Catherine Sarah Young is a Chinese-Filipina artist, designer, writer, and public speaker whose work explores emerging technologies and alternative futures through interactive storytelling, sensory experiences, and participatory art. She is currently a Scientia scholar at UNSW Art & Design (Sydney) and an Obama Foundation Leader (Asia-Pacific).
April 2018, Manila, Philippines
Kelly Lloyd (KL): And do you think that… so say you approach your residency? Like, when you notice these social issues, when you’re looking at social norms, do you connect it to some understanding of like, the arts, or like the art world or like, education or identity or colonialism? Or like, how do you, because like, one thing I wanted to ask you is like, how is this reflected in art education in all of these places that you’ve been? How is this preference towards positions that would then lead to a salary job, how does that affect the way that people see being educated in the arts? How does that affect, you know, and like, how is that maybe something that you can connect to certain kind of post-colonial conditions… or not?
Catherine Sarah Young (CSY): I think because it’s so universal, people love it. And we see the universality of the human condition through art. People think it must be easy, because we can simplify it into these very basic truths. But no, because we have to actually practice art within these very complex, overly complex, and overly annoying systems that we have to or else, you know, we don’t get exhibitions, we don’t get a residency. So I think that’s why people don’t really see the importance of it. The battles I have, because I work in the art and science field, is more of scientists not seeing art as necessary. Or they don’t see it as relevant. And I think for artists, some of them who are not really into the sciences, they’re like, Oh, you know, science who cares? So I think the key there is having a basic respect for all disciplines in the same way as I think that we should have a basic respect for all people. Yeah, I think that kind of humanity, humanization, I would call it not just within disciplines but in between different people. Yeah. races… cultures. Yeah, I feel like I’m so super mixed. Not just in the fields [and] my own culture, but [with] all this travel… [it] can be very confusing.
KL: Yeah, definitely. Confusing as to what?
CSY: There’s no base. Like for example, I can’t really say that I’m viewing all this through the lens of a Chinese person from the Philippines just because… I mean, I graduated from the Chinese High School more than 10 years ago. So it’s like, how many lives ago as that? I feel like I’m always progressing and evolving so it’s not like you’re going back to zero. We’re like way past that already. So yeah, I think [it is] confusing in the sense that that is kind of what people want to see.
KL: It’s like they want to identify you as opposed to the multiple identities that you have?
CSY: Yeah, and I think when they try to distill you into this one thing, and they realize they can’t, it’s confusing for them. And you know, I do see some sort of alienation at some point. The people love interacting with the most [are] the kids.
KL: Yeah? Why so?
CSY: Because they just see you for who you are right now. And so like instead of distilling, like ok historically where you’re from. Ok, can I see your passport, I want to see all of your travel history, your residencies, your publications and things… No, they just don’t see what you made.
October 2020, London, United Kingdom
KL: What will the future look like?
CSY: We cannot predict the future exactly, so I choose to be optimistic and hopeful. While climate change and disinformation will be more difficult challenges to address, I am hopeful that people will band together in their communities to care for each other.