[W4PDaP] Social(ism) Practice Art, but there’s no socialism only oppression

Much of social practice art critique is directed towards how it nevertheless supports capitalism, than actively helping the community. So, being curious, I looked for an example from post-war, Soviet-controlled Central Eastern Europe! (It doesn’t have anything to do with capitalism though.)

Something to take note is that the works of Krzysztof Wodiczko is often described as socially-engaged, socially-intervening and socially-minded. However, the specific term “social practice” almost never comes up, likely because it’s a relatively new term. As such, his work may not compare to things like Rick Lowes’ Project Row Houses or Marjetica Potrč’s Dry Toilet, which specifically involves designing objects for contextual use.


As found at https://science70.tumblr.com/post/184811068364/krzysztof-wodiczko-personal-instrument-1969

This artwork is one of the first interactive wearables to target the issue of freedom in an oppressive state. At that time, the artist, Krzysztof Wodiczko, was inspired by Vladmir Mayakovsky‘s claim that “the streets [are] our brushes, the squares our palettes”. In other words, art relies on the surroundings, and is not a purely isolated piece. At that time, too, Poland was under an authoritarian communist regime, wracked by lack of freedom, poverty and poor living conditions. Harsh treatment, detention and executions were hardly uncommon: One could not speak out against the government for fear of terrible repercussions. At best, they could submerge their hidden messages within a veil of unmeaningful speech.

(Images as found at https://artmuseum.pl/en/performans/archiwum/2519/127280.)

Consequently, the interactive wearable aimed to present a state of “listening selectively” while remaining voiceless, where the only available freedom was what one chose to filter in or out. Equipped with photoreceivers and a microphone, the wearable was thus capable of modifying the received sounds, in relation to hand gestures by the wearer. As stated by the artist himself, too, it was designed as an “appliance” with “expressly defined function”, in such a way that it could act as a potential solution to the social problem of political voicelessness.


Where the intention involves the betterment of society in the face of a social and political issue, Personal Instrument has the makings of social practice art. Despite that, there are many ways in which it does not qualify.

For one, it was built for “the exclusive use of the artist who created it”. Though Wodiczko said, in hindsight, that “the whole Polish society should have been equipped with a device of this kind”, it simply never happened. This has the impact of that it honestly didn’t help society at all. For two, it still tends towards representing the issue, than solving it. I highly doubt that being able to modify surrounding sounds with your hands has much implication on improving the problem of political freedom. Again, little impact on improving society.

Alien Staff (1992-present), a later work by the same artist. It was designed to provide immigrants with a tool to share their experiences, and has multiple iterations due to its popularity in the West. As found at https://ablersite.org/2010/10/11/alien-staff-its-virtual-its-prosthetic/

There are hints of that it is simply an unrefined first foray, especially when compared to later works (like above). Nevertheless, I don’t think that it is simply a problem of poor design conception. This is because there were severe design limitations. For example, that he built this anti-state piece during his tenure at a state-operated organisation. Or, that he was exiled from Poland soon after by the government, without any justification given. Simply put, it’s hardly ideal to be advertising anti-government art in a context of large governmental control. While many of his later works have multiple iterations to improve the design, too, Personal Instrument likely couldn’t get that same treatment due to 1) the sensitivity of the content for the government, and 2) that Poland is no longer under an authoritarian regime anyway.

From this, perhaps it could be said that a supportive environment is ironically needed as well. Not only must there be an existing social problem, the society must be able to accept critical views of that problem. Some of his later works, for example, had a greater impact in terms of visibility, where it could be openly paraded around to make rich people uncomfortable:

Homeless Vehicle (1987-9), as paraded by a homeless man on the streets of New York. The work is not only a representation of the problem, it also acts as a real shelter in which a homeless person can stay. As found at https://culture.pl/en/work/homeless-vehicle-krzysztof-wodiczko

As mentioned above, Wodiczko’s works are still “not about solving individual problems, but about bringing out, exposing, manifesting the social needs which they respond to” (Musielak, 2015). Instead, he subscribes to is something known as Interrogative Design, or Scandalising Functionalism. These terms refer to a form of functional design which is scandalous by its very existence, because the problem it’s addressing should never have existed at all. While this contradicts the requirement of social practice art to solve the problem than show it, it does raise a pertinent issue: that any artistic solution still wouldn’t be able to solve the key cause of the problem. As shown in the previous article, for example, Project Row Houses is an ideal which can’t accommodate the true scale of the housing issue. Similarly, building more Homeless Vehicles doesn’t change the fact that the system itself is generating homelessness.

In which case, perhaps social practice art doesn’t need to answer a problem. Instead, it might merely need to provoke revolution, in rousing sufficient feelings to bring about change which stops the problem at its source.


  • Davis, B. (2013). A Critique of Social Practice Art. In International Socialist Review, Issue #90. As found at https://isreview.org/issue/90/critique-social-practice-art
  • Galliera, I. (2017). Socially Engaged Art After Socialism: Art and Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe (Book Review). As found at https://artmargins.com/shaping-democratic-notions/
  • Krzysztof Wodiczko. For Culture.pl. As found at https://culture.pl/en/artist/krzysztof-wodiczko
  • Krzysztof Wodiczko – Personal Instrument (1969). For Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej. As found at https://artmuseum.pl/en/performans/archiwum/2519?read=all
  • Sheets, H. M. (2020). A Monument Man Gives Memorials New Stories to Tell. For The New York Times. As found at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/arts/design/Krzysztof-Wodiczko.html
  • Featured Image

[W2PDaP] Assignment


Davis explores the subject of social practice art in this article. Historically, it has ties to the revulsion associated with the traditional conception of art: of commodification, elitism and meaningless aesthetic. Rather than reflecting the problem, it is contended, art should solve it instead. This, however, compromises the definition of art. After all, such a conception blurs the lines between art and things like social activism, or everyday happenings.

As found on projectrowhouses.org. An example of an artwork stated in the article.

What was striking to me was the distinction between living as form and forms of living. Admittedly, I understand that it highlights a difference in the order of derivation, but not what that precise difference is meant to be. Let me nevertheless make an attempt.

The connection of living and form is championed in Living as Form, a collection of essays by art critics and theorists. Of particular interest is that by Nato Thompson, a curator who celebrates the idea of Living as Form. He associates almost any “vague aesthetics of social uplift” with this, including even un-choreographed responses to Obama’s election. In the book, specifically, he identifies life as something which is

  • Anti-representational, in being the subject itself than having intentionality towards it,
  • Participatory, in allowing for interaction with participants,
  • Situated in the “real” world, in having a spatial component than intangibility, and
  • Operating in the political world, in having subjects and making impacts related to potentially political issues.

Form is further identified with the sensible qualities of an artwork, where this can include mediums like clay, or gatherings of people. We see, however, that form loses meaning in relation to its concept, where an absolute form can be “criticized, disintegrated, assembled”. Even forms of living, then, can be treated in such a manner.

The distinction, then, is that forms of living refers to styles which emphasise the sensible qualities of their artworks. Living then becomes something artificial, designed only for the sake of aesthetic and commodification. Living as form, on the other hand, emphasises a sort of sincerity. Where it directly relates to life, it is the concept which precedes, and naturally manifests a suitable form.

The article is meant to praise living as form, and of course has good reason to do so. After all, we are rapidly shifting away from a world which appreciates form, into one which appreciates concept more. Nevertheless, it may perhaps still be too hasty to reject form altogether. As stated in the article, form will nevertheless be necessary for even social practice artworks to survive in a capitalist world: the Bank of America likely doesn’t care about the concept behind Project Row Houses, as opposed to how good it looks for their reputation.

Another crucial point is that any regular person’s first contact with an artwork will likely center around the form, than the concept. This is because artworks which are mean to be “real” are situated in environments where they can have a proper impact, than places like museums (which emphasise their visual quality). The typical bystander, however, is unlikely to have awareness of the meaning of an artwork, or even if it is an artwork. It will be solely judged based on its form. On one hand, this could be good in that the artwork attains a sort of anonymity, in blending so well with its environment that it fulfills its objectives of meaningfulness without emphasis on aesthetic quality. On the other hand, it further complicates what it means to be art. Wouldn’t the bucket in my house then be art, in a way not unlike Morrison & Fukasawa’s conception of Super Normal? It’s anti-representational, it’s participatory, situated in the real world, and allows me to draw water, a very political issue. As implied in the article, is it really alright to distinguish art and not-art based on the initiator’s self-imposed status as an artist or not-artist?

Personally, I don’t believe there’s an answer, nor that it is particularly important. It’s a matter of semantic, and I highly doubt that any conceptual error here on the meaning of art would majorly impact the subsequent implications. Or it might. I’m uncertain.


Design, as claimed here by Goodwin, is a craft. He further acknowledges the capacity for design to be an all-encompassing term, but nevertheless limits it to the “visualisation of concrete solutions”. Additionally, such design is limited by real world constraints, such as time and money.

In an attempt to further narrow the scope, he focuses specifically on digital design, and its aspects. Goal-directed design is championed here, where the concept is the starting point, and what drives the entire design. It is further supported by components:

  • Principles, referring to general rules (which apply in most cases) for the design,
  • Patterns, referring to repeated rules on what works (and doesn’t) in specific conditions,
  • Process, referring to how the design is generated through things like research and modelling, and
  • Practices, referring to how the project is efficiently managed.

Processes, as the book’s main focus, is elaborated on in great detail. In simple terms, the design must be justified by research into what people need and want, and how that translates into a particular form. This can include the use of personas and scenarios to test the design, or even actual usability testing. In any case, the design, as something to be used by others, cannot exist in isolation, based solely on the designer’s whims.

Personally, I’m fascinated by the implication of design as something universal. Obviously, analog design is comprehensible enough, but everything as design? It’s not impossible; plenty of people celebrate the bucket as a simple yet modest design. But what kind of implication would that have? Would that mean that Aristotle is right to say that everything has an innate purpose towards which it strives? And, if we accept this teleological stance, what does that mean for us, as beings which are designed? (This is probably the realm of Value Theory, and so I stop here.)

There’s something fascinating about the idea of principles and patterns as well. This is because they can change over time, depending on the norms of each era. It was once normal, for example, to type with a number pad. Now, hardly anyone is expected to press 44 444 8443377733. It became a principle that mobile phones use a keyboard, out of nothing but convention (and convenience, maybe?). This might mean that a kind of dictionary and/or archive must be held, to track present trends in what is acceptable and not.


The separation of design and art in the second article is also somewhat concerning for people like us. What does it mean to major in Design Art, when the two don’t necessarily coincide?

This is also related to the first article, where most professors emphasise concept, and can accept an incomplete form. While on exchange, I discovered that 100%-design clusters often take design to mean that even the problem to be solved is raised by users, through interviews and surveys.

My take-home exam for a user experience principles course. Note the different terminologies, which follows the Nielsen Norman Group style.


User Flow, as introduced in Interactive I.

Here, however, much of our creative liberty is retained. Most projects are based off “what I want to do”. which sometimes (but not always) includes “what I think people need”. Note that it is about “what I think”, than “what I have ascertained”, too. Even so, most project presentations turn out fairly well, with no major obstructions to user experience.

Something that Shah said before also stands out here, where he suggested that we are not necessarily inferior to computer science students: while they have a better understanding of software and how to actualise a concept, we have a better understanding of the concept itself. In other words, we’re more likely to think of ideas, but less likely to be able to execute form. (Many exceptions exist, like Angela He. Either way, this is why collaborations between artists and engineers exist.)

Does this mean that the aspect of the artist, in fact, supports the aspect of the designer, in allowing us to ideate something relevant to the user? Or does this mean that we still have more that we can be doing, as designers, to eliminate even minor obstructions?

As always, I have no answers.

The readings, and their links:

  • Davis, B. (2013). A Critique of Social Practice Art. In International Socialist Review, Issue #90. As found at https://isreview.org/issue/90/critique-social-practice-art
  • Goodwin, K. (2009). Chapter 1: Goal-Directed Product and Service Design. In Goodwin, K. Designing for the Digital Age, pp. 2-13. As found at https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/19s2-dm3010-tut-g01/wp-content/uploads/sites/9263/2020/01/CH01_Digital_Age_Goodwin-1.pdf
  • Thompson, N. (2012). Living as Form. In Thompson, N. (ed). Socially Engaged Art From 1991-2011, pp. 16-33. As found at http://cp.art.cmu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/living-as-form.pdf
  • Featured image from New Museum Store
  • Sorry I submit late I overslept 🙁

[IfD] W1&2 Activity Recaps


The exercise involved 1) marking a few random points on the paper, and 2) joining the points with any desired lines. Part 3) involved handing the paper to someone else to interpret, as represented by the pink lines on mine.

During the exercise, I chose to use a continuous line. Interestingly, too, mine turned out quite… Excessive, compared to others’ more modest pieces which weren’t so overdrawn. Another interesting point is that whoever drew over mine had similar interpretations of “flowers” at the same places. (It’s also very adorable.)

It’s similarly intriguing that my interpretation for Part 3 tried to retain the original form of the piece by filling spaces in a similar style, than drawing over it. I didn’t expect everyone to work over, than with the piece. Perhaps that’s something to consider when doing Assignment 1, seeing as I can’t always try to preserve the original truth.


The first exercise involved playing with shapes, in a manner reminiscent of the Bauhaus style. It seems that the exercise becomes easier if you use a circle as your primary shape, versus other angular forms.

My solution to everything was to increase the Stroke thickness, to the extent that it covers up the original form (or at least, tries to). I did try other solutions, such as re-identifying the circle as a culmination of triangles, not unlike low-poly 3D, or marking the circle as “c’est triangle”.

Again, it is almost unfortunate how messy and heavy my piece is, compared to everyone else. Perhaps I’m missing a memo?

The second exercise involved depicting each other on paper, of which I only had a marker. Since I lack confidence in my ability to capture shapes accurately, I started from the hair, using it to frame the other shapes through negative space. Everyone else’s feels much more well-structured, as a result.

On another note, I’m very happy with how the rendition of me turned out, which feels oddly apt:

Principles of New Media

One of the most undeniable statements is that of these principles being “general tendencies” than “absolute laws”. Where our project has limited functionality (and/or may not require it), these principles do not always manifest entirely.

The use of a computerised system in itself mandates the numerical representation. This is seen most clearly in how serial printing is possible (and crucial!) to the project. Where the project relies on sound, the numerical values of amplitude (volume) and frequency (pitch) are necessary. Furthermore, the output of LED relies on a code which identifies colour thorugh numberical values, e.g. rgb(255, 255, 255).

As shown in the video, almost all of the inputs and outputs must be reduced to numbers, to allow for analysis and conversion.

This is also relevant to the book’s claim that factory-based standardisation is a reason for, and consequence of, the tendency towards discrete representation. Evidently, the same kind of sound inputs will lead to the same kind of light outputs. I think it raises an intriguing question, on if it is truly right that our project reduces the subjective human experience to something so objective.

The book also addresses various ways in which modularity manifests, such as in the use of artificial intelligence and media access & organisation. Our system does indeed have a foundation based on modularity, in having separable output components like brightness, red, blue, green, time. However, this reading has made me wonder if this flexibility is something we ought to highlight. Currently, brightness and RGB values are all combined into a single LED pixel: Would it be better to separate said values into multiple pixels, such that colour shifts can be seen both individually and collectively? Or would it be better to keep them all in the same pixel, and only have the collective colour seen both as individual slices of time, or a collective temporal space?

Example. The left separates only by time, putting RGB all together. The right separates time and RGB, which may be more suited if red, blue and green were each correlated with different variables, like red = frequency, blue = musical pitch.

Automation is another segment which our project engages by default. The only necessitated action is that of providing input (creating noise, moving around to find noises): the algorithm does everything else, from receiving the input, converting it to numbers, associating it with other numbers, registering the time of capture, creating outputs. Unlike the previous principle, though, I see no means through which increased automation can improve our project.

Where our output resembles that of Pulse Index (2010), little seems necessary beyond the direct display of what was inputted (i.e. translation than extension) to transmit the message.

It is less clear if the principle of variability is sufficiently engaged. Our project obviously displays this, where the brightness and hues can vary based on the amplitude and frequency. This extent of display, however, still seems rather limited to me. After all, those alone are insufficient inputs and outputs to adequately represent the variances of a soundscape. The inclusion of timbre or directionally-based inputs and outputs might provide even more relevant variances to bring out the message clearer.

An example of variance of light as based on variance of sound.

Another interesting comment regards the customisation to user. While our project does regard the active user, a large portion regards the passive “users” (environment), such that variance is not tied only to the main participant. I wonder if this would be considered a negative point for variability in our case?

The last principle of transcoding is very debatable, in my opinion. Claiming that there are two layers, Manovich suggests that the computer layer and cultural layer influences each other in terms of systems of organisation. For example, our association of red with strength might lead us to code lower pitch = more strength = more red. The cultural layer is clear.

A conversion table for numbers to binary. The cultural layer is very clear: you can see how our human ideas of even / odd / multiples of 2 influence the foundations of the computer layer.

On a personal level, however, I’m confused about the computer layer. After all, humans made computers. If we built computers in a way comprehensible to us, wouldn’t the computer layer be but a somewhat specialised part of the cultural layer? The only defense I can really suggest for the computer layer is that it encourages a culture of efficiency, where the computer has much better syntax and organisation than us.

External Sources

The Galaxy Reconfigured, otherwise known as I May Have Gone Over the Word Limit

Born in 1911, Marshall McLuhan was well-placed to comment on technological developments in a post-industrial, pre-digital revolution era.

A Summary of the Galaxy Reconfigured

The eponymous galaxy of The Galaxy Reconfigured refers to McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy concept: a world in which new technologies reinvent the ways we think and perceive, through affecting our sense ratios. By sensing objective matters with our 5 senses, we form subjective thoughts and perceptions (as such, emotional interaction is seen as a byproduct of tangible interaction).

McLuhan elaborates further on the unveiling developments of mass media as the herald of an electronic age. Where society was previously constrained by single vision and Newton’s sleep, recent developments have triggered an awareness of simultaneity in perspective. In essence, there is a newfound appreciation for the collective consciousness as a subject and audience, than the individual point of view. This directly affects the arts through redirecting emphasis towards the impersonal audience experience than the personal artist opinion.

My Opinions

This reading resonates very much with me, since I’m studying philosophy and researching mythology. Thus I will respond as a student of both, and as a human.

Where my research is an experiment in crafting a false myth, I find his reference to the myth accurate: there is a tension between individuality and collectivism. It is extremely difficult, as an individual with unhinged desires and feelings, to successfully imagine myself as the consciousness of humanity. Creators today certainly still struggle to balance these: we cannot help but rely on our own experience, and we need to pander to audiences to avoid starving on a street.

A summary of my research project involving mythology. One of the hardest decisions was the inclusion of my bias towards feminism, transience and multiculturalism, which I still fear compromised how well it represents the society.
An example of a video game which poorly navigated the divide between individuality and the collective. While there was an attempt to appeal to a mass audience familiar with feelings of isolation and lack of direction, the excessive presence of the creators’ own opinions and interests distanced players from much of the narrative.

As a philosophy student, though, I find that McLuhan seems to give insufficient attention to the individual. Though he remains (admirably) fairly impartial, I feel that his comments are skewed towards holism. That is fundamentally at odds with how we perceive the world, where we consider ourselves individual agents than nodes in a system. This individuality is often demonstrated even today, such that I find it difficult to believe that we can ever fully embrace our existence as insignificant parts.

Was everyone else really as alive as she was? ..If the answer was yes, then the world, the social world, was unbearably complicated, with two billion voices, and everyone’s thoughts striving in equal importance and everyone’s claim on life as intense, and everyone thinking they were unique, when no one was. One could drown in irrelevance. But if the answer was no, then Briony was surrounded by machines, intelligent and pleasant enough on the outside, but lacking the bright and private inside feeling she had. This was sinister and lonely, as well as unlikely. For, though it offended her sense of order, she knew it was overwhelmingly probably that everyone else had thoughts like hers. (From Atonement, by Ian McEwan)

Objects from an exhibition on the Super Normal movement. This is an design movement which encourages the eradication of personality, to create intuitive products as defined by the culmination of human experience. However, are these truly lacking in personality? All these items must have been invented by certain personalities, who certainly had their own preconceptions. The perception that these are “nameless” objects comes only with our consumption.

Lastly, as a human of the modern era, I wonder how his comments will fare from now on. I personally feel that his claim about how technology affects perception is an unquestionable truth. If so, where is this current world heading? Might we see the resurgence of the individual as a backlash to the collective? Will the rise of technologies like VR/AR push us towards aural/tactile predominance? Are we stagnating in assuming that the visual should be our main form of information dissemination?

An example of an interactive design using sound to encourage people to throw trash. Personally, interactive art is a brilliant representation of that exploration of sense ratios and audience experience, where many artworks today experiment with various sense detectors and a reliance on the participant.

A final pertinent claim McLuhan made is the acute weakness of lacking experience. “A few decades hence it will be easy to describe the revolution in human perception that resulted from beholding the new mosaic mesh of the TV image,” he states. “Today, it is futile to discuss it all.” I think that we, too, can only wait and see how humanity transforms.


  • McLuhan, M. (1969). The Galaxy Reconfigured or the Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society. In The New Media Reader. (link).
  • Featured image (link)
  • Marshall McLuhan hyperlink (link)
  • Newtons Sleep hyperlink (link)
  • YIIK image (link)
  • Holism hyperlink (link)
  • Digital Narcissism hyperlink (link)
  • Atonement quote (link)
  • Super Normal image (link)
  • Critical Regionalism hyperlink (link)
  • Volkswagen Bin video (link)

Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala, and its Relation to Interactivity

What a familiar smell, I think, as I drift towards its source. Pillars which arch inwards, unite over an unfilled space. Something about that emptiness beckons me to come hither.

Titled Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala, this piece is heavily associated with ideas like death and illness. A Thai artist, Boonma himself stated that the purpose of this piece was “to cleanse and cure the mind in order to experience the condition of relaxation and mindfulness“. There is an evident relation to his affinity with spiritual healing and religion as a means of coping with his wife’s terminal illness.

Image from Wall Street Journal. Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala, by Montien Boonma. 1995. Metal, herbs. 256 × 215 cm.

What I find most impressive is the use of scent as a form of interaction. There’s something intriguing (and also philosophical!) about the idea of interactivity which relies on a connection between extant knowledge and sensory cues. Through the act of breathing, one becomes conscious of a herbal aroma which evokes ideas of traditional healing, even before the artwork is seen.

Image from myself. Note the form, which curves inwards and appears dusted in earthly colours, evoking a sense of the natural. Additionally, the lungs in the center, a clear indicator of his interest in breath.

An interaction through visual cues is also evident, as with the lungs and the symmetrical dome, which resembles places of meditation. I am hesitant to suggest it resembles a stupa, simply because those are places not made to be entered, unlike this piece.

Regardless, I can see ways in which this piece might fail to engage its audience.

  1. Without context, an audience unfamiliar with Buddhism (or, at least, a basic understanding of Southeast Asia) might not find the form familiar, nor the scent appealing.
  2. The ordained inability to touch, to enter, creates a distance between the perceiving and the perceived, which is at odds with the sensory cues (which suggest intimacy).

In essence, awareness of your target audience is crucial to interactivity, as are rules which work in tandem with intuitive/inherent knowledge.


  • Buddhist Temples and Buildings. On Facts and Details. (link).
  • (Excerpt) In Search of Lost Time. (link).
  • Montien Boonma: Temple of the Mind. On National Gallery of Australia. (link).
  • Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala. On Asia Society. (link).
  • Weight of History: The Collector’s Show. On ArtAsiaPacific. (link).

don’t mind me while i eavesdrop

We decided to explore both options which we considered in class, where Elizabeth will make a post for the talking door, and I will make a post for the conversing billboard!

The original sketch.

While we didn’t determine the exact output, the possibilities are mainly narrowed down to light, sound and/or text:

The item in mind (a carried display screen vs wearable accessory) and exact output is unconfirmed (lights, sound, or text).
Example of various wearables and how it might be set up. All components needed are roughly the same, and can be hidden fairly easily due to its small size. Except for the speakers, of which one of the smallest, the Fostex Subwoofer, appears to be 13cm in height.

An even more complex possibility is of using speech-to-text code to create a direct replication than processed translation, for example:

Speech-to-text: Display various strings of text

Non-speech-to-text: Display various rgb values of light

An example of how it might work, which would be especially great in crowded places (assuming speech-to-text):




It may be possible that we will need a Raspberry Pi (for the wifi) or Circuit Playground (it’s easier for wearables).

Possible reference(s):

iLight Singapore, with two projection-based works

Somebody once told me that humans are biologically engineered to instinctively look out for moving images and flashing lights. Seeing how easily we were distracted at i Light Singapore, he was probably right.


Image of installation as shown on official website.

Shades of Temporality is easily one of the more interesting works presented. An homage to street art, it invites the audience to participate by painting onto the wall. The digital twist is that said paint is a video which only reveals itself when the roller detects that it is currently in the process of “painting”.

Interestingly, SWEATSHOPPE sees a much more philosophical meaning to their artwork. As the name suggests, it addresses the issue of temporality, where they are attempting to consider multiple layers of time: the experienced time of a participant’s creation of a canvas, and the edited time of a canvas moving separately from the painter.

An ordered list of how it works might be like this:

  1. Set video to play, but do not call in a command to project it
  2. Camera tracks presence of green LED (or lack thereof)
  3. If green LED is true,
    1. Detect X-Y coordinates of LED positions
    2. Store said coordinates in an array (to remember past coordinates)
    3. Send projector the list of coordinates
    4. Call a command to project the video at listed pixel coordinates
  4. If green LED is false, do nothing
  5. Somewhere, there is a button which resets the array to null whenever they switch participants
Diagram 3: Example of database system

This is a conclusion supported by both related articles and visible limitations, as evidenced by when we tried it out ourselves:

As can be seen in the video,

  • Lack of Z-axis detection: no matter how far from the wall, as long as the green LED is detected within the projection range, it will be registered as true. Their attempt to counter this is the button to activate it, which is affected by grip strength
  • Obstructions: putting the camera right behind evidently will make it impossible to write directly in front of yourself (an obstacle). In their defense, this is the best possible design, where the camera and projector must have minimal parallax error, and the roller is designed to make you subconsciously write above yourself than in front (it’s hard to wield a long item)
  • At 0:07, Christine and my lines intersect. I’m not sure why this happened; my only hypothesis is that there is some sort of supplementary background code which tries to account for fast movements/accidental turning off, perhaps something like this
    • If distance between green LED at time 1 & time 2 is small,
    • Assume that camera failed to track this movement, and
    • Fill in all coordinates in between with a linear function

Something much lower down the continuum of interactivity might be Shadow Exposed, which lacks both a feedback and database system.


Image of installation as shown on official website.

Like Shades of Temporality, Shadow Exposed is verily concerned with the nature of projection, though the focus is more on its relation with movement and light. There is an added layer of artist interest in attempting to let video “interact with the physical world”: in this case, by letting participants project their shadows against a backdrop of light and historical architecture.

An ordered list of how it works might be like this:

  1. Make canvas with light-coloured materials in the shapes of architecture, which shows up better with darker backgrounds
  2. Project video onto canvas
  3. If projector is blocked,
    1. Light does not shine in that area
  4. Background is dark, thus image is clearer

Already, deviations from the sensor-based interactive artwork are evident.

My only conclusion is that the fundamental issue lay with that, while technology was involved, the interactive segment took on a fairly traditional form. If I were to make a comparison, it would be with the way a primary schooler might do shadow puppetry with a classroom projector.

While the description might lead one to believe that the video feed changes when it detects your presence, it was a constant image which varied only in terms of shadow and light, which requires no programs whatsoever as opposed to sheer physics. Is this an issue in relation to the ultimate message? Perhaps not, but it does compromise the interactivity, where this is a comparatively passive piece.

Another issue may simply be insufficient contrast between shadow and light areas, where contents in light areas were still very clearly visible, and thus the presence of shadow didn’t “reveal” as opposed to “highlight”. For example, this sample image works well since it is truly only within the shadow that the buildings can be seen.


It is here that I wish to make a declaration, that a more precise lexicon may need to be established when speaking about interactive media. The term ‘interactive’ was used liberally to mean anything from emotional connection to talking with each other. Which isn’t necessarily wrong, but makes things rather difficult, if we wish to discuss certain types, such as sensor-based interactivity.

The question of how to identify interactive art also seems relevant here, where it is in hindsight that I realise that we had walked by this installation. (In my defense, there were many actual buoys with lights on. That is a very ordinary function of buoys. There was no reason to think otherwise.)

Then again, there is something rather endearing about a world in which interactive media has been assimilated into everyday life.

Going together with Elizabeth and Christine also led to an epiphany I might never have had otherwise: All the works were exceedingly founded on the assumption of being alone. That is not to say that it was required to only have 1 participant, of course, but that the involvement of additional participants was rarely, if ever, necessary. I find that to be a rather dismal state of affairs, considering that a majority of people would likely be coming in groups as tourists, families, colleagues… In other words, it may be worthwhile to have more interactive artworks which are founded on the assumption of companionship.

Also, surprise! DUNE, which I previously wrote about, landed here.


All other media was taken personally, with the exclusion of ones in which I appear, which are taken by staff member(s).

[Manifesto] Individualistic Design (all that matters is what you want)


Good design is the ambition of modern progression: disdain the obsolete, favour the futuristic! Good design is the prioritisation of utilitarian consumers: disdain the unwieldy, favour the industrial! Good design is the simplicity of intuitive subconscious: disdain the excessive, favour the minimal!

Design movements ebb and flow, wavering between expansion and compression as environments and beliefs change. Even now, we scheme to eliminate the monopolistic artist, and involve the audience.

But, really, why should any of this matter? Shouldn’t the happiness of the designer come first?

We often revile the self-serving designer, shame them for their selfishness. If you want to be a designer, give up on what you want, we say. Focus only on the desires of your audience!


Let your design come from personal choice, untainted by societal, moral, and philosophical pressures!

There is no world in which you are worth less than everyone else, but there is one in which selfishness has another name, and that is individualism. To assert yourself is not shameful.

If you want flamboyance, irrationality, simplicity, order, or even to give up control, so be it.

Don’t be afraid. All that matters is what you want!