Hyperessay / Lit Tree

Interactivity has been the basis of numerous new media works. This form of art invites the audience to join in and become part of the work, creating experiences that are unique and unpredictable. With the introduction of technology into art practices, Cybernetics became the term that came into view. Cybernetics introduced the use of feedback and behavior, principles that are often seen in interactive art pieces. In Kimchi and Chips’s Lit Tree, we will explore how this installation works as an art piece that displays interactivity.


Kimchi and Chips is a Seoul-based duo made up of  Elliot Woods from the United Kingdom and Mimi Son from South Korea. Together, they have created many installations around the world that play with the concepts of spaces and illusions. One of their works,  Lit Tree, was made in 2011 and exhibited in Seoul. The artists were interested in exploring relationships between people, technology and nature. This gave birth to an one-of-a-kind artwork where a bamboo tree was used as the canvas.



The whole experience of the installation starts off with a single potted bamboo tree and a wooden plinth placed in front of it. As the spectator approaches the tree, he is to place his hand onto the plinth, where his hand will be scanned via a system and have its 3D shape mapped onto the tree. Thereafter, when the spectator gestures towards the tree, patterns of light will be projected onto the plant accordingly, creating a sense of movement amongst the tree’s leaves without actually touching the art work.


Video of the installation (skip to 01.11 for point of interaction)



This is made possible with the use of two video projectors where the tree’s leaves serve as 3D voxels for light projection. The scanning and mapping system was made with two webcams and the artists’ self-coded scanning software. The artists chose a tree to work with as they wanted to move away from the usual facade of large LED displays plastered all over the streets. Such facades are flat, static and non-purposeful without its media projections. A tree however, is part of nature. It exists simply by itself in its environment. What Kimchi and Chips did is simply making use of nature and incorporating it into their art, saving space and materials.


This reminds us of Magnet TV by Nam June Paik, where the artist chooses a different type of medium to express their ideas. Then, Nam June Paik was irked by the mass consumerism surrounding the television and in turn used the device as an art form to critique its culture. In Lit Tree, the artists were sick of the numerous LED screens that were populating Seoul and thus chose to work on a different platform. This shows a break away from the conventional idea of the canvas, which brings us to Roy Ascott’s article on ‘Behavioural Art and Cybernetic Vision’. Lit Tree certainly displays a departure from the deterministic view of Classical art- it is meant for the public, it encourages participation, it is not static and most importantly, the content of the artwork consists of feedback and behavioural tendencies.


With the scan and map system implemented in Lit Tree, the tree is somewhat responsive to the spectator’s gestures, giving a reaction immediately through the light patterns projected on it, making it behavioural. This essentially creates a two-way dialogue between the viewer and artwork, where the viewer gets to communicate to the tree via the use of technology.


The viewer now also has part control over how the artwork is to look like, since the light patterns projected on the tree is dependant on the gestures he makes. He is now involved in decision making and has a say regarding the art piece. With the reaction he receives, he can choose to make another move or to stop there, creating an open ended art piece where one could never determine the outcome. This unpredictability creates entropy, where there is a disorganization in exchange. This is mentioned by Nobert Weiner in ‘Cybernetics in History’


… it is possible to interpret the information carried by a message as essentially the negative of its entropy, and the negative logarithm of its probability. That is, the more probable the message, the less information it gives. Cliches, for example, are less illuminating than great poems.


This also makes up the feedback loop, where the input are the gestures the viewer makes, the output are the light patterns projected onto the tree and the feedback tells the viewer to make his next move. With more feedback, there is lesser entropy.

Another interesting fact that adds to the open-endedness of this art piece is that the bamboo tree changes its form naturally as the exhibition progresses. As trees are naturally reactive to light, the light projection onto the tree leaves actually causes the shape of the tree to shift overtime. As said by Elliot Woods of Kimchi and Chips,

“Trees react to light. You can see at the end of the exhibition, the tree looks different from when they first came in.”


With these relations made, we can see that Lit Tree is a highly contemporary art piece that exhibits qualities of interactivity. It pushes artists to rethink their canvas, opening up the possibilities of projection mapping onto other 3D surfaces.



Design Indaba (2018) Interactive tree (Online) Available at http://www.designindaba.com/articles/creative-work/interactive-tree (Accessed:17 Nov 2018)

Kimchi and Chips (2018) Lit Tree (Online) Available at https://www.kimchiandchips.com/works/littree/ (Accessed: 17 Nov 2018)

The Korea Herald (2016) Korean-British artist duo creates physical expressions of light and space (Online) Available at:http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160628000719 (Accessed:17 Nov 2018)

Vice (2011) Nature and Tech Talk: A Q&A with Kimchi and Chips (Online) Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d7xewy/nature-and-tech-talk-a-qa-with-kimchi-and-chips (Accessed: 17 Nov 2018)


Keywork Selection/ Lit Tree

Following the artist selection, the work that I will be further elaborating on in my hyper essay is Kimchi and Chip’s Lit Tree. An installation made in 2011 , Lit Tree is a light projection piece that makes use of a tree as its canvas. It explores on the concept of Interactivity where there is a perceptual conversation between the spectator, technology and the tree.

Kimchi and Chips-Lit Tree, 2011. Retrieved from: http://thesuperslice.com/2011/10/20/lit-tree-kimchi-and-chips/

Upon approaching the installation, the spectator gets to have his hand scanned and mapped onto the tree. Then, as the spectator makes gestures towards the tree, the patterns of light is projected on the tree according to the gestures made, helping to create an interaction between humans and nature.

This piece is interesting as it incorporates nature, instead of a projection on a normal screen as we are used to,  they have chosen to work with an actual plant, expanding the possibilities of interactive art.


IM Presentation / Interactivity (Magnet TV)

Interactivity Presentation- Magnet TV

Group members: Nicholas, Bala and Amanda



Nicholas: Magnet TV

Bala: Nobert Weiner- Cybernetics in History

Amanda: Roy Ascott – Behavioural Art and Cybernetic Vision


Presentation Slides:

History of Design/ Droog Essay

Droog started as an experiment. In April 1993, Dutch design historian, Renny Ramakers and industrial designer, Gijs Bakker presented a collection at the International Furniture Fair in Milan, not knowing how the public would respond to it. A stark contrast from the high-art, sleek furniture displayed, their collection consisted of second-hand objects that were simple and whimsical. They called it ‘Droog Design’, which meant dry in Dutch, signifying its dry-wit. The collection took off and Droog design expanded greatly over the years, now having their own concept company and outlets in Amsterdam.

Droog design began as a social and cultural response to overproduction and consumerism. The design solution that capitalized the industry then was to come up with new products for problems to be easily purchased. Droog design, which holds sustainability as one of its core values, found this to be extremely wasteful. Therefore, their solution was a reorganization of what already exists. To them, it was about recombining, reusing or rethinking ways to further experience products. They took ideas from other styles and movements and mixed it along with their humor to create sustainable ideas that were truly Droog.

In a way, Droog’s ideologies draw a parallel to Postmodernism, a movement which was also a critique of over-consumerism. Wanting to break free from the functional objects of Modernism, Postmodernist products similarly had no definitive style and borrowed ideas from other movements, which they poked fun of using humor and irony.

Another movement which Droog design may share similarities with is Minimalism. Minimalism’s philosophy is to reduce a design to its most essential elements, embodying simplicity and showing materials in its true nature. It plays with the visceral feelings a product can create, evoking a strong sense of emotional experience for the user by utilizing sensory aspects. These are themes that can also be seen in Droog design.

For instance, in Jurgen Bey’s ‘Tree trunk Bench’, the design simply consists of bronze backs of chairs that are integrated into a fallen tree trunk. Placed in parks, this simple yet clever design blends in with the environment, making use of the nature around it to create seats for users. The tree trunk is shown just as it is in its truest form, without any sight of over-design.

Treetrunk Bench, Jurgen Bey, 1999

Another example to mention is Tejo Remy’s ‘Chest of Drawers’, a set of mismatched second-hand drawers that are given new timber carcasses and then tied together at precarious angles with a strap. In this piece, not only does it show the idea of reusing, it also explores the theme of memory and recollection. Remy himself had called this work, ‘You can’t lay down your memory’. Each drawer is uniquely scavenged and each houses its own individual memory. The visceral phenomena is evident here, from the visual qualities of each drawers-the different colors, the handles, every scratch, down to the scent we get as we open the drawers, all of which help in evoking the feeling of recollection.

Chest of Drawers, Tejo Remy, 1991

Apart from these features mentioned, there are also other characteristics that Droog embraces. In Simply Droog: 10 + 3 years of creating innovation and discussion, a book originally published by the Droog design firm to accompany their 2004 tour, there are namely ten main themes listed- Use-it-again, Familiar, not so familiar, Open design, Inevitable ornament, Simplicity, Irony, Body language(Tactility), Endless Contamination (Hybridization), Experience and Form follows process. Use-it-again, Irony and Simplicity are themes that were discussed earlier in the essay. As for Familiar, not so familiar, it tells of further exploring everyday objects by giving them a story through design.


Knitted Maria coffeepot, Gjis Bakker, 1997

In Gijs Bakker’s Knitted Maria, familiarity is explored with the inclusion of a cozy that is integrated in the coffeepot design.

For Open design, it deals with participatory nature; engaging with an audience such that they add onto a product. Inevitable ornament is about allowing decorative elements to cohabit with its functions. Next, Hybridization talks about the fusion of two or more functions or concepts in a single product, helping to save space and material, thus reducing waste. Tactility brings us back to visceral qualities, where it deals with materiality and the sense of touch.

Experience, which Droog design places high emphasis on, is about being able to interact with the product or a product that facilitates interaction with others.

In Nina Farkache’s ‘Come a little bit closer’ bench, it shows how interaction is created as users are able to slide along the bench and meet other people playing with the bench.

Bench ‘Come a little bit closer’, Nina Farkache, 2001. The seats are discs placed on rolling glass marbles where users can sit on and slide across the bench.

Lastly, there is Form follows process where Droog believes that the process of making a product to be more important than the result. This ideology takes away the control of the designer to create a desired outcome and gives birth to the accidental beauty of unexpected results.

While Droog design may not look like your regular high-end contemporary art, it definitely is eye-catching and thought provoking. Droog offers a fresh new perspective on design ideas, surprising the audience every time with its own witty take on products. It is no wonder that its first collection quickly gained popularity and extended across the world of design. Behind its humor however, there are layers of design thinking involved and deep values that Droog design uphold, thus making it such an influential movement.



Droog Design(2006) Simply Droog: 10 + 3 Years of Creating Innovation and Discussion, 2nd edn. The Netherlands: Uitgeverij 010 Publishers.

Droog.com (2018) (online) Available at : https://www.droog.com 

Studio International (2017) Simply Artful, Simply Functional, Simply Droog (Online) Available at: https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/simply-artful–simply-functional–simply-droog

The New York Times (2018) Is It Design? Art? Or Just a Dutch Joke? (Online) Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/30/arts/design/30droo.html 

Metropolis (2018) Modernist Minimalism and Our Relationships with Our Buildings (Online) Available at: https://www.metropolismag.com/architecture/modernist-minimalism-and-our-relationship-with-our-buildings/