[WIP, but I’ll put the most relevant information first]
Okay so I need an OSS post to collect my thoughts. The most recent updates will be mentioned here.
After 2 weeks of searching for meaning, I discovered that I’ve been straying from my concept. I keep wanting to create something emotionally surprising, but I failed to come back to the original idea which is to create a space that make people act. After a bit of thinking, I realised my concept may lean more towards activism rather than art. After some research, I found “Why Artistic Activism: Nine Reasons” by Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert from The Center for Artistic Activism. Below are a few quotes I found applicable to what I’m working on.
Art and activism do different work in the world. Activism, as the name implies, is the activity of challenging and changing power relations. There are many ways of doing activism and being an activist, but the common element is an activity targeted toward a discernible end. Simply put, the goal of activism is action to create an Effect.
Art, on the other hand, tends not to have such a clear target. It’s hard to say what art is for or against; its value often lies in providing us perspective and new ways to envision our world. Its effect is often subtle and hard to measure, and confusing or contradictory messages can be layered into the work. Good art always contains a surplus of meaning: something we can’t quite describe or put our finger on, but moves us nonetheless. Its goal, if we can even use that word, is to stimulate a feeling, move us emotionally, or alter our perception. Art, equally simply stated, is an expression that generates Affect.
Artistic Activism is a practice aimed at generating Æffect: emotionally resonant experiences that lead to measurable shifts in power.
The ability of artistic activism to surprise us – to show up in unlikely places (e.g. not a gallery) or take on unfamiliar forms (e.g. not a protest march) provides an opportunity to disrupt people’s preconceived notions of art and protest, and their predetermined ideas about the messages we are trying to communicate. Artistic activism creates an opportunity to bypass seemingly fixed political ideas and moral ideals and remap cognitive patterns. Surprise is a moment when hearts can be touched and minds reached, and both changed.
I also looked at different works that is similar to what I want to achieve, some are advertising, some interactive.
Alright. So my current concept would be a 3 part installation.
PART 1: The Collision
In part 1, I want the focus to be on the bird collision. I think people don’t know or don’t feel much about the birds situation as they have not experienced it before.
Participants have to enter one at a time to engage in this work.
The participants enter wearing a device that distorts their vision through mirrors. The view should look like there are multiple images and the center of their vision will be blocked just like how birds see with 2 eyes on the sides of their head.
The participant then walk through a short maze, which includes mirrors that further disorients them
As the participant gets closer to the end of the maze, the ambient sound gets louder, this helps the participant to orientate themselves towards the goal
When they reach the end, they will hit against the transparent acrylic. Simultaneously, there will be a thud sound while an image of a ‘bird’ (plasticine or something) will ‘hit the window’. The environment will turn silent too.
After a short while, the ambient music fades in again. As that happens, LED lights up the acrylic to reveal dots that previously cant be seen due to the dark.
At the same time, the bird corpse will fade into dots which will fill the screen. When that happens, birds’ silhouette can be seen flying around without harm. (unsure thats why i underlined)
Participants then can exit the installation to the right and enter PART 2.
What this is supposed to achieve:
empathy towards the birds in realising the difficulty of navigation
experiencing how it sounds and looks like when a bird hits the window
sympathy towards the bird, enough to want to do something
What will be added after:
more interactions with the space itself, perhaps through a slightly added complication with the maze so as to create a non-linear experience
PART2: The Dead and The Injured
This part is dedicated to the injured and dead birds. After exiting the smack zone, there will be a zone where a projection of videos of people walking into glass, where in the end, the image of a dead bird around ADM is shown. This is a reflection of what happened previously and gives people the context that many birds have died due to such collisions. As they walk towards the projectors, a sensor gets triggered and an injured bird is projected using Pepper’s Ghost method on a platform. The participant is then able to interact with this bird by using a phone placed in front of it. When they pick it up, the phone will explain how one is able to help the injured bird. The bird will also animate according to the instructions (depending on my capability if its doable).
What people should feel:
sympathy towards the dead birds
empathy due to seeing the context
education on how to help an injured bird
PART3: Using the Dots
I am 100% certain it’s the most elegant solution towards this issue. The school have already turned off light at midnight to reduce light pollution which helps night migratory birds. But the school is not taking enough responsibility in reducing the deaths by the windows when the structure mirrors the sky and forest around the school.
In order to make it extra clear about the intention for this part of the installation, my focus will only be on the dots.
The participant will enter this next zone where the first thing they see will be clear acrylic with dots marked on them. This goes along with a brief description on how the dots help us to see it better. (see how this works out)
After that, it will be where they paste stickers.
What participants should feel and get out of it:
I did something to help!
[Process and further research]
input process for:
first iteration which is the shitty 3-window panel thing, feedbacks, improvements. Week 9 was all about thinking of a way to putting tech
second iteration which is the shitty maze, feedbacks, improvements, and actions to take. Week 10 was all about buying and getting materials together.
third iteration which is what I’ll be proposing this tuesday, which will be the final form and I’ll present it while i continue to physically experiment with the different physical elements (on monday) Week 11 was all about
Week 12 will be working on experimenting with the space and see what works
Disclaimer: This post is written in a train-of-thought manner with my 1 remaining brain cell so I’m sorry if it’s boring to read. I’ve highlighted the main points as much as I can hopefully it helps.
Birds are susceptible to collision with glass windows, especially if they are too clear, or if they reflect into the sky. ADM is a hotspot for bird collisions due to the highly reflective glass. According to Nanyang Chronicles, 2018, the glass windows in ADM are responsible for almost 1 collision per day.
NTU sees a large number of bird species as it is surrounded by forests that have abundant food and resources, said Mr David Tan, an avian ecologist who has collected more than 700 carcasses of birds killed in local building collisions over the past five years. He uses the carcasses for research and analysis on the phenomenon.
NTU has many glass-panelled structures, with more than 95 per cent of its buildings in line with the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark scheme. Glass panels are common in green-marked infrastructure as they allow natural light to come through, reducing the need for electricity.
While such designs help to lower energy use, environmental policies often fail to consider biodiversity, said Campus Creatures member Gina Goh, 24, who leads NTU’s bird-building collision patrol team.
– From Nanyang Chronicles, 2018
This installation aims to engage the public in creating awareness and solutions towards making the ADM building bird-friendly, hopefully prompting the building manager to take action.
This installation appears invisible to an unobservant eye, and its layers serve as transparent obstacles that birds encounter everyday in their flight. This supposed obstacle (if one were to not pay attention) is a reflection of what the birds face and allows us to empathise with them. This is mostly inspired by the saran wrap pranks which people do on both their pets and people:
Inside the installation is a space that is both confining and transparent, which creates a conflict between being in the open and being confined in a small space. This is also a direct reference to the birds flying into the Sunken Plaza in ADM where they are trapped in the enclosed plaza with the reflected illusion of the sky.
The window stands right in front of the visitors of the space where a clear view of the entire Sunken Plaza can be seen. Here is where markers are placed on the window, and round stickers are placed in containers on the ledge, prompting them to paste a sticker onto the marker to make their mark in preventing birds from colliding with the glass. The stickers will be 2cm (subject to change) in diameter and spaced 5cm apart to create a grid that allow birds to see that there is some kind of obstacle for them. This video is an example of the grid:
The stickers are also in primary colours much like Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, which I believe will beautify the space and allow for the participants’ expression of creativity in regards to where they place them and how they place them in relation to the other colours.
I want the visitors to paste a sticker for each bird they see flying in and around the plaza. I would like the visitors to paste the sticker according to what they feel about the bird, and they are allowed to paste wherever they want on the grid. In order to fully interact with the work, they have to observe outside the window. However, visitors may still peel a sticker and paste it for fun, which I will allow since it is freely up to the visitors to use the space.
I have considered making the sticker-pasting to be free from the grid, as I thought the birds just require something pasted on the window to see that there is an obstacle, it does not matter if there is a grid at all, there just has to be something on the window. However, I think, a grid will make more sense as a whole to nudge the management to apply the idea, and makes the installation more specific which is always better than a vague one. Other than that, I don’t want my work to be like the obliteration room. I would say, if the stickers are all filled, I will allow the participants to overlap the stickers such that it still forms a grid, but it does not go out of the pattern too much.
At the end of the day, the installation should look like an art piece by itself, filled by the public.
The aim of the sticker-pasting is mostly to educate people that such solutions exists. Ultimately, it is up to the management to do something about the bird problem. A really easy and elegant solution is to paste the grid stickers on the outside of ADM’s windows, which, if done properly, will not obstruct the view of people, will not make the building ugly, will not block light or reduce the amount of heat reflected, and will be friendly to wildlife. With this, I really hope my installation will create such impact.
A newly integrated idea is to add paper birds inside the installation. These paper birds come from templates that participants can use to make their own birds. They are then allowed to colour it using markers and personalise it, as well as add their own message to it. The participants can then hang it on a string using clips to clip them on. The birds will be left hanging and thrown into a bin within the installation the next day, ‘delete’ or ‘killing’ the birds. This is a reference to how the 1 bird have been dying everyday due to window collision in ADM. When the installation ends, I would like to collect the birds to create a more permanent display, before recycling them.
The purpose of crafting and personalising is to create a sense of attachment between the participants and their birds, such that they will feel like it is a pity that their birds will be discarded. This prompts the participants to be more protective towards the birds and take more responsibility of the issue rather than just being a passive by-stander of the issue.
The birds will also be the physical representation of the birds that interacted with the glass window. Visitors can interact with the bird by swinging them, taking photo with them, or looking at how each bird is personalised. I hope that it will be heavy enough to make a ‘thud’ sound if a participant swings too hard and hit the birds against the side walls. This will make the installation feel more impactful.
I am greatly inspired by Siah Armajani’s Sacco and Vanzetti Reading Room #3 ever since our visit to the exhibition as I really liked his idea of a space being not just meaningful but also functional as a communal space. I want my space to be the kind of public installation that is useable and functional. I imagine it as ‘interior design with interaction’. That is the ultimate form for my installation.
Outside of being a space for people to learn about the birds, I want the space to be a contemplative space for general use too. I want the space to be a quiet and calming space for people to just relax and look out of the window. However, with the implementation of transparent walls, I’m not sure if I can achieve that as the transparency makes the space not-so-private. We shall see, but that is not the primary concern, as the most important thing is about the birds.
Problems or things that can be done better
If I had more information about the types of birds that ADM encounters (as I did not have enough time to observe them and I can’t find relevant information online), I would make this installation specific to them. To solve this, I used different coloured stickers.
The work is time-based so there are many layers that will unfold over-time so I can only explain during presentation.
Further research other than what I’ve discussed before:
The top 4 most vulnerable-to-collision migratory species are the blue-winged pitta, yellow-rumped flycatcher, western hooded pitta and oriental dwarf kingfisher.
Bird collisions were most frequent during the fall, or autumn migration period between October and November compared to any other period during the migratory season for 2014/15 (Figure 1).
As one can see, the west is the second most common collision area, which is HERE! We need to start being bird-friendly!
After a few brain storming sessions (with myself) I came up with some sketches to add on to my previous idea.
After the sketches, I went to buy the materials. I bought a 7m by 1.8m long 0.3mm transparency sheet from CN Canvas and Hardware which costed $46 (ouch…). The transparency was a bit dirty and creasy so I had to make use of what I have.
I then tried to setup. Initially, I was planning on using the windows at Level 1 lobby area due to there having high traffic. Here are my tryouts with tapes and very quick setups. I also used emergency blankets which I thought was an interesting material as it has both reflective and transparent qualities (just like the windows!) but it does not fit the aesthetic. Referencing Peter Zumthor’s Atmospheres, in order to make my space work well, the main points that the space need to have are compatible materials, tension between interior and exterior, and intimacy.
I began experimenting with how I should put the emergency blanket to make it interesting. I dropped the whole idea afterwards as it is too constrasting with the materials I use.
I also tried using strings and realised how fishing line is able to help me hold up the transparencies reliably.
I then began to scout for a better location as I dislike having 2 big holes sticking out that tells people that my installation is there. I want it to be as invisible as possible.
I found the staircase beside level 2 to work very well as it provides a much higher ground than level 1, which give visitors much more things to look at. It is also situated directly at the middle of the sunken plaza, which is better. Also, there is a mark left behind by a fallen bird on the window. I deduced this was from a bird last year that fell onto the shelter at basement after it collided with the window.
I begin my work:
Here are some photos of my setup. It’s not very easy to see, which is the main point and I think the stairs eased my setup by a lot.
That was the end of my set up trial. I moved on to working on the other parts of my installation, mainly the print-outs and the paper birds.
So, with everything I need and every test tested, I will now set up the installation and hope it does not crash during presentation. Stay tuned.
My friend Clara gave me a suggestion to making it about the mood of the birds as the colours of the bird wasn’t very strong and obvious. I liked that and took that in. However, I think there is some more depth that can be added to the colouring of the birds.
The colourfulness is kind of offputting, mostly because it was messy, but also because it makes the whole installation feel cheery which was not really the point.
Very little birds so its a very slow process.
The dots look a bit disorienting, commented by Shah. Perhaps I can use that as a way to further disorientate visitors to sell the idea of the disorientation. Through looking at optical illusions. But of course, with similar gap arrangements.
The birds are well-received as it was a fun activity for most.
People spend a lot of time on it so it crowds the place up a bit quickly
the hanging birds, to Clara, felt like they are desperately looking to exit the space. However, to prof. Biju, they looked happy. Perhaps theres a need to find ways to make the birds feel more like they are trapped.
The space felt calming despite it supposed to feel like its uncomfortable
The transparency kinda works as it’s safer that it’s visible.
OVERALL THINGS TO IMPROVE
I think as a whole, I need to be more specific about the feeling i wish to incite in my installation. Now, I am too focused on the activism of the project than on the experience. That blinded me a lot as I was only trying to make the space functional and not how it feels. I don’t like art. Especially when it’s art that does not add value. I want to say that out loud first as I think that influenced a lot of my decisions. I want to make something that make people act.
It’s safe to say, the installation is very intuitive to navigate through, as observed with different people who entered and did everything I wanted correctly without asking me anything. With that aside, I can now focus on experience. The idea also sells, I believe, as many are shocked to realise what I tell them, and are sympathetic towards the birds.
However, I still need to work on what exactly I want them to feel, and the effectiveness in making people feel those feelings. What I’m missing out now is the discomfort. This is a bit conflicting as I previously mentioned that I wanted the space to also be a nice space to chill at.
To combat these problems, a few solutions can be explored:
Make the space more cramp, so if theres more movement, people will get more uncomfortable. But if one person goes in and look out the window without moving, they should feel ok.
Make the walls more illusion-like, so participants feel uneasy looking at the walls, but feels ok looking at the window. This is where I can add projection to improve my project.
Make the birds red, as suggested by Khairul, as it will be associated with death and blood.
Make the stickers of reddish hue. So it will also add on to the redness, hopefully making people uncomfortable.
Throw the birds on the floor instead of using a bin. This makes the birds pile up over time, which adds to the discomfort. This also works better as symbolism for the death of the birds. I will still get the participants to hang the birds as that creates the idea of attachment that I want. I also find it very odd if participants were to just throw it to the floor directly as it makes it a very destructive act which is… just odd for me. Also, what I realise also is, day and night have different moods. Perhaps the installation will look more sinister at night ( which is where I test out most of the stuffs) so it feels different.
Anyway, I tried this after the presentation and I feel that it becomes much more meaningful afterwards:
Finally, how can I augment my work digitally? Here’s my idea dump
Use projection on my transparent walls to make them more illusionary, and I can use a few ways to do this.
use projection on the floor to portray dead birds, and every sticker pasted, a bird vanishes. This is a bit too direct for me, but still an idea that can be entertained.
Make the hanging birds spin? As if the birds are trying to fly out of the plaza, but that will be noisy. Will be interesting if the bird flies out of the clips as they swing.
Make the birds drop over time using a mechanism that times it.
Using Augmented Reality to depict the birds or some other things on the stickers or birds or something
Crowdsourced images of dead birds can be projected
YOLO to detect birds?
ultrasonic sensor glass hit
what if the birds are all digital and people release the birds, only for their bird to hit the window and die
Project dots on sunken plaza exterior and with each visitor’s exit, 1 dot is added or coloured
Final words (after presentation)
I really regret messing up my presentation and there’s no way to reverse that. After regaining composure and realigning my mind, I feel more confident in working forward with the feedbacks I have. I just hope to be clearer with where I’m headed with this project and hopefully produce a project that is more meaningful and less pretentious.
UPDATES: Enhancing with Digital
I have an update to my idea. Here’s what I have.
I decided to use more space, expanding my installation to cover at least 3 window panes. Will also split the installation up into 3 parts.
I want to focus on my previous project ‘What We Left Behind’ and build upon it. I was more interested in the idea of the birds dying or getting lost in ADM, and I thought there is a lot of potential in requesting for the school and the students to take a stand in helping the wildlife we unintentionally kill everyday.
I think the project background requires some more research and interviews, so maybe I will not focus too much on that as I don’t think there’s time. As such I will focus more on the interaction.
I was also inspired by Siah Armajani’s Sacco and Vanzetti Reading Room #3 in the way that it is a space that is functional to the public, yet makes a statement. To also conclude from what we have learnt from the past few weeks, I wanted to create a space that intervenes through confrontation with meaningful objects, and also to create an environment that can change through movement.
The idea is to have a booth facing the window at level 1 lobby area. This provides a view of the Sunken Plaza, which is where many birds enter and get lost in. The space will take up 1 window pane, and it will be covered by framed black cloth so that I can use as little materials as possible so as to save cost and not be overly wasteful.
There will be a bench or few chairs placed inside for visitors to sit on. It will face the window so as to allow them to have a view of the outside while seated. There will also be a platform that works like a table, placed directly in front of the window. There will be a stack of paper and some stickers on top of it.
The paper will be forms for people to write on. The visitors will be prompted to observe birds through the window. If they spot any birds, they will be encouraged to pick a sticker from the sticker pack and paste it on the window. Afterwhich, they shall write on the form with the following information:
colours and patterns
species (if they recognise)
what it is doing or what it did
maybe do a small sketch of the bird.
whether the bird escaped
This allow visitors to record the information about bird sightings and many information about the bird. If the bird escapes ADM before the visitor leaves the space, the form shall be dropped into a box placed on the side of the table. If the bird did not escape, the visitor shall drop the form on the floor and leave it. The visitor may crush or fold the paper before dropping it.
The visitors will interact with the room passively through using it as a common space. The space is designed to provide a good view of the Sunken Plaza, possibly for one to sit and think, or rest.
Another interaction comes in the form of bird-watching, where they find and face entities that do not belong to the space itself. Once they do so, they start to engage in the interaction by putting a sticker and writing a form, before dropping the form off.
Visitors also can engage by picking up the dropped forms to read and find out the kind of birds that visited the Sunken Plaza, and try to find if the birds are still around.
From the outside, people can see the booth, especially when it is darker on the outside. However, as the stickers are not placed from the outside, it will not be very visible and the window pane will still be mostly reflective. Thus there is a flaw in this design. However, I will argue that the space is not meant to provide for a functional solution but as a way to track the number of birds that flies into ADM and also as an inspiration for solutions. Stickers can be implemented outside of ADM if the faculty wants to.
Originally, I had the idea to have people stay inside the space to leave their mark, either through smudges on the glass, or the hair they drop. However, I find that there is very little link between hair and smudges with birds, even though there are many implied links (for example, smudges = birds that smacked onto the window, or hair = the dead birds that dropped).
I replaced the hair with the forms and the smudges with stickers so people can connect with the idea better. The stickers are also inspired by an actually functional and (more) aesthetically pleasing way to prevent birds from hitting windows as seen here:
Overall, the intention of this space is to create a space for people to learn about the issue of birds getting lost in Sunken Plaza through their own observation. The space also provides people with a way to act towards helping the birds — which is also through a totally plausible solution. Lastly, if the space do accumulates a number of forms and stickers, it will also serve as a space for people to ponder about the problem. In its passive state, the space should be a conducive space for people to rest in, or think in.
I’m not sure how successful the installation will be, as it is mostly dependent on the people interacting with it and the bird sightings (which may be very random). This is also dependent on the timing people enter the booth. If there are many birds lost in ADM, but nobody enters the booth, the information will not be recorded. The installation is also somewhat time-based. Eventually, when the slips accumulate, the numbers will become more visible.
“I… was always compared to my siblings as a kid. I was never better in my parents’ eyes.”
Meaning & Purpose
Tldr; Technology distances us.
This interactive work is a critique on the reduced consciousness we have of ourselves with others due to our everyday communication through technology. For example, we usually send a ‘LOL” text to others in response to something conventionally funny, but our facial expression in real life is actually a mere poker face. We hide behind our phones to communicate with others and slowly become numb to an actual conversation. What is then something that can cause or trigger a genuine reaction in us? To us, even though communication through technology is convenient and common now, this tends to push individuals further apart rather than allowing for a deeper level of connection. Through restricting the spatial dynamics of two participants, both individuals are required to stay intimate through eye contact while engaging in a communicative activity we find desensitised; which in this case would be talking on the phone. As such, participants shall acknowledge and focus on the physical presence of each other while gaining a sense of self-awareness as they engage in an intimate conversation, ultimately feeling vulnerable, but eventually possibly comfortable.
3x Cardboard boxes
Cutter + Tape (For assembling)
2x plastic cups
1x twine string
How it works
This interactive object will act like two helmets separated by a short fixed distance made by the cardboard boxes. Both participants will wear each helmet, and when they do so, they will be facing each other. The slit in each of their helmets will allow them to have eye contact with one another. There will be a hole at the top of the helmets to allow light to enter, so they can see each other and also have a small sense of external spatial orientation. They both then will use an analog telephone made using the cups and string to communicate. They can then only talk about their own self image and vulnerabilities and nothing else. This experience will go on for 10~15 minutes.
How it should feel
Depending on the type of participants, there will be varied results. The ideal results should be a sense of vulnerability at the beginning as they adjust with each other’s eye contact and conversation. As the conversation go, both participants should feel more empathetic towards the other person, and feel more aware of their own vulnerabilities, and as such feel more comfortable with each other.
Interference of spaces between 2 people + How Location comes into play
We try to restrict the physical space as much as possible so both participants can focus on each other’s presence. The restriction of space between both participants forces them to be aware of each other as well as of their shared experience, which is being trapped in a box with little awareness of what is going on beyond their helmets. Adding on to their experience with how they need to share their private moments and how they will be able to see the behaviour of the other person, it will heighten their 5 senses and make them self-conscious of both themselves and of each other. Both participants should be able to feel the distance between each other, yet seemingly brought closer to each other through the intimacy in their gaze and conversation. Location comes into play when both participants have to move in the same direction, the same way, or in the same location. This creates a mutual experience between both parties, giving the impression that they are both going through the same things i.e. the same hardships. They will “always walk together” and accept each other fully. We hope to find a balance between the push and pull of physical and emotional space.
We gave both participants a topic: talk about their self image and their weaknesses. We gave them only 2 minutes to talk as we want to speed things up and also felt that we don’t want to put our classmates at a spot (it was pretty awkward).
The first 1 minute was spent trying to figure out how to operate the thing. The next 1 minute, both parties struggled to stay with the objective due to the difficulty of operating the low-fi machine. Both parties only made 2 exchanges about their weaknesses before we had to stop.
Here’s the video footage + the discussion:
I (Bryan) believe that they talked about weaknesses due to it being the easier topic to talk about. Our plans on making our participants uncomfortable worked but it was more negative due to the short amount of time we give which did not allow the participants to open up enough. I also think that perhaps we have to alter the topics as it seems to be too personal.
During the discussion, Kee Yong also mentioned about how uncomfortable he is physically due to the height difference and the box. He also mentioned how the low-fi telephone did not work well as it is not easy to operate it in a tight space. Thus, overall, it was not a very successful test.
What I can think of is:
Change the form of the box. Instead of a solid box, it can be curtains. That will allow more flexibility while performing the same function.
Change the topic. The topic is too personal and can become a negative experience for many people if it is not properly dealt with. The topic should be more open and something that allow each other to have a hearty conversation about. In this sense, we allow both parties to feel the joy of using a telephone rather than dealing with the negative aspects of talking through a telephone.
Use a real phone. As we thought we were going to develop the project further, we intended to switch the low-fi telephone with real phones in future so it eases the entire experience.