Category Archives: In the Eyes of Kinetic Beasts

Eyes of the Kinetic Beast – Part 2 (Final)

Alas! We’ve reached the final installation for our Kinetic Beast!

After the final consultation with Cheryl, we decided to scale up our installation to create more space in the enclosure to include the other elements into our composition.

We also identified which were the unnecessary elements which we could shed in order to make the composition of the installation cleaner and more immersive. Instead of using wire mesh again, we opted for 2 wooden rods which would hold the fishing cords.

We also changed the materials used for the fish as we did not want it to be too literal, thus, we filled toilet rolls of varying length with sago seeds to include an element of sound into the movement when the strings were being tugged, similar to a musical instrument.

We decided to paint the tubes blue and pink (Pantone’s colour of the year in 2016) as we wanted it to resemble a children’s toy.

Learning from the previous prototypes, we were able to come up with measures to ensure that the strings have a limit to which they could be pulled! We attached beads to the strings to ensure that the ‘fish’ returns back to its original location after tension is released.

Our beads are yellow and orange because they represent Clown Fish Eggs.

Instead of using wooden blocks as weights, we changed it for marbles and rocks to resemble bubbles underwater, similar to a fish tank. This ensures that the weights to not get caught up between one another, affecting the tension, and it also provides a cleaner composition.

We also eventually changed the colour of the tubes because we felt that having too many different colours would be very distracting. This luminescent yellow was chosen as it worked very well with the colour palette we used, which is primarily yellow and orange. When shone with lights, it has the ability to change shades! (This can be seen later on) We also added Vasaline to the strings to smoothen and increase the effectiveness of our model!

Next, we had to create the Sea Anemone. Due to some technical fault, the standing fan we borrowed only had a single speed, which proved to be too strong for our installation as the sound and power of the fan overshadowed the installation.

We placed cling wrap within the fan cage and poked holes to allow some air to escape, in hopes that it would be strong enough to lift the ‘tentacles’ of the sea anemone, while weak enough not to affect the ‘fish’.

Testing the fan:

The effectiveness of the cling wrap was debatable as it became too weak, despite the holes. We went with another approach, which was to manually switch the fan on and off.

Working on the starfish proved to be the most challenging as we did not know where to place the animal, and how to make the starfish ‘glide’. One idea we explored was the use of tracks and a motor. Similar to a Tamiya car, the starfish would circle around the installation, like a predator hunting its prey.

The car proved to be too much of a challenge to create because I did not have the required materials such as an elastic band small and strong enough to withstand the constant torque of the motor. The motor would also overheat after a certain amount of time, to which, the motor would stop running.

We then shifted our focus to creating something resembling a firefox for the starfish to glide across. This was an interesting direction as it would really begin to resemble a children’s toy or something which you would find at a playground!

We had several ideas for how we wanted our track to look like. A spiraling starfish around the ‘fish’ was something which we thought would look impressive.

You can vaguely see the spiral of the track which we tried so hard to make work. However, the wire was not strong enough to withstand the weight of the starfish as it was passing through, thus we did not have the path spiraling. The path was also unreliable as it did not always yield the results we were looking for.

We decided to go with something less complex, while retaining the aspect of being interactive. We used copper wires instead, which were a lot more rigid and it held its form much better. (This can be seen in the final product!)


To enhance the immersiveness of the installation, we thought of using bubbles to create the illusion of being underwater. By harnessing the wind from the fan, we hoped that it would be strong enough to create bubbles when the bubble liquid is placed above.

We tried to make our own bubble liquid by mixing hand soap and detergent found in the 3D room! However, things were not in our favour as we did not have the correct fluids to make the perfect bubble water.



These are some of the preliminary shots taken after we set up the installation! We adjusted the lights to see which hue gave us the best results!


Eyes of the Kinetic Beast – Part 1

Welcome back! Herein begins the first part of our journey to the final product!

During our consultation with Cheryl, she pointed out that the hierarchy of our model was messy, thus distracting the viewers from the key elements of the piece.

She also noted that the movement of the fish skeleton did not reflect enough of the animal and also did not work well because of the scale.

So, it was back to the drawing board to come up with a new concept for our clownfish! We wanted it to be the dominant object in the installation because of its relation with the sea anemone and its movement could be further explored.

We started to research on ways which we could better recreate the movement of a fish.

( Start at 7 Minutes)

These were the kinetic sculptures which we were studying. These sculptures seem to easy to make initially, however, they did not represent the movement we wanted to capture as it only  moved vertically instead of horizontally (the movement of a fish).

As we better understood the mechanics, we were able to come up with a working prototype to have a horizontal movement.

This is a breakdown of how our mechanism works. Essentially, instead of the weights being the wooden/metal objects hanging (as seen from the video), the weights are now placed at the side, to provide tension for when the string is being pulled.

In the second image, as the strings are being pulled in a certain direction, some strings are being pulled more than the rest, thus, resulting in different displacements of the block as seen from image 3. This movement can be seen from image 4, when the block is being shifted.

Tension is always needed for the blocks to return back to its original position, so that the cycle can repeat itself again.

Thus, we begin the creation of our prototype!

First, we had to build a frame strong enough to contain the model as we would need heavy weights to act as a tension on the string.

We then attached wire mesh to the side of the frames so that we had something to thread the cords through, as well as suspending the fish structure in air.

As this is only a prototype, we used foam as a representation of the clown fish. We attached fishing line (how apt) to the foam and connected it with the frame.

If you look closely, you can see that the foam has 3 intersecting points where the fishing line has been threaded through. This is to ensure that the foam stays in place and does not flop.

It was also important to get the measurements correct as alignment is crucial in making the model smooth. This can be seen from all of the letters and markings on the wooden frame.

Next, we had to find weights capable of creating tension on the fishing line. We stuck pieces of wood together, incrementally adding blocks till the desired tension is reached.

When dealing with this many cords, it was easy for the cords to get mixed up, which would result in the wrong tension for different segments, or even the entire model not working. Thus, we practiced good cable management by threading the cords though a small segment of perforated board and we labeled each cord that passed. This ensures that when we are adjusting the tension for each of the segments, it would be a lot less hassle and guesswork.

Different materials were considered during the selection of the board to contain the string mechanism (the Brain, as I call it). We tried using thick art card, but the string kept cutting through the board, resulting in a lost of tension! Eventually we used a thick piece of corkboard to ensure that the string does not move about.

This is the result of all our careful planning!

However, the weights kept getting obstructed by the wooden frame, and after using the mechanism for awhile, the fish slowly started to lean towards the left side as there was no limit to how much string could be pulled.

Next, we embarked on the Starfish. This mechanism was a development of my initial idea, which was to have something similar to a puppet. We attached strings onto metal rings of different diameters and hung them above the fish.

This would emulate the ‘jellyfish’ movement, where by all of the limbs are moving and warping in sync.

We brought our new model to Cheryl to get more feedback on what were the things we could further improve. She liked the mechanism, however, she left that the representation was too literal.

The starfish was also a distraction for her as she felt that it could become an SO rather than an SD. She mentioned how the starfish could be gliding across the bottom or the top of the frame, which would make our model more interactive and immersive.

We will be building upon these comments in the next post!

Kinetic Beast Sketch Model OSS

Our animals are: Sea anemone, Starfish and the Clown fish.

To begin, we looked into the relationship between each of our animals to find a correlation between their existence.

The sea anemone shares a symbiotic relationship with the clown fish. The clown fish seeks protection within the sea anemone, while the clown fish protects the sea anemone from potential anemone-eating fishes, the clown fish also eats algae and cleans the sea anemone. The toxins within the tentacles of the sea anemone protects the clown fish from predators.

On the other hand, the Starfish has a  parasitic relationship with the sea anemone, as starfishes feed on sea anemones, among other shellfishes and creatures that live on the ocean floor.

Our initial exploration of our animals focused more on the minimal and incremental movements of the various animals.

From the start, we wanted to explore the ways in which our animals interacted with each other, finding key senses linking them to one another, even though the Starfish and clown fish does not share an immediate relationship.

The common senses each of our animals rely for survival is the sense of smell and touch. The Clown fish uses the sense of touch to develop an immunity towards the toxins produced by the tentacles of the sea anemone. Through our research we also found out that baby clown fishes relies on the sense of smell to find their way back to the sea anemone which they were born from!

Whereas the Starfish uses its sense of touch and smell to locate prey which may be hiding under the sand. We wanted to incorporate these two senses into our installation, which is why we built our sketch model together.

The first movement we explored was the clown fish. The movements of fishes are generally similar in a way which they are able to warp their body into waves, propelling them along with their fins.

We stripped this movement down to its bones (literally) and looked into the possible mechanics we could explore with this movement.

Jing Yi came up with this bone-like structure to represent the warping of the movement of the fish. For this sketch model, it requires an initial touch for the whole structure to come alive, moving like a swimming fish.

She explored different materials, weights as well as dimensions to see which would work best.

This initial prototype was too flimsy and the movement dissipated too quickly, unable to capture enough of an essence of a fish.

By alternating the weights and using a more rigid frame, the movement was sustained for awhile more, even cycling back down the spine. We decided to incorporate this version into our sketch model.

We started to brainstorm on the possible movements we could use to represent a sea anemone. Capturing the essence of the tentacles was the most important feature of the sea anemone.

We had to create something which had movement, and one which ties in with the entire installation.

Because the sea anemone is the common denomination among our animals, we wanted to make it the dominant element in the model, making it the origin of all of our movements.

Immediately, this was the direction we wanted to take when creating the sea anemone.

The eccentric and random movements of these tubes would be able to accurately encapsulate the movements of the tentacles underwater.

To build this, we needed a fan strong enough to push these tubes off whilst having them stay in the air. We also had to vary the length of the plastic strips to ensure that they were not too heavy.

The starfish was a tricky animal to represent due to the complexity of its limbs, telling of the extensive movements it is capable of!

As I wanted to allow each individual limb to move, I cut a piece of foam into many segments and tied them altogether to make them mobile. 

(This is a rather sad looking starfish)

I wanted to fashion something similar to a puppet, whereby each individual limb could be controlled. However, the strings kept getting tangled up among each other, so I discarded that idea.

To make the limbs more rigid and life-like, I attached strings on each end, also placing tape on each of the segments.

Because the sense of smell and touch is prevalent in our model, we wanted our animals to work in harmony, by using these senses to initiate the kinetic movement in our installation.

To achieve this, we suspended the sea anemone at the bottom of the model, as the fan would be able to propel the other elements in the installation. By touching the fan, it directs wind to different parts of the fish skeleton, triggering a movement.

As the wind blows against the starfish, its individual limbs would also be in motion, thus, making the sea anemone the focal element of this sketch model.