Semester Project Pitch: 聆聽靈聽 / Listening, Listening

For the semester project, I wish to explore the idea of listening. Listening is a form of communication that we often forget. We even lose this ability to listen to the people around us, because we are too busy forming our opinions about them or the topic we want to say. We are too engrossed in thinking about what to say next, and forget that the meaning of “communication”.

I think listening is a skill that requires lots of patience. We are often too quick to judge and form an opinion about the people around us without a proper understanding of their circumstance.

I would like to merge the idea of the puppets and the eavesdropping idea for this project. I realised that the only time we listen without talking is when we are listening to other people’s conversations. Hence, I want to further develop this idea. I feel that this fits with the idea of puppetry because a puppet show do not necessary communicate in a language we understand. It is through their bodily actions that explains the storyline. We are also less likely to judge a puppet because it is a shapeless, formless, characterless figure.

In Chinese, the phrase “listen” can be written in two ways – 聆聽 and 靈聽. With the latter, the word 靈 means “spirit”. My interpretation of this term is to listen with your “soul” and not your “head”.

The interactive space will consist of 12 different barrels and some puppets. In eight of them, people can trigger recordings of conversations via a proximate sensor and listen through the hole in the barrel. The other four barrels will consist of ambient sounds.

How the barrels look like
Proposed space

Metaphor of the “Tree”
These barrels will be covered in brown paper and decorated to look like a tree. Trees symbolise life and immortality. I always felt that trees have the most stories to tell, having the ability to live through many centuries. In this case, the tree produces stories it has eavesdropped over time.

Metaphor of the “Puppet”
Faceless puppets will also hang around the tree to represent the characters or people in the recorded conversations.

I am currently thinking of a proximate sensor and the possible places where this can be staged.

Things to work on:
– Sensor
– Site location (power plugs, size of space in relation to barrels)


Semester Project Pitch (Analogue)

For the semester project, I came up with several ideas for the semester project after some brainstorming.

Initial Ideas

  1. Eavesdropping through a glass cup
    The idea is to make use of glass cups placed on different parts of a door to see if sound can really penetrate through. Can we pick up a secret or two? Movies seem to always be able to do that…

    Source DreamsTime
  2. Puppetry in Space
    I wanted to experiment with puppets because it was what we were first exposed to as a child. They are quite cuddly creatures and intriguing to look at.

    Source (Bears In Space Performance)
  3. Table Football (Lifesize)
    The exact replica of the table football, but in 1:1 scale! (Quite ambitious)


Selected Idea

I decided to work on something that I was passionate about – puppetry and mask work, more specifically puppetry.  Although I was really interested in the first idea (eavesdropping), I wanted to see how puppetry could be used as an interactive tool or space for people.


Puppetry comes in many different forms, such as:

  • Hand Puppets
  • Contemporary Puppets
  • Rod Puppets
  • Shadow Puppets
  • String Puppets
Various Sources

Puppetry has a special place in my heart because of the magic it brings to a space. It is an object that cannot exist without the interaction of a human being. In the past, a major aspect of Asian traditional theatre comprised of puppetry. It was an art form used in religious rituals and storytelling. It was also a medium used to pass down folklores, values and explain ideals to the younger generation. However, this traditional form of art is slowly dying out in Asia.

One of the difficulties I am facing is how I can convert this into an interactive space. I cannot seem to think of something that is outside of its traditional way of presentation.

I liked Martín Azúa’s Puppet Chair because of the way it is suspended in space. It creates an illusion that the user is floating in the air weightlessly. The user seems to morph into a puppet due to the positioning of the chair. It also makes use of the structure of a string puppet.

Compagnie Non Nova’s Afternoon of a Foehn was an inspiration because of the use of fans as a device to interact with the plastic bag “puppets”. The performer adjusts the speed of the fan from his computer and allows the plastic bags to “dance” in the space, occasionally disrupting the “performance” of the plastic bags. The background music also complements the performance, creating a visual-auditory experience for its audience. How the plastic bags “dance” cannot be controlled by a human, which makes the performance all the more exciting and fascinating to watch.

I also found some projects involving the use of puppetry online, some of which use technology to interact with the puppets.

I am inspired by the use of technology in these instances. Technology removes the limits that a physical puppet has, as it is not tied to a rod and does not have to be controlled by another person. However, this lack of physical touch is something I feel is not what a puppet should be.


My idea is to sew a few puppets and create an interactive space between a group of people. I created a mock-up of how this puppet would look like. I decided to create a rod puppet because it was the easiest out of other puppets. It is also easy for someone to operate it. Moving on, I hope to further develop this idea of an interactive puppetry space.