Sean's artistry is anchored in deepening understanding of the physical and spiritual dimensions of the built environment. Through investigating the repercussions of settler colonialism, militarization, modernism, and time, Sean endeavors to emancipate the built environment and address its traumas. Inspired by personal experiences and their unique perspective, nurtured by a volcanic oceanic environment, Sean aims to catalyze the transformation of individual and collective responsibility into palpable experiences. This includes aspects such as intergenerational transfer, genealogy, deep ecology, global positioning, mystic alignment, healing, futurism, and spatial justice. Their work fosters a dialogue that brings vibrancy and clarity to the intricate relationship between architecture, everyday life, and the physical and spiritual conditions of the built environment, past and future.
Sean, as a bi-coastal artist, divides their time between Honolulu and New York. Utilizing a platform with global reach, Sean's work, often open source, exudes profound respect for the legacy of Hawai‘i's creative and academic communities, which they describe as one of the Earth's most significant places.
Professionally, Sean operates under the self-directed imprint AFTEROCEANIC, defined as the Pacific Laboratory for Applied Theory and Culture in Design and Built Environments. Through AFTEROCEANIC, Sean consults on a broad range of client-based and para-institutional grassroots projects. Institutionally, Sean currently helms HAWAI‘I NONLINEAR, a nonprofit public art and stewardship project dedicated to nurturing the wellbeing of Native built environments across Pae ‘Āina Hawai‘i (Hawaiian Islands). Academically, Sean is an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. They have designed and taught courses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Harvard University.
Institutionally, Sean is the founding director of HAWAI‘I NONLINEAR, a nonprofit public stewardship project caring for the wellbeing of Native built environments across Pae ‘Āina Hawai‘i (Hawaiian Islands). In 2019 Sean also co-founded Protect Our Ala Wai Watersheds, a grassroots cultural and environmental community justice group that successfully advocates for watershed-based approaches to infrastructure in Honolulu.
Academically, Sean is an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and has designed and taught courses at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Harvard University.
Born in O‘ahu, Sean attended Kalihi Uka Elementary school in Honolulu and graduated from Castle High School in Kāne‘ohe. Sean holds a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Design and the Built Environment and a professional Doctorate in Architecture from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and a post-professional Master in Design Studies from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Here, Sean focused on real estate development, urban economics, landscape architecture, and the history and theory of energy and ecology in design.
Sean’s work has gained support from various fellowships and residencies worldwide, including Merwin Conservancy, NTUCCA Singapore, Santa Fe Art Institute, and Sundance Institute. Their work has been displayed by select museums and institutions both nationally and internationally, such as Akron Art Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, and MoMA. Sean’s work and research have been published and cited in multiple scholarly works, including Art Journal, BLDGBLOG, E-Flux, Hawai‘i Journal of History, MIT Press, New York Times, Pacific Arts Journal, PIN-UP, Places Journal, Variety, and more.
As a practitioner of the built environment, I perceive myself functioning in the dual roles of an expert-witness and a geomancer/mystic. An expert-witness is a professional with specialized knowledge who imparts their insights or testimony in public community gatherings or legal proceedings. A geomancer/mystic combines the techniques of geomancy and mysticism, using the earth's configurations and formations as a conduit to access geospatial intelligence, spiritual enlightenment, and divine wisdom.
My expertise and viewpoint stem from my experiences and obligations related to the proper positioning and layout of objects, buildings, and sites, aiming to enhance wellbeing while mitigating potential legal harm. This work is guided by my interpretation of historical data in the process of redefining our relationship with the ground and its interactions with crucial elements like air and water. When materialized, art encapsulates concepts of form, cycle, gradient, and interaction, while architecture offers avenues to examine the built environment in terms of material, system, ecology, and justice. My practice serves as a platform for critical discourse to explore and articulate the healing of society, mind, and environment within the context of time and space.
My identity as a Pacific Islander American is intricate and multifaceted. As a queer, diasporic individual who can pass as white, I often find myself feeling like a spectral presence within my field.
My upbringing was within a matriarchal family with Ilocano, Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Caucasian cultural influences, based in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Although my immediate family is of Ilocano/Native Hawaiian descent, I am not Native Hawaiian myself. My identity as Indigenous is connected to my Ilocano diasporic roots, identifying as a Pacific Islander American.
As an artist delving into notions of the oceanic, I personally do not view Ilocano or Pacific Islander identities as Asian, even though others may choose to identify as such. I consciously avoid employing the term 'Filipino' when referencing my personal history. This label was imposed upon my grandparents, effectively erasing their cultural heritage and disregarding the fact that they were born into an American insular territory under occupation after centuries of Spanish rule.
The diasporic journey of my grandparents to Hawai‘i from both sides of the Pacific was deeply rooted in intergenerational traumas. This journey is intertwined with one of the longest periods of colonization in world history, with Spain, the United States in 1898, and Japan during WWII each occupying the territory. My Ilocano-American grandparents embarked on this journey in pursuit of a better life, and in the process, they became Filipino-Americans in Hawai‘i.
Through personal genealogical investigations and somatic exercises, I have evolved my understanding of the term Pacific Islander to include ancestral Oceania, both proximate and remote, incorporating the Islands of Southeast Asia and across the Austronesian language family. I append the term American, identifying as a Pacific Islander American, to acknowledge the intricate contemporary circumstances of my position and entanglement, and also to differentiate from groups that identify strictly as Pacific Islanders. This acknowledgement pays tribute to my genealogical roots through the centuries of diaspora triggered by European colonialism in the Americas and the Pacific, followed by the subsequent imperialistic military presence of the United States.
Today, the children in my immediate family Kānaka Maoli and learning ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i as their first language. My familial responsibility moves me to dedicate my career and life to their health and education, through my advocacy for radical reimagination of a Native future in architecture, landscape, and urbanism for Hawai ‘i and our built environment.
I identify as a Pacific Islander American in a very specific sense, acknowledging my power to continuously revisit and reshape how I negotiate my identity within my local communities and those further afield.