipei—a personal revelation according to my childhood friend Barbie whom I reconnected with in my Beijing residency was that the books we read in Chinese school were actually Taiwanese. This would give me a bigger identity crisis if my grasp of the Chinese language were any better. But the people were wonderful and the parks were free and the food was fantastic. Cambodia will also be a whole new world for me. I can’t wait for 2019!

SEAΔ Exchange, the first part of the SEAΔ program, happened from November 26-30, 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan. SEAΔ Create for my group will take place in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Thank you to the wonderful staff of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council!

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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.

Order the issue here: http://www.springerin.at/en/2018/4/

The article is in German but send me a message if you want the original English article.

From the editor:

Issue 4/2018

#Progress

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!

HOW TO VOTE: Sign up or log onto http://www.bestclimatesolutions.eu/solutions/ and search for The Apocalypse Project. You can also visit http://www.apocalypse.cc for everything this project has done in the last 5 years.

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.

“The Art of Systems Analysis”, IIASA, 2017

 

[Laxenburg, Austria] The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store, a perfume project about the things we could lose because of climate change, is featured on “The Art of Systems Analysis,” by the International Institute of Systems Analysis (IIASA). The document features projects from international artists and asks the question, “How can artists support transformations to sustainability?” Featured as well is a quote by one of my longtime scientist collaborators and The Apocalypse Project’s sustainability advisor, Dr. Matthias Berger.

 

from “The Art of Systems Analysis,” IIASA, 2017, pages 18-19

from “The Art of Systems Analysis,” IIASA, 2017

Mentioned in the article are some of the slew of residencies, workshops, talks, and exhibitions for which this particularly project has received support through the years: Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, USAID Asia, Bio-Art Seoul, Plan International (with support from BMUB Germany, International Climate Initiative, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), CCCB Lab Barcelona, 1335Mabini Manila, and my recent residency in the Amazon Rainforest with LABVERDE. Thank you for being part of the process!

I love moments like these when I can look back and thank some of the scientists who have collaborated with me. Thank you for the time and hard crits! Hope to meet you all in person one day!

Check it out here (the spread is on pages 18-19, but I encourage you to read the whole thing).

The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures has finally launched at the Future Gallery of IFTF. Free and open to the public, the 7-month exhibition features interactive works that explore climate change and our futures through the lens of high fashion. The exhibition welcomes audiences of all ages.

Manila to San Francisco to Palo Alto

September had a whirlwind of events. My flight from Manila was delayed for the next day, and I was awake for more than 24 hours and carrying very precious and dubious-looking cargo—Metal hats! Climate change perfumes! Apocalypse masks!—that fortunately went through customs without a hitch. Thankfully, things went smoothly and were not apocalyptic when I landed in San Francisco.

It was great to physically meet people I’ve been in touch with in the digital world for several months now. David Evan Harris and Bettina Warburg of IFTF, Sophie Lamparter of swissnex San Francisco, and Martin Schwartz of the Swiss consulate have been working on the administrative matters for the exhibition, while I worked on the projects in Manila while Skyping with ETH scientists all over the world.

Fashion Shows and Future Feasts

Time was not wasted the minute I landed. It was a Thursday, and David picked me up from the airport and we drove to IFTF where I met some of the staff and saw the Future Gallery for the first time. We went back to San Francisco to the swissnex office, where we did dress fittings for the models who will wear the Climate Change Couture garments.

The next day, Friday the 18th, we had a preview of the exhibition at swissnex San Francisco with some art and science talks as well as the first fashion show of Climate Change Couture. Music and science were provided by scientists-artists-DJs Stefan Müller Arisona and Simon Schubiger. It was great to see them again and work with them and jewelry designer Ika Arisona on The Wild Jewels project.

The Apocalypse Project at swissnex San Francisco

The Apocalypse Project at swissnex San Francisco. Photo by Myleen Hollero.

Two days of installation after and on September 21st, The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures finally had its grand opening. With opening remarks by Marina Gorbis, David Evan Harris, Consul General of Switzerland Hans-Ulrich Tanner, and swissnex San Francisco CEO Christian Simm.

A big part of the night was Future Feast, where chefs get to propose dishes of the future. In talk-show fashion, I introduced Vijitha Shyam of Spices and Aroma and Monica Martinez of Don Bugito. Vijitha prepared a delicious ayurvedic meal using vegetables that use less water and are therefore easier to grow in California’s drought, while Monica presented tasty insect dishes made of insects—a wonderful protein source that are easy to grow and has less impact on the planet.

Don Bugito by Monica Martinez at Future Feast at the Institute for the Future. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

Don Bugito by Monica Martinez at Future Feast at the Institute for the Future. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

The next day was IFTF’s inaugural Future Now, an all-day event with art and science talks, co-working, a fashion show on the streets of Palo Alto, more Future Feast food, and casual discussions about climate change and the future.

Futures, Community, Collaboration

Eating great food, seeing models strut their stuff, dancing the night away, and art you can touch and wear are not what you would normally associated with climate change, but these fun and inclusive activities are meant to get you to care about what is often a politicized issue. Climate change affects all of us, and I especially like to engage young people, such as the two little kids who looked at the exhibition on my last day of installation.

Jeremy Joe Kirschbaum of IFTF struts his stuff. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

Jeremy Joe Kirschbaum of IFTF struts his stuff. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

I think that the fashion shows were especially fun because of the life the models gave the clothes. Most of them came to me saying it was their first time walking a runway or putting on fancy makeup. There were models who got the call at the last minute, and I appreciated how some of them insisted on an explanation as to why they were wearing these strange clothes. It’s wonderful to work with people who have their own strong opinions and can bring their own personalities to the table., creating a different fashion show each time.

Zoe Bezpalko modeling Climate Change Couture at IFTF. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

Zoe Bezpalko modeling Climate Change Couture at IFTF. Photo courtesy of IFTF.

This has been such as positive collaborative experience—there are many people involved in these events whose names I’m still recalling because of the sheer number.

Old and New Friends

Simon Schubiger and Stefan Müller Arisona DJ the Climate Change Couture fashion show at swissnex San Francisco. Photo by Myleen Hollero.

Simon Schubiger and Stefan Müller Arisona DJ the Climate Change Couture fashion show at swissnex San Francisco. Photo by Myleen Hollero.

I’m especially excited for this exhibition because I got to work with some old friends who have supported The Apocalypse Project before it was even born. I started this project as an artist-in-residence at the Singapore-ETH Centre Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) in 2013. There, I produced the first collection of Climate Change Couture, designing clothes based on the research of some of the scientists and getting them to model the clothes. This time, for this Palo Alto show, it was a new experience to actively collaborate with them and co-design the garments. Moreover, as this exhibition is registered for ArtCOP21, I am happy for everyone’s efforts to be part of a global movement of cultural awareness on climate change.

And to think this is just the beginning! Stay tuned for more activities until we close this show in April of 2016.

This post first appeared on the website of the Institute for the Future here.

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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screen grab from Radio Republic

Happy and proud of everyone at Future Feast / GoExperience Redesign! This proved to me that it was possible to get a lot of people of different talents together in the name of raising climate change awareness. It was one big amazing group hug for all humanity.

Check out Radio Republic’s photos here.

Also watch their video below:

 

This officially marks the end of my residency and exhibition at The Mind Museum. You all know I hate this part. I’ll be taking some time to decompress and think about next steps. In the meantime, The Ephemeral Marvels Perfume Store has been getting some traction online, so I’m fielding interviews on that end. Updates soon, and thanks for keeping up with the projects!