Final Project — Further Ideation

“Switch Loop”


A series of installation stations where participants establish dialogue with each other only via audio. Each station will explore a different aspect of the phenomena of ‘audio’. What type of sounds are evocative or highly sensory? The two participants form a closed loop with each having control of what the other person is hearing in real-time. They do however have control over the choice of response they make in reaction to the input they receive — to adjust the volume, pause, fast forward, skip or choose any specific sound they deem suitable to convey their intended non verbal ‘message’.


Station 1:

Pop Culture — Interaction can be either extremely pleasant or unpleasant, depending on the type of Song Participants choose to play from Spotify. They have access to huge database of genres and can choose from classical all the way up to avant garde.

Station 2:

Collected Peripheral Sounds — Cars, People walking, talking, trains, traffic lights, clock ticking.

Station 3:

Using the Fundamental Technicals of ‘Sound’— different frequencies, pitch, beats, rhythm etc.

Station 4:

Unfamiliar/Uncanny Sounds — pushing the interaction to the level of discomfort and unease by playing sounds that are highly triggering in nature yet completely unidentifiable. Psycho-Sexual Aspect of Sounds.


The systems are closed loops as only the two people involved in the interaction are receiving the audio input. It is important to note and remember however that they cannot hear the sounds they choose and as the stations progress, they have less ‘control’.

Station 1: For the music station we simply can choose popular songs with very specific cultural or emotional associations just based off the title. For example the Power of Love by Jennifer Rush or Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Such songs are so deeply rooted in pop culture that they have grown to have a shared association amongst the masses. Hence to some extent this allows the users to still be able to choose how they want to ‘influence’ their ‘listener’

Station 2: ‘Peripheral’ Sounds are sounds we hear daily in the ‘background’ and form the soundscape for the world we live in. They are all recognisable yet we rarely hear them in silo. This interaction will heighten our sensory reactions to these audio. For example the sound of Cars Honking or Espresso Machines Crushing Beans. The sounds will be labelled. Though the choosers will not be able to hear the specific sound unlike station 1, they will be choosing based on their own unique interpretation/experience of the sound. For example the sound of chatter might be comforting to someone yet highly irritable to someone else. Hence there is both Inherent vulnerability yet unpredictability in the way this station will operate

Station 3 is to explore sound and the way we perceive audio, down to the very fundamentals. Music is pleasurable or dis pleasurable because of the way different tones, pitch, rhythm are put together. This station will hence be ‘primitive’ in the way we react only via beats, tones, pitch etc. We often do not in our contemporary time and age consume audio in this manner. This station attempts to trigger some sort of possibly inherent evolutionary reaction/perception we might have of certain beats and manifest this very raw interaction between two Humans living in the digital age. Sounds here will be labelled and Participants with background in Music Theory might have a slight advantage when it comes to having ‘control’

Station 4: This level of interaction explores the ‘uncanny’. Sounds that are highly and oddly ‘familiar’ yet completely unidentifiable. For example the sound of a Wet Mop Slapping Against Cold Floor. This sort of sonic notion involving the idea of ‘wetness’ can be naturally very psycho-sexual without it being derived from anything directly or recognisably sexual.

The audience will not be able to hear the songs being played but will however be able to observe the facial and bodily expressions of the users during the span of the interaction and how these differ from pairs and stations.

‘Home’ — Reflections & Sketch


Dominance, Transience, Restraint, Comfort, Obligated Rootedness.

Personal Reflections & Analysis of ‘Space’


1. My Room (Dominance)

In my home, I share my room with my brother with our beds set apart, flushed against each side of the wall. I personally do not have a good relationship with him and more often than not, we only speak when we need to. This discomfort and tension in one shared space that has no physical divide has inherently prompted me to come up with interventions in order to artificially or psychologically demarcate my own space or my ‘half of the room’ to create a comfortable area for myself. Silence, amplifies the awkwardness when both of us are in the room. Silence can be peaceful and calming but an awkward kind of silence gets under your skin. One way of establishing my dominance over my space sometimes would be me turning up the volume of the music on my speakers. Sometimes this draws some retaliation and he turns his speakers up too. We don’t physically content for our own spaces in this shared area but it is interesting to take a step back and analyse how the pervasive nature of sound is powerful enough to assert spatial dominance. Imagine if you were sharing a room with someone who hates classical music and you crank your speakers up to the max with the sound of an orchestra; it’ll either coerce the person into naturally wearing their headphones — a sign of suppression and surrender, or walking out of the space entirely to the main hall (in defeat).

Most recently I installed fish tanks right beside my bed and although they don’t fully split the room in half, the presence of some physical ‘wall’ or barrier further establishes my side of the room, psychologically making me feel more comfortable. The tanks have this iridescent blue night light that illuminates the walls at night — in some sense while being stationary, that personal object with its light attached, then projects itself onto the entirety of the room, marking territory of my presence.

2. ‘Home’ out of the ‘House’ (Transience)

As I have been staying in Hall at NTU now, I rarely go back home as I live all the way in the east. I am also someone who prefers socialising with people a lot and am often outside. Hence home to me is just a transient place with innate strong memories. The idea of ‘home’ is not limited to any physical space. One could consider any safe space their ‘home’. More importantly the space we inhabit and we often refer to as home is a ‘house’, a clearly defined physical space in which we co inhabit with our family members.

My idea of home is transient as I find ‘home’ in places I’ve had significant memories with people — rooftops, coffee stops, water banks, the bench at East Coast Park;  all these at one point in my life were landmarks that I shared with someone important, a place of intense emotion and they have nostalgic tentacles tethered to me. In each phase of my life, there was some place I would visit to feel good, or safe if I needed to just sit and ‘exist’. One really significant place is a small rooftop at Greenwich — a place I spent a lot of time in, with my best-friend, the only person I’ve ever called my soulmate. The emotions tethered to this space are so strong that even though it has been physically closed off by authorities, it occupies a psychological space in my mind and I do not have to physically travel there anymore to feel the comfort I derive from being there.

I quite simply can think of it, look at curated pictures of it on my phone album, and reminisce in the moment and the details of our marks left behind — spit stains, cigarette ash, prints from our shoes etc. The power of the human brain; its memory and the way it creates association via all its senses enables us to own spaces we don’t physically own. It gives us the ability to enter these spaces in our heads. Fragments of sensorial memory —  smell of the flowers, sound of the cars whizzing by, the colour of the blocks that form the skyline, the shade of the trees planted there, all amalgamate together to form a virtual yet profound realm that we can freely access whenever we want, for life, regardless of the physical permanence of the space.

Here is a poem I wrote for my friend with the imagery of the rooftop in mind:

3. ‘Home’ in the ‘House’ (Restraint)

In the same way, growing up in a house in your formative years leads you to associate emotions to certain objects or spaces. I never had a good relationship with my brother and was not so close to my parents as I was mostly brought up by domestic workers while they were working. Love was not explicitly conveyed but rather translated via obscure actions or mechanisms — a very Asian thing I suppose. (The inability to express love or rather the awkwardness of having to express love without using assertion and chiding as a facade, often passed down through the generations. ) With this in mind, when I was younger sometimes it would be awkward when we were all seated in a common area like the hall or the dining table — a place where everyone sat at but barely spoke. Being in a shared space in silence makes you acutely aware of the objects around you and sometimes I’d finish up first so I could excuse myself from the table and walk away — not because I hate them but more of to relief myself of the disconcerting awkwardness of the situation.

However in the past few years my relationship with my family members, except for my brother has improved. We are more open about our feelings and we addressed past ‘grudges’ or mistakes that were previously swept under the carpet. Covid  19 especially amplified this — arguably in a pretty forceful way since we had no choice but to stay home. However surprisingly though I dreaded the idea at first, I was pleasantly surprised by how I ended up finding comfort in a place I always convinced myself didn’t have that much to offer (since I was mostly out all the time). It is ‘funny’ and significant how when we’re confined in an area, we somehow adapt and inherently become suddenly aware of ‘loopholes’ or ‘gaps’ we never paid attention to, that were always available to have sought comfort in.

All the common space needed was shared noise or shared conversation to rid it of the awkward stigma it had in my mind. So I started speaking more, sitting out of my room more, making a conscious effort to not only float around the house but ground myself in these shared spaces and have pleasant meaningful moments in them.

4. ‘Home’ in the House (Transition from Restraint to Comfort)

We have a corgi who is allowed to roam the house freely. And Corgis being hyperactive and needy as they are, he is always running into my room, scratching doors for them to be opened or jumping onto us ecstatically with his toy in his mouth. To him, the house is his world and he runs wherever he wants to with only one aim in mind — to interact and play with his owners. Somehow the addition of this animal ‘family’ member that ran across all our rooms, also brought as closer. We stepped out more and interacted more naturally. The artificial boundaries that we set up as humans (rooms, doors etc) were invisible to him and he freely crossed each boundary whenever he wanted to. Overtime, I too became less affected or obsessed by the boundaries of my room and started to feel comfortable in any space in the house.

The human condition is such that we are often blind to our own inhibitions until a third party intervenes. In this case, the addition of my dog and his constant running around, leaving his shedded hair everywhere, broke these spaces and in a way connected them. His physical movement overtime, created a flow in the space and amplified the openness of my ‘home’ in the ‘house’. Psychologically, he connected all the areas that were kept apart in my head. (Spaces I saw as discrete places with specific functions — to eat, to watch tv, to cook). When these boundaries broke down, a sense of openness and fluidity emerged and my physical body did not feel like it was confined, relative to the space around me, anymore.

5. ‘Home’ and ‘House’ as we Perceive it to be (Obligated Rootedness)

Space as an entity is omnipresent, it is infinite and it is not limited by the physical boundaries we have learnt to set up. This being said, whether we consider our house our home or not, we all have an obligated rootedness to this physical enclave we grow up in. For some people who grew up in an abusive household, home is a traumatic trigger, and the sight or even slightest memory of it can be distasteful. (even long after physically removing themselves from that space).

Concluding thoughts (On Homes and Houses)

For me home has grown to be a place where I am more comfortable as opposed to when I was in my formative years. Within this space, in my room due to my strained relationship with my brother, I still rely on means to establish some sort of boundary that separates me from him. Home essentially to me can be any place you feel comfortable at. You can feel at home in the most unsuspecting and unexpected of places as long as you have a personal and unique attachment to it. A House on the other hand, is a physical space we are bound by, and grow up in, whether we like it or not. Bad or good memories associated with this physical space, leaves a permanent mark, distorting or rather influencing how we eventually end up making a ‘home’ out of our own houses when we finally have the autonomy to move out and do so.

Visual Representation of ‘Home’

It is possible to alter or morph the perception of a fixed physical space by adjusting the psychological space it represents in our mind. This can be done by intervention (in my case, the simple yet powerful affect of my dog’s movement and trail).



Intervention — Reflections

“Our bodies remember trauma and abuse — quite literally. They respond to new situations with strategies learned during moments that were terrifying or life-threatening. Our bodies remember, but memory is malleable.’

Our intervention involved triggering spontaneous and unpredictable muscle memory, while tethered to the other person. A highly emotive and powerful spoken word poem by Lydia Lunch played in the background, acting as the sensory trigger. We were not allowed to speak and could only interact via our momentary physical response to some of the harsh words in the track. The experience was very vulnerable in the sense where each of our muscle memory and consequent body movement were physically influencing, reacting to and culminating together (since we were tethered by a blanket on one arm each). We performed this intervention live within a restricted space.

Our main sensory trigger was the aural input from the track and the psychological effect the harsh words used further induced spontaneous reaction from our bodies. Though we did not physically touch each other, the intervention made us completely vulnerable to either of our bodily reactions, resulting in a very emotive and profound experience. There were some parts where it got mildly violent and tense and we could feel our heart rate increase and we also became acutely aware of each others’ breathing.

The inspiration for this intervention was to explore how two bodies with their own unique muscle memories, communicate intimately without speaking. Being able to literally and physically feel a person’s spontaneous body reaction to an emotional trigger was truly profound.

The Poetics of Space (Nests) — Reflections

Overarching Thoughts

In this chapter, Gaston Bachelard suggests that we intuitively are phenomenologists when we fantasise about the entity that a Nest is. Scientifically, a nest is a drab structure meticulously made up of leaves, twigs or other materials for a specific function — to serve as a space of refuge and shelter for birds and their nestlings. However, as humans we constantly ponder about the spirituality of the world we inhabit and the significance of our presence in this fundamentally infinite ‘space’ — space is infinite in the way it pervades and navigates through structures we have created to artificially compartmentalise and ‘control’ it. We in a sense, make ‘places’ out of our space, assigning them with specific functions to make sense of our being here. However as beings, with the ability to have experienced profound emotions, coupled with our highly advanced cognitive functions, we subconsciously are unable to ignore the fact that space as a concept is non- tangible and noetic. Space is the basis for our origin — time after all is considered a dimension of space in quantum physics. Essentially space is not physical; it is ‘nothing’ yet it is the overarching and primordial principle that allows matter to exist and exert its effects. Space is nothing, yet without space nothing can exist.

Personal Thoughts (on nests)

In the chapter Nests, Bachelard specifically explores how we apply this noetic intuition of space to our perception and interaction with Nests. A nest after all is the abode of a bird. Our abode is our room, flats, house etc. Why then do we have this innate propensity to associate our idea of ‘home’ with a nest? As stated in the chapter, many poets and artists have also made this reference to nests when describing the space they inhabit. We do not know at all what it feels like to be in a nest. What we perceive it to be is based on our own senses’ interaction with it.

Sight :

Nests are predominantly snuggled in corners, hidden and safe. They often mimic and blend into the space they inhabit as materials obtained by its builders (birds) of the nest are sourced from the vicinity. Even in highly inorganic and structured spaces like the crevice of a wall, the imagery of a nest evokes a sense of comfort. The way it organically camouflages and fits into the space it occupies, like scaffolding, permeates a sense of belonging and warmth. Even when we see nests built in all sorts of places in the concrete jungle we inhabit, we do not immediately feel that they are out of place. It is this rootedness yet adaptable nature that draws us to fantasise about how we perceive our ideal home to be — we want a permanent dwelling, yet one that comfortably sits into the space it occupies.

Touch :

Nests are often soft and fragile. They are made with fine twigs and are light. When we touch a nest (many of us probably have out of curiosity, as the author has mentioned), we not only feel it’s exterior, but we feel it’s recesses, or explore the negative space (interior within). We are highly aware of the mutability of these ‘dwellings’ due to their fragile structure. Hence we are careful and cautious when we approach it, fundamentally imbuing it with ‘safety’. Think about the way we approach bird nests as opposed to ant nests. Most of us have probably desecrated ant mounds mercilessly because of our mental association of its inhabitants with pests. Though fortified, ant nests are deliberately destroyed compared to bird nests which are completely vulnerable and exposed yet protected from destruction by our own reservations and sentiments. This is perhaps why we dream of nests being our homes or refer to our dwellings as ‘nest’. (because of the space it occupies in our mind as being an undisturbed and safe refuge.)

Sound :

A nest with hatchlings, emit chirping noises, making the presence of life known. Even when we are unable to see what is inside of these nests, psychologically this notion of chirping, hungry, fragile nestlings invoke an idea of occupancy — we may not even know if a nest is empty or occupied yet we intuitively tend to believe the latter. We do not directly have to had seen a nest to develop this perception — documentaries, books etc have all cultivated this notion strong enough.

Personal Thoughts (on birds)

Birds are like Gypsies, they are free to fly around and make places out of any space they want to, regardless of the consequences that might occur from doing so. We however do not have this luxury fundamentally due to our anatomy. We do not have the ability to simply fly wherever we want to and conveniently build a ‘defined space’ with surrounding materials. We are also too physically ‘large’ to do so. Hence, this portability and possibility is only something we can dream of, supporting the proposition that we tend to treat nests as phenomenologists.

Apart from being restricted by our biological anatomy, we are also restricted and bound by societal rules we have created. We need money to build and purchase a ‘home’, or money and authority to secure a piece of land. We do not have the rights to make any space of our choice our ‘home’ despite space in itself being an unquantifiable entity — we have made it measurable by creating structures, buildings, rooms, that dissect it, creating artificial enclaves that allow us to allocate it. We are hence all limited by these ‘places’ and can only navigate in specific directions — we cannot walk through a wall even if we wished. Birds however can simply hover over these structures freely, having full access to all the space there is out there. By associating our homes with nests, I imagine we wish to recreate a nest like space, albeit artificial, one that evokes this sense of freedom. These are expressed in the form of SOHO apartments with high ceilings or Glass Facades etc.

Concluding thoughts

Thought I can relate and identify with the idea of associating nests to homes and in our dreams, it is significant to note that how we often view other places or rather spaces made into places, is based on our own experience, emotions or perceptions. The idea of ‘home’ is universals. Though varying in structure, geographical location, or aesthetic appearance, the ideal notion of inhabiting one that encompasses the ‘spirituality’ and ‘poetics’ of a nest is possibly universal and intuitive. This however does not apply to spaces we do not consider to be our ‘abode’. The perception of these other spaces we walk into and explore, are more rooted in our unique interaction with the world, moulded by our own experiences. For example, a person suffering from PTSD may associate the space of a clinic with trauma while a nurse might associate it with familiarity and comfort.


Here is a descriptive anecdote I wrote awhile back, expressing my perception and phenomenological associations of the space of a LGBT Bar in Chinatown :

“On nights like this, the ivory coloured tiles shimmer like scales of a mythical imaginary creature. A creature conjured up with such immense conviction and self belief that its seemingly delicate eccentricity and ‘out of place-ness’ endowed it with a sense of impenetrable boldness and authenticity. It’s scarlet red inner walls which reverberate with exuberance and passion, coupled with heady dance records from the colourful 80s attract characters of all kinds- some curious for a taste of the unfamiliar while others longing for the regular opiate of being amongst their own ‘kind’.

Through the gate, a young walks in, and eyes dart quickly to steal a glance before shifting back as inconspicuously as possible to preserve their ego driven feigned nonchalance. After all they were all in their own capacities, subtly hoping to garner the ‘spotlight’ in a predominantly male ‘playground’ that embodies both the veracity of masculinity and the sensuality of femininity. This potent fluidity permeated through the bar – a ‘Shangri-La’ for those who lived within thinly defined boundaries.

He keeps his gaze forward and walks briskly down the long walkway wedged between the two rows of crowded tables. His well built body gave each step he took with his leather boots a compressed weight. Yet there was a hint of effeminacy in the way his feet moved, with such perfect rhythm and swing, that one’s senses could be coaxed into believing they were watching an androgynous model parade down a runway. It took a calibrated degree of spacial awareness, spontaneous judgement, and calculated confidence coupled with seasoned practice, to exert this sort of presence in a place that was so ‘loud’.

It is past midnight now and the buzz of the crowd starts to blend in with the music from the Madonna, Cher and other Diva produced numbers that play on the screens. Ash trays get increasingly vandalised by wet cigarettes – some pre maturely stubbed out, perhaps in a rush to head upstairs and others left with just their alcohol stained butts, probably fully savoured within the span of casual small talk with strangers that called for the help of an anxiety mitigating drags of nicotine or intimate conversations that needed a stabiliser wedged between quivering lips or fingers.

The young man makes his way up the central carpeted crimson steps that lead up to the heart of the bar. Framed portraits of immortalised icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, and pin up style cult classic posters line the green walls like enchanted talismans that have been plastered all over to bestow upon this place its quaint charm. The portraits aren’t just icons but worshipped idols that somehow emanated the fearless self empowering energy one needed to embody to feel as free as they were allowed to be in this ‘temple’. As he reaches the end of the carpeted steps he is immediately transported into a luscious gaudi gilded interior that looks like it belonged in Mrs Manson Mingotts Mansion from Edith Wharton‘s Age if Innocence. Everyone here are self made characters with interchangeable roles — a seductress , a damsel in distress, an innocent boy, a lonely man seeking companionship. They could be whoever they wanted to be whenever they wanted to be.

It was an open stage where even a seductively wielded billiard stick could be a prop.

It’s after all synonymous with the character of its residence – a melting pot of multicultural and multi religious landmarks.”

Ch 4 — Space and Place Reflections

Initial Thoughts

Yi Fu Tuan talks about how we as humans define the space around us and assign meanings, indicators and labels to this abstract intangible dimension in an attempt to navigate and operate within in – we are after all bound by space – physical, psychological, emotional. Tuan proposes that the definition of space has its roots in the orientation and function of our mortal bodies. Our upright position cuts through ‘space’ vertically as opposed to when we are rested where we ‘surrender’ to it. We innately are inclined to treat what is in front of and above us as positive and superior as opposed to what is behind and below us as negative. Our sight allows us to only see what is ahead, and we tend to ignore anything that goes on behind our back. We are fixated on this idea of moving ‘forward’ towards a destination. The word ‘back’ used in set us ‘back’ is negative as is the idea of navigating through space in the opposite direction. Essentially the space around us is constant. It is the schema we make of it that changes it. Fundamentally, ‘forward’ is defined by whichever direction we are facing or by actual objects that frame our field of vision to be focused on our object of interest.

Further Thoughts

One question that came to my mind while reading this was, how do we then define or manage the space around us if our sense of sight is removed? Forward may then be indicated by the ‘loudest’ sound or by the strongest aroma/odour. Ultimately I feel our sense of direction to navigate in space is determined by what we are seeking out at that point in time, both consciously and subconsciously. For example if I was in a room blindfolded, with the pervasive aroma of an espresso and a cup of strong oolong tea, and if I was a coffee connoisseur, I would ‘walk’ or navigate towards the coffee aroma, defining that as my ‘forward’. Hence our sense of direction or orientation does depend on our interests and inclinations. We do not care to approach something that does not pique our interest. We leave it ‘behind’ us, literally.

Concluding thoughts

It is important to note that in this chapter, Tuan mainly explores space and place in relation to the human body and culture or rather the ‘conventional’ human body.  Having interacted with people who have experienced trauma and as someone who has myself, I started to think about ho unnatural external factors then morph our cognitive abilities or perception when it comes to making sense of the space around us (compared to average people). For example, when one is having a panic attack, they become acutely aware of the space around them — ceilings become ‘shorter’ and walls seem more ‘closed’ in. The body’s defence mechanism dramatically alters the perceived space, heightening one’s awareness of it to an uncomfortable and distorted level. Similarly, the headspace or the psychological space one feels when their trauma is triggered, is dissociative, removing them from their rootedness in their current physical ‘space’ and transporting them to an imagined one. This then makes us think how we are able to move through spaces without physically moving. I personally am interested to explore this idea more — one where we explore how perpetual exposure to external stimuli in some people (PTSD victims), changes the way they view space, and how we as designers accommodate or find interesting ways to explore space from their perspective. Can we then try to replicate this negative yet unique experience for someone ‘normal’?