Assignment 1: Body-Powered Seat Warmer WIP



The installation explores other ways we might feel each other in a shared space (presence), that might have greater effect in compelling us to engage with each other – where merely seeing and/or hearing each other can still fall short. While physically apart, can we also feel each other?

The table invites two people to sit across each other diagonally, following  safe-distancing directions. It suggests to users that they may share their body heat with each other by warming the seats directly beside the other user, simulating a scenario where they are seated next to each other instead of across. The body-powered seat warmer mechanism that enables this is undisguised and visible for understanding; all decisions by users to share their own body heat or experience the other person’s induced body heat are therefore conscious and expressions of a desire to actively engage with the other person sharing the space. The unsophisticated lever mechanism requires users to perform work with their bodies in order to “conduct/convert heat energy” for the other user seated on the opposite side.

In reality, there is no situation where people can feel the heat from each other’s bodies without:

  • being in close proximity to each other at the same time (a distance too close for the comfort of strangers), or
  • occupying the same space successively (such as when you sit on a seat warmed by another person who left only shortly before you came).

The installation tries to set-up a scenario that allows two people to induce and feel each other’s body heat while occupying different positions in the same  space, at the same time.

OPEN QUESTION – Does the invitation to share/feel the body heat of another person invite or put off people from sharing a space?


Project Dimensions: 1.5 x 1.5m

Each bench has a seating spot (user A) and heating spot (user B effect, activated contact between heating pad and metal bench underside).

Knowing how the mechanism works might prompt some people to place objects on the opposite side of the bench to test the experience while occupying the space alone. Nonetheless, that action is an act of inducing/ simulating the presence of another person in the space, drawing attention to the user’s solitary state at the table and inviting the body of another to replace the substitute dummy object. 

In a scenario where the mechanism is concealed and users have no knowledge that “their body heat” will be “conducted” across the benches to be felt by the opposite user, they might be less conscious and keen in sensing any subtle changes in temperature on the bench. 

Consultation review:

In my original mechanism where the heated spot (effect by user A) is positioned directly under user B, it is difficult to determine if the heat felt under each user is caused by their own body heat or the other user’s; the heat output cannot be meaningfully traced to the physical presence of another (objective). 

Whereas in this mechanism where the heated spot is instead beside user B’s seat, more of the user’s attention is drawn to the induced presence (or absence) in the seat beside him/her – where in normal scenarios without social distancing, it would be possible for another person (stranger or acquaintance) to physically occupy this space.

The absence of a physical person in the seat beside, together with the expectation of this seat being warmed when the table is shared by two persons, further creates a pulling force for each user to reach out to the hot spot induced by the other with their hand, or physically inch closer or sit atop of it even (this would be an active choice to engage with the other person and “share” his/her body heat). 

  • Wooden planks x3
  • Chopsticks
  • Foam/hard board
  • Raffia string
  • Heating pad/ hot water bag x2
  • Black paint
  • Exploration of different heat pack materials for longer lifespan/ quicker transmission/ larger area of heat transfer


MATERIAL: Aluminum ziplock bag + hot water
TIMING/RADIUS: 2min/5cm,  no further area increase
MATERIAL: Rubber hot water bag 
TIMING/RADIUS: 2min/5cm, no further area increase
NOTES: To test amount of water's effect on retaining heat*
MATERIAL: Heating pad
MATERIAL: DIY microwave rice sock bag 
LIFESPAN: 20-30min
(one-time use)
(12 hours, one-time use)
(reusable, max 54 degrees)
(hot water bag $6, pickup)
  • Exploration of conductive materials to increase radius of heat transmission from heat pack, closer “felt reach” to sitter (can we increase the conductivity of the steel bench along its length?
WIP Findings
Aluminum foil: no significant improvement
  • Different ropes for durability, ability to support weight
WIP Findings
Normal twine: works well enough with wood
Fishing line
Final version sketch
prototype tests

Miniature model

Original idea: lever beam atop fulcrum

Test 1: seat end only of beam atop bench

Final idea: hang both ends of beam below fulcrum and bench (comfort for sitting and presentation)

  • To paint planks and ropes black
  • Heat objects and buttons in bright red/ metallic sheen (conductive associations)
  • Stickers with bad puns/instructions
  • WIP
Visual inspiration

Bidet Toilet Seat Attachment W/ Heated Seat and Hygienic Nozzles Daiwa Felicity Wash Mate Deluxe Elongated - -

Warm regards,

re: Relational Architectures by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Snippets of Lozano-Hemmer’s works can be viewed here! [12:35 and 13:16 for my personal favourite cuts from Body Movies (2011)]

Lozano-Hemmer’s works subject architecture to fluctuation and instability not only in the literal sense that facades are projected with fleeting moving images, but also within the unpredictability of visual outcomes and activities generated. His works invite spontaneous engagements with space and the unfolding of unpredictable social relations within. In doing so, they inject the city with an additional element of surprise, on top of setting up unexpected encounters of illuminated facades for urbanites.

“As Lozano-Hemmer rightfully cautions, there is no guarantee that a work will function in the same way everywhere.”

The same intervention generates a variety of responses and engagements from people at different sites, from different cultures, from different walks of life. Personally, it is this spontaneous and performative quality to his Relational Architectures series that I enjoy most. The playful ephemeral engagements from passersby are in stark contrast with the canvas of monumental architecture that they take place on – with the impression of rigidity and stasis. A city is full of movement and life, yet these moving images generated by spontaneous participants are able to shift the city in ways other “human activity” and ordinary traffic cannot. They are able to stop people in their tracks to look and engage more actively with a space, using their bodies. Lozano-Hemmer’s works invite human activity, or more specifically human embodiment, that is personalised; projections of actual shapes of man onto the city stand out from its flurry of light and white noise. 

As I was viewing his works, I reflected on how similar technologies could be used to incorporate greater participatory elements to the projection installations at different Singapore art festivals. I wrote in the Heritage Light Up reflections that I hoped the average Singaporean passerby could see him/herself or a personal contribution physically manifest on the facade of our national monuments. There is definitely appeal to being handed some control and power to manipulate something larger than yourself, in both personal and collective settings. 

HOME sketch: living room shapes

  • mapping self-proclaimed personal space territories of each person
  • little difficulty building walls around ourselves while occupying the same space (defining personal space in shared space)
  • limited interactions and incentives

  • forcing view of shared space: tangible lines / planes to define our vision
  • difficulty: acknowledging and reacting or accommodating to the presence of others sharing the same space
  • drawing tangible lines or planes extrapolated from the positions of our personal space to shift our vision to a shared space (heighten consciousness)

  • stress of “tunnel vision” and felt sense of “connection”, of constantly having to acknowledge presence of others – can we share the burden and negotiate our interactions in space together?
  • if using flexible ropes tied to our heads: tightest when we are at the maximum distance apart, easing when we are closer together (does it necessarily encourage interaction/ relational intimacy?)


In the same physical space, we see and hear each other but neither encourages us to engage with each other in a shared space. We don’t touch each other though, obviously since we are spaced apart. So perhaps allowing each other to physically feel and register each other’s presence while at a distance might prompt a new awareness or way of perceiving each other in space? 

What happens also when this form of connection is established between people who are not in each other’s vision and hearing field (in different rooms)? 

Would a rope tied to the heads of different people be space connectors or dividers; do they join or separate? 

Tension of rope X stretched elastic, morphing space

Shifting mats under our feet

Careful not to step on each other

re: Singapore Heritage Light Up

What is it that is being communicated?

I think the installations/event had a heavier emphasis on the message of solidarity than celebration.  I initially expected to be unimpressed, but the experience was surprisingly rather memorable as an edition of light display in Singapore that was particularly context-specific and responding to our present reality of living under a pandemic.  It was unlike any of the other typical displays saturated with fancy sound and moving animations.  It was still and powerful. To visit the installations with the expectation of it being sensational and exciting would be misguided. The atmosphere was instead a mixture of solemn, prideful and introspective reflection – and appropriately so.

This time, the grandeur and structural integrity of the monumental buildings were accentuated by the light displays rather than made secondary. In other instances, I have only ever paid so much attention to them as mere blank canvases for their animated skins, that can be rather random and remotely related to the show’s theme. Highlighting the structures of these monuments that define Singapore’s cityscape, by painting them in our bold national colours, is a simplistic but perhaps effective way of communicating our national identity and evoking solidarity. From my observation of the people around me who stopped to watch the still monuments, a simple display of light and colour can be a uniting force among family and friends and even between strangers. I personally felt an unspoken sense of connection with some of the families viewing the installations beside me.

A family stopped to watch the show (grandma pulled a chair too)

One of the many families visiting the light-up together

Comparing the feelings evoked from Switzerland’s projection of Singapore’s flag on its mountain made me realise that these feelings of solidarity and reflection with the nation that I felt could not have been evoked from the mere display of national colours, or their plastering on any other structure. (This would however be interesting to explore) The mood and messages of the installation were brought out by the site specificity of the selected buildings, all of which shared a certain quality of firmness. Notably, the experience of these cultural institutions were not transformed by lights alone but by the pandemic’s effects too – the stillness of the night and less than normal crowd flow and traffic contributed to my experience.

Singapore flag beamed on to the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland
National Gallery Singapore
What might the “curators” have to consider to plan such a transformation?

Curators would have to consider:

1. Designing each skin to complement the structural integrity and specificity of each building. Since every building is given the same treatment of red and white lights, curators would have to create designs that were unique to each building to allow some visual interest and differences amongst the different sites.

Victoria Concert Hall
Asian Civilisations Museum

2. Selecting appropriate sites and using design interventions to connect them. It is noteworthy that the sites chosen for the light displays are in close proximity to each other and share similar architectural elements, on top of having cultural or monumental value. Projections were designed to facilitate way-finding between the sites, such as through visual rhythms of alternating red and white pillars on buildings themselves, or smaller lights illuminating smaller paths. Having a consistent style of the red and white skin also helped me spot the next site from afar and encourage searching of the landscape to continue my journey. Considering not only the site but the area around it is important, especially if the curator wishes to design a certain flow and continuity to the  experience.

Strong visual rhythms in projections
Way-finding lights at Old Parliament / Art House

3. Designing interventions that would complement but also stand out from the surroundings. The buildings are situated in the heart of the city flooded with lights. If it were not for the distinct red and white lights, the buildings would have blended in and competed with the flood of lights surrounding it (blue, white, yellow, pink etc.) Way-finding would have been compromised too.

What alternate ways could YOU imagine transforming these sites to communicate something unique or unknown about Singapore culture?

(Putting aside the context of the pandemic) It would be interesting if the public could be invited to decide this themselves and project what they think to be unique or unique to Singapore culture onto these sites. Many projection mapping works already explore enabling greater participation of the average Joe on the street.

For an analogue intervention, one of the things unique to Singapore culture and arts and cultural institutions in particular that came to mind was our (relatively unpoliced) vandalism with visitor stickers (e.g. I AM MADE FOR SAM / NGS / NMS stickers). These stickers can be found plastered over structures like street lamps in the proximity of their galleries/museums. Combining this imagery with that of (illegal) bubble gum on our roads, I think it would be interesting to invite the public to “Kusama-fy” the floors/steps of these cultural institutions with their visitor stickers. (unlikely but just for fun)