DM2007 Interactive II: Automated Utopia Reflections

In his lecture, Automated Utopia, Ong Kian Peng talked about Artificial Intelligence (AI), utopia and the combination of the two that results in a technological utopian society. He showed us many examples of artworks and films that investigates the relationship between humans and AI, and also prompted us to think about our (humans and AI’s) role in this future technological utopian society.

I think one of the most memorable examples was The Substitute by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. The installation video is set in a white room and starts off with what seemed like multiple voxels (3D pixels) moving around randomly in the centre of the room. As these voxels move, we see that it resembles a creature of some sort and this is accompanied by sounds that suggest movement and sounds made by this creature. The creature gradually becomes less voxelated, and we get to see that it is actually a rhinoceros. This realistic looking rhinoceros moves around in the white room for almost a minute before vanishing.

The Substitute brings the last male northern white rhinoceros, Sudan, back to life digitally after his species was “lost to human desire for the imagined life-enhancing properties of its horn”. It was made in response to scientists trying to artificially recreate the subspecies of northern white rhinoceros through biotechnology ( With this work, Ginsberg explores the paradox that humans are “[preoccupied] with creating new life forms, while neglecting existing ones”. She questions if we would actually protect this species of rhinoceros if we manage to recreate it, or would it go extinct once again due to humans’ greed. The rhinoceros in the white room reminds us that while it looks real, moves and sounds like an actual rhinoceros, it lacks natural context, just like a rhinoceros created in the lab. And like how the digitally recreated rhinoceros vanishes in the end, the lab-created rhinoceros might just go extinct too.

Resurrection of the northern white rhino – could this be the ...

Even though it discourages the recreation of life forms through biotechnology or digital means, The Substitute prompted me to think about what a world full of digitalised beings would be like, and would this be realised in the future. Imagine waking up to your digital pet dog that will never die, visiting a digital zoo where there is no need for enclosures, or seeing extinct animals like the dodo bird. That sounds like an automated utopia, doesn’t it? In that world, the role of AI would be to capture images, videos and sounds of these animals to learn about them. Through machine learning, the AI will then be able to recreate each of these animals digitally and generate the environment that they live in. What would be our role then, if we live in a digitalised artificial world? To help with the collection of data from the animals or to help preserve these animals so that we can have the data in the first place? It might be cool to think that we can digitally recreate these animals, but like what Ginsberg tries to convey through her work, we should be thinking about preserving the existing life forms rather than focusing on creating new ones.


DM2007 Interactive II: Reading Assignment

Last semester, I did the reading assignment on the book Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science and, Technology by Stephen Wilson. There were a lot of interesting sections in the book but I only managed to cover one previously, so I have decided to do the reading assignment on another section (Robotics and Kinetics) of the book this time.

The section starts off with the history and definition of robots followed by the research done on them and some examples. According to the book, the term ‘robot’ was originally coined by Karel Capek in 1917 and it came from the Czech word ‘robota’, which means obligatory work or servitude. Capek’s vision of a robot was an artificial humanoid machine created in great numbers for a source of cheap labour but robots nowadays have strayed away from its original definition. To me, robots are cool machines programmed to do a variety of things and with artificial intelligence incorporated into them, it seems almost as if they are invincible.

Before robots, there were simple machines that were made to do repetitive actions like automata.

But with technological advancements, we now have robots like Sophia and many other lifelike humanoids.

In this section of the book, the author talks about the areas of research in robots that researchers were focusing on. Even though the information might be a little outdated as this was written back in 2002, I believe these areas of research were what led to the birth of smarter and more lifelike robots like Sophia. These areas of research were: Vision, Sophisticated Motion, Autonomy, Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Subsumption Architectures, Social Communication between Robots, and Humanoid Robots. I was interested in the social communication between robots so I looked up the examples given in the book.

MIT’s The Ants: A Community of Microrobots

James McLurkin started with the goal of creating a robot community and he was inspired by ant colonies. By April 1995, James McLurkin and his colleagues in MIT had created 6 robot ants that pushed the limits of microrobotics as many sensors and actuators were incorporated into their small package. These robot ants contain IR (infra red) emitters and sensors, allowing them to communicate with one another like actual ants.

They can be programmed in such a way that when 1 robot ant finds ‘food’, they will emit IR signals to surrounding ants and these surrounding ants will move towards the first ant while passing down the message by emitting their own IR signals.

The ants can also be programmed to play games like tag where 1 of them starts off as ‘it’ and tries to seek and bump into another ant, turning them into ‘it’ instead. In the video above, you can see the robot ants taking turns being it after bumping into each other.

Other than tag, these robot ants can also play follow the leader and manhunt.

University of Reading’s 7 Dwarf Robots

The video above shows an example of flocking/follow the leader seen in (five out of) seven dwarf robots. The seven dwarf robots were created by Kevin Warwick and his team between 1995 to 1999 and they can communicate through IR signals. These robots can also learn to move around without bumping into objects through reinforcement learning.

In conclusion, I think it’s interesting to see how machines have progressed from a simple hand-cranked automata to microrobots with multiple in-built sensors and now self-learning AI humanoids. With more research and development, we might be able to see robots that fully integrated into our society one day! But for now, I could use these information that I’ve learnt about robots and incorporate it in my projects or even make my own robot ant.


Wilson, Stephen. Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.×610.jpg

DM2007 Interactive II: Inspiring example of interactive art

Universal Everything | Future You

Future You is an interactive digital artwork which displays a reflection of your future self. As the user walk towards the screen that acts like a mirror, a synthetic figure unique to them will appear. The figure starts off as a primitive form, then slowly learning from the user to adapt, suggesting an agile, superior version of the user.


Universal Everything, founded by Matt Pyke, started with him in a shed-cum-workshop. He was a freelance graphic artist but started accepting requests about things he didn’t know how to do. He would then source for people who knew how to do these things and gather other freelancers to collaborate on projects with them. Soon, he began to experiment more with animation and graphic design, and Universal Everything’s works became mostly screen-based, combining art, technology and humanity.

I found ‘Future You’ interesting as it tempts people to walk in front of a screen and make silly gestures just to see what their unique synthetic self would look like, and the process of it evolving to a more complex form. As this was situated at the entrance of an exhibition, I guess people would interact with it and try to figure out what it is but I can imagine this in a more public space like shopping malls or train stations, where people would stop in their tracks just to play around with this interactive artwork.

I couldn’t find much information about this work or what it means, but from the artwork and exhibition title (AI: More Than Human), I believe that the synthetic figure represents AI evolving as we humans feed it information. And, in the future, the AI might evolve into something that is more advanced and could even replace humans. This could be seen when the synthetic figure evolves into a form that is more agile than the human.

I think this artwork is quite meaningful as it leads the viewer directly into the exhibition by letting them experience what an AI could be while they have fun and be silly at the same time. The other viewers around them can also enjoy the artwork while watching them interact with it. I think it is cool that every user will get a unique synthetic figure, making this experience more personalised. If I had a chance, I would like to experience this artwork and find out my unique synthetic self.


DM2000 Interactive I: Reading Assignment

Stephen Wilson’s Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science and, Technology was the reading that caught my eye out of those in the bibliography list. As someone from a science background, I’ve always been interested in the intersections of art and science and how I can utilise my scientific knowledge in the area of art and design. As the book is really thick, I only focused on one section that I was interested in, which is How Are Biology-Based Theory and Research Important to the Arts?

As the title suggest, the section explains how knowing biology-based theory can help artists in their designs. Firstly, biology research tells us about “nature, life, sex, humanness, and the body” and with these information, artists can design things to respond and fit in those contexts. One area where art and biology research intersect is the analysis and experimentation – we have to analyse how things work and how our design will compliment or utilize it, then experiment with different designs and forms to come up with the one that fits. Also, artists and their art has always been influenced by different societal factors, which include issues involving biology, like bioengineering.

The essay also mentions that Eduardo Kac, an artist, proposed a new kind of art called “transgenic art”. He says that “art needs to raise our awareness of what firmly remains beyond our visual reach but
which, nonetheless, affects us directly.” This is referring to biotechnologies such as body implants and genetic modifications. Transgenic art would be “[using] genetic engineering techniques to transfer synthetic genes to an organism or to transfer natural genetic material from one species
into another, to create unique living beings”

He explains it in greater detail in his website:

Kac actually did a transgenic artwork which was a fluorescent bunny called GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) Bunny.

On his website (, he explains that “[this] is a transgenic artwork and not a breeding project.” From what I understood, he refers to breeding as creating something that is considered perfect or fits what the society/people want but this bunny created as a form of transgenic art doesn’t fit into a particular form but is still loved and appreciated for what she is.

In conclusion, I think that it is rather interesting to combine biology and art but transgenic art might be a bit too shocking for the society as of now. I still find the information in the book quite useful as it could be applied to my future projects – analyzing and experimenting with designs and also understanding the context to create art that fits it.


DM2000 Interactive I: ASM Field Trip Reflections

Future World is an exhibition by ArtScience Museum and teamLab that features a collection of art installations and interactive projects suitable for both adults and children. The installations combine art, science, technology and culture to give the visitors a fun and enjoyable experience.

Future World consists of four sections: City in a Garden, Sanctuary, Park and Space. The main section is the first one so I’ll mainly talk about that.

As we enter the first section, we see a flower field with butterflies flying around and a waterfall right in front. I think it was quite cool to see the butterflies reacting to our touch and die and how it enters the interactive paintings.

As we move further into the exhibition, we see a slide that was similar to the ‘fruit ninja’ game. We are allowed to go down the slide, and the fruits that get in our way will be sliced. A lot of kids (and our classmates) seemed to enjoy this installation.

We then got into a room with two interactive tables and two screens. We could use different objects or our hands to interact with the animation.

The next section is a new one and it allowed us to move blocks that look like clouds, houses, train stations, etc. These will then form connections and tracks that will form a city. It was quite interesting but I don’t think a lot of people enjoyed the interactivity of this installation as the room was very empty as compared to the other installations in the exhibition

For the last exhibition of this section, we were required to scan sea creatures that we coloured and it will be uploaded to the big screen. I think this was another exhibition that many people liked as they could see their drawings come alive.

I think this field trip helped me to understand interactive art better and how people interact with it. It was also interesting to see how adults and children interact with the installations differently – children enjoy playing and having fun with the installation, the inner child of the adults having fun too but they would try to understand the meaning behind the installations.

DD3016 History of Design: Lecture 4 Reflections

I always thought that the history of graphic design was on its own, having no relation to the history of art and the different art movements that emerged throughout the years. But through the past few lectures, I learnt that the history of graphic design goes along with the history of art, with each movement influencing the different styles of graphic design and how graphic design isn’t just about the layout but also the type, forms, images and the techniques.

Even though I learnt quite a lot from the lectures, I feel like I spent more time trying to memorise the terms and names rather than understanding the concepts. I think it might be because there is too much content compact into 4 weeks. However, I’m amazed at how much we have learnt and I think it is quite useful to know about graphic design even though I might not be in visual communication. Overall, I think the past 4 weeks were enjoyable and I’ve learnt a lot from Desmond.

DD3016 History of Design: Lecture 3 Reflections

Man Ray was a photographer, painter, sculptor and film maker who is well known for his photography. As mentioned in the lecture, Man Ray experimented with different ways of creating a photo. I was fascinated by Man Ray’s experimentations in photography and decided to find out more about the effects he came up with and how they worked.

See the source image

Rayographs, also known as photograms, were photographic prints created without the use of a camera, but rather with photosensitive paper. Objects were placed on photosensitive paper which was exposed to light. As the objects block out the light, images of the objects appears after the paper is developed.

Solarisation and the Sabattier effect happens when the photograph is extremely overexposed. Because of the overexposure, there is a reverse in the value tones where the darker areas become lighter and vice versa.

I think it’s interesting how the objects and photographs can be manually manipulated to produce different effects that I thought were only possible with digital means like photoshop.


DM2000 Interactive I: NGS Field Trip Reflections

Happenings at Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery

This is a combination of two art works — Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery by Lee Kang-so & Life Circuit by Urich Lau and Teow Yue Han.

Disappearance, Bar in the Gallery

Disappearance Bar in the Gallery is a remake of an interactive installation by Lee Kang-so from 1973. The idea behind the work is its juxtaposition of the bar and the gallery. The gallery is usually quiet, with people silently looking at works and admiring them while the Korean traditional pub (chumak) is full of life and energy. Lee replicated the look of a bar in the gallery and allowed the audience to engage in the work by having drinks & snacks and being part of the exhibition.

Life Circuit

A piece of performance art by INTER—MISSION (Urich Lau and Teow Yue Han), Life Circuit brings the analogue and digital together. During the performance, Lau wears “gadgets reconstructed from industrial safety equipment – welding goggles, gas mask and earmuffs.”

Instead of aiding him like how technology usually aids us, these gadgets impairs his senses but also allows the audience to see from his perspective through the screen on the goggles. This forms a “circuit” between the artist, the gadgets and the audience. Additionally, Teow also carries a camera around that captures and projects himself and what he sees.

According to Teow, the performance in the bar in the gallery consisted of two parts that were performed over a duration of two nights. Most of us went for the first night, where a lot of footage was generated (A livestream of a google hangout of someone walking towards Shibuya crossing was projected, The images captured by Lau while he was walking around wearing the gadgets were converted into sound, etc.)

Teow mentioned that the second night would be live dancers responding to the footage shot in the first night, showing a continuity of the work with input and output.


When I first reached the venue, I was quite confused as to what was going on. There were people seated at the tables and chairs and different screens and projector showing different things. At first I didn’t know that it was a bar in the gallery and I thought it was a stage and the people seated were all performers (which technically wasn’t wrong since the audience are also part of the performance since its an interactive piece). After reading the description of the installation, I realised what was going on and proceeded to look at the projector. It was showing streets (taken from the livestream hangouts) , the audiences and Teow’s face (taken from the camera attached to Teow). I thought it was quite interesting, including the audiences in the performance by using footages of them and it shows the perspective of both the audience and the artist. As for Lau’s gadgets, I think they were quite interesting and thought they actually helped him to navigate around in some way but it turns out that he was doing it by himself. Overall, I didn’t really understand the meaning of the artwork even after doing research on it but it may have helped if I went for the second night of the performance.


DD3016 History of Design: Lecture 2 Reflections

Ukiyo-e meaning “picture of the floating world” is a form of Japanese art which uses woodblock printing. I think it is amazing how the monochromatic woodblock printing technique used for the Diamond Sutra evolved into this polychromatic version. One of the most popular Ukiyo-e works is The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai that was shown in the lecture.

I really like the artwork but I’m also interested in knowing more about another work in the lecture, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Ando Hiroshige. The work is split into four parts — Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. It depicts different sceneries of Edo (also known as Tokyo now). I realized after doing some research that there isn’t any meaning behind the work… it is just a depiction of scenes.

I like that this series of work tells us how Tokyo looked like at that time and the daily lives of people of that period. Although the colours are mostly flat, they tried to express depth by varying the shades of colours. I also like the colour gradients in the background of the works. Overall, I think it is impressive how they managed to achieve this using woodblock printing.

DM2000 Interactive I: Inspiring example of interactive art

COS × Studio Swine | New Spring

New Spring is an interactive installation and multisensory experience. The installation is a tree-like structure that releases bubbles containing a white mist. As the bubbles fall, it bursts when in contact with the human skin but bounces against the ground that is covered with a cloth like material. Additionally, the bubbles can be held by one if they wear the special gloves provided.

The work is said to have referenced the chandeliers of Milanese palazzos. It was also inspired by the cherry blossom festival in Japan.

“Inspired by the famous cherry blossom festival in Japan, the installation is designed to create a special moment that brings people together. A fleeting shared experience that evokes a sense of the changing seasons.”

— Studio Swine

The artist also mentioned that the work is minimalist and can be interpreted in many ways so I came up with my own interpretation.

I think that this artwork portrays the interaction between people and the environment — the skin represents humans and the bubbles represent the environment. The bubbles do not burst so quickly if they are left untouched and fall to the ground. But the moment it touches the skin, it bursts and the white mist in it dissipates into the air. Just like the bubbles, the environment is slowly being destroyed by us but what if we wear those special gloves and handle the bubbles with care? If we put in a bit more effort to protect the environment, we can enjoy it for a longer period of time, like the bubbles.

Overall, I really like this interactive installation as it brings people together and it brings back the memories of playing with bubbles as a child. It engages both the young and the old and is quite a therapeutic experience that I would like to experience myself someday!


DD3016 History of Design: Lecture 1 Reflections

Printing is one of the four greatest inventions of China. The Chinese first started with woodblock printing, but there were a few problems:

  1. A lot of material(wood) was required to print a whole book
  2. The blocks took up a lot of space
  3. Carving an entire page out of wood meant they had to redo the whole thing even with the tiniest mistake

That’s when Bi Sheng came up with the movable type where each character was carved on individual blocks. As the character blocks are small and could be reused for different pages, it was easier to store and less material was needed. It was also easier to replace the blocks if there were mistakes or damages.

Unfortunately, the Chinese characters are too complicated and there are far too many of them so movable type wasn’t really favoured by the Chinese. Even so, Bi Sheng’s invention led to the development of Johannes Gutenberg’s punch and matrix, and also the first printing press. I think that woodblock printing and movable type are impressive inventions and without them, we might not even have our modern printing techniques of today.