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Manmade Renewable Energy Converter | Semester Project Pitch

Inspiration  +  concept

Clean and Clear Oil Control Film marketing campaign by DDB Singapore
Biore Oil Control Films

Growing up, I used to have really oily skin — a common problem in hot and humid Singapore. People with oily skin will be familiar with facial oil blotting papers to remove excess oil and sebum. Simply pull one out and gently wipe your face. The blotting paper would turn darker when it comes into contact with facial oil.

Effect of facial oil on oil blotters. Image credit: Buzzfeed Videos. Video Still.

These convenient and travel-sized sheets are one of the great pleasures after a long day at work or school. Not only does your face feel refreshed, much of its appeal lies in the satisfaction of seeing the oil that was removed from your face.

I frequently used oil blotters and would be amazed on days when I filled up an entire blotting sheet! I often joked with friends that my face alone could put an end to global warming and solve the then energy crisis.

This thought serves as the inspiration for my project — I want to make a speculative device that harvests facial oil from oil blotters to convert into biofuel. This pseudoscientific machine will present a renewable, manmade source of energy which could potentially solve future energy crises.

This speculative scientific instrument is in line with my FYP and will be part of the kunstkammer.  As part of my FYP, I’ve been tossing around ideas to make a ‘conversion / transformation’ machine (e.g. changing water into wine). I think this is a nice balance and also actualizes an old idea. It also subverts and combines the fleeting and frivolous beauty industry with the more serious and consequential research and development industry.

Design  +  Harvesting Process

The device will provide blotting papers for users and invite them to contribute their sebum oil. They will insert the used blotters into the machine and watch the ‘harvesting process’. This will result in the machine dispensing a drop of ‘biofuel’ at the end of the chain (varies depending on the amount of facial oil).

The harvesting process will be loosely based on the process of making biodiesel from waste vegetable oil.

Harvesting Process
Layout of the machine

Borderline believable  ( but still pretty useless )

Although ludicrous and likely a poor use of resources in real life, the concept of converting human oil to biodiesel is not that far off. With the proper setup, biodiesel can be made at home with many different base oils.

Image credit:

The machine is completely artificial and does not actually pass oil through the pipeline. Instead it shows snippets of the reaction process and relies on the user’s imagination to bridge the gaps. This is similar to how horror movies are more effective when a gruesome action is suggested off-screen, and heightened by the user’s imagination.

Instead of constructing a useful realistic device, the appeal of this speculative machine will lie in the ludicrous concept, tedious yet low-yield process, as well as the chain effect and motion it generates.

I plan to control the machine using max, phidgets, iCube sensors and Arduino.

Let’s solve global warming one wipe at a time.  Not really.


References for making biodiesel:

White Still Life

White Still Life. Oil on wood panel. Image and painting credit: Sng Yi Xian Issa
Some learning points

I think the composition succeeds in bringing the viewer’s gaze around from the cups, up to the leg bone and plate, along the diagonal bone and back down to the cups via the shadows.

As I was painting, I did feel that my greys were slightly muted and not ‘poppin‘ enough. Prof Kelly pointed out how I could have used the redder burnt umber in mixing the greys. This would have expanded the range of warm and cool tones in the painting and produced richer greys. I’ll definitely apply this in future paintings!

Glass Pig | Personal Object Still Life

Glass Pig, Oil on wood panel. Image credit: Me
Glass Pig. Oil on wood panel close up. Image credit: Me

This is a still life of a miniature glass pig with a broken behind. Almost every year, my grandmother would give me pig-related gifts. Pig coins, pig figurines, pig paperweights and even pig gag-gifts. Why? She thinks pigs are adorable and it is also my Chinese zodiac. I find this yearly routine very sweet and amusing.

On my 10th birthday, she gave me 10 miniature glass pigs. They were handmade so each piglet had a distinctive look and colour. When playing with them one day, I accidentally dropped one and its curly tail broke off. At the time, I thought it was a great idea to put a band-aid on its butt (for the benefit of the injured pig and whoever handles him). This flesh coloured band-aid remains till this day.

Pigs are often associated with bad qualities like laziness and gluttony. However to me, pigs represent a joyful simplicity and contentment. These chubby creatures bring to mind my loving grandma, and her quirky yearly tradition.

Dubious advisor | Typebot

Dubious Advisor is an early prototype for a typing robot. It is voice-activated and responds to speech and questions by offering dubious advice. Similar to gag gifts such as a Magic 8 ball, it is especially handy for the indecisive, but downsides may include sarcasm and inaccuracy.

Interface and Context

I felt that a voice sensor would make the typebot most ‘human’. As I didn’t have a voice sensor at hand, I accessed the in-built microphone using Max to send data to the arduino. Max would sense if there was a sustained noise (i.e. someone talking or asking the typebot a question). If a sustained silence followed (user is done asking the question), Max would generate a random value to the Arduino and trigger one of the pre-programmed answers. This wouldn’t work as a fully functioning device in different environments but was suitable for the prototype stage!

This typebot has 5 different responses to yes-no type questions. It isn’t actually responding to specific questions but we users suspend our disbelief and buy in to the context.



Parts made using lasercut and MDF!

Panning motor secured to wooden blocks which were then secured to the base. Shaved of part of the cube for wiring. The base was added so the typebot wouldn’t fall back on itself because of the momentum. The laptop is placed on top of the base, so it’s weight would make the structure stable.

The design functioned well  until I started programming the individual alphabets. Although reinforced at 4 points, the disk and panning motor were not firm enough to support the torque from the motor sitting above it. When the ‘finger’ hit the keys, instead of depressing it and typing the letter, the typebot tilted backwards.

To combat this, I removed the disk and attached the ‘elbow’ motor directly onto the panning motor. This made the arm more solid and keys could be triggered. An unforeseen issue that would only have been discovered through execution!

Using the bottom Z-M row as perpendicular to the robotic arm, I calculated the positions for all alphabets and space and enter. Although I started by estimating all the 3 angle inputs for each letter, I soon found out that was impractical for this design. Instead, I estimated the ‘coordinates’ using the extreme values and midpoint of each row. I expected the angle increments between each key to be linear however that also wasn’t the case! I could then calibrated the values from these estimates.

Reflection | Yayoi Kusama Exhibition

1st Room: Love Forever Gallery
  1. What technique is Kusama using to unify her canvases?

    Kusama uses a grid format to display these various canvases, creating a composite image. Other unifying elements include a monochrome colour palette, use of lines, geometric and fluid shapes, and a free-flowing almost automatic style of drawing.

  2. Describe her use of space

    Kusama uses both positive and negative space to convey meaning and create focus in her compositions. Although the drawings are packed with multiple repetitive elements, the images do not feel clustered or suffocating. The individual canvases create a spatial dialogue with each other.

  3. What emotional responses do you have when standing in front of her paintings? Can you observe anything about the relationship of the size of the paintings to your own body?

    I feel that the wall of canvases is very immersive. I feel happily overwhelmed by their scale and intensity. They feel very energetic, wild and erratic.

  4. What do the marks and forms in these black and white paintings remind you of?

    They remind me of visions and a whirl of monochromatic symbols. The eye motif feels voyeuristic. The shapes and imagery are rather abject, yet also peaceful and meditative due to the repetition.

2nd Room: Walk into the Tulip Room
  1. How does your emotional response change going from Love Forever to the Tulip Room?

    Going from the largely monochromatic Love Forever gallery to the technicolour tulip installation, the visual juxtaposition was stark and heightened the effect of both rooms. In the Tulip room, I felt lighter albeit a little cloistered. The repetitive high-key polka dot pattern is pretty but rather plastic and manufactured.

  2. Does the Tulip Room evoke any memories? What are the sculptural forms telling you?

    The large sculptural forms make me feel miniature, like Alice in Kusama’s strange, obsessive Wonderland.

3rd Room: My Eternal Soul
  1. Compare the use of colour to the black and white painting in Forever Love. How does the colour affect you differently? How do you feel?

    The vibrant high-key colour scheme feels brighter and more inviting. The paintings are singing a cheery visual melody. They feel dynamic and bold.

  2. What techniques does Kusama use to unite the colour canvases?

    They are arranged in a grid format. They largely follow a high-key colour palette, and share common recurring motifs such as the eyes, sac-like forms and suggestions of the female genitalia.

  3. Compare the right and left walls. What are the differences in the emotions evoked by these different walls?

    The shapes in these paintings are rather similar, however the left wall feels more rigid and grounded due to the use of black to delineate the shapes. The colour palette is also darker and cooler. It feels more defined compared to the right wall which employs a complementary colour scheme in each painting (e.g. orange and blue). This right wall feels more subtle and understated.

4th Room: Narcissus Garden
  1. What differences do you see between experiencing the Narcissus Garden on its own and knowing/imagining Kusama’s actions during the Venice Biennale where she wore the kimono and sold the balls?

    The knowledge that they were once used to make a statement about the art market and its commodification enrich the content of the installation. Without knowing this, it feels simply like a pretty visual spectacle of metal balls. However, it feels kinda sad that these metal spheres are now displayed ‘out of context’ like artefacts in a museum, regardless of their initial stand.

Infinity Nets
  1. What is meant by the term ‘Repetitive All-over Approach’?

    Kusama takes a single element and repeats this unit to span large areas. The painting’s massive scale are highly immersive and fill our filed of vision, engulfing us in the dense pattern.

  2. Compare your emotional responses of the white Infinity Net paintings to the coloured Infinity Net paintings on the oposite walls. What happens when you stare at these paintings?

    I feel overwhelmed and engulfed in these Infinity Nets. My focus drifts around the web network, moving from unit to unit. The white nets feel very calming and create a fluffy tactile sensation. The coloured nets feel more intense due to the contrasting colour schemes. They give me a lot of ‘after-image’ after staring at them.

  3. Describe 1 of the Infinity Net paintings

    ‘Infinity-Nets HSO’ (2016) is a large acrylic on canvas painting which depicts a white-cloud like mass. The painting consists of a dense repetition of a single circular nit applied through the entire canvas. This obsessive working process allowed Kusama to reintegrate herself into the world through ‘self-obliteration’. It also reflects Kusama’s highly disciplined and meditative working style.

Death of a Nerve
  1. How does the title affect your understanding and response to the piece?

    Despite the playful polka-dot plushy forms, the title immediately gives the work a more grim tone, hinting at themes of death and loss.

  1. Kusama’s pumpkins represent “comfort and security” for her. Talk about an object that would serve as a meaningful representation of a part of your past or signifies your family history. What is the object and why?

    For as long as I can remember, during birthdays or Christmas my grandmother would always give me pig-related gifts. Pig coins, pig figurines, pig paperweights and even pig gag gifts. This yearly routine is both sweet and amusing. On my 10th birthday, she rightly gave me 10 miniature glass pigs. They were handmade so each piglet had a distinct look and colour. When playing with them one day, I accidentally dropped one and its curly tail broke off. At the time, I thought it was a great idea to put a band-aid on its butt, which remains till this day.

    Pigs are often associated with laziness and gluttony. However, to me, pigs represent a joyful simplicity, and bring to mind my relationship with my grandma, and her quirky yearly tradition.

Shamanic Painting | week 2

Shamanic Dots (2017). Acrylic on Cotton Sheet.
Shamanic Dots (2017) closeup 1
Shamanic Dots (2017) closeup 2
What did you feel and see while listening to the drumming?

Lying on the ground, I felt as if I was floating in a sea of sound. I was more aware of my stereo hearing, and the sounds entering each ear. The rhythmic constancy of the drumming conjured a mood of stasis and fluidity. However, the silence that accompanied the drumming prompted my mind to wander and reflect on past and future events. I saw blues and reds in motion, appearing in patches and waves.

Do you think your painting expresses something about you that you didn’t know about yourself?

This painting experience made me realise that although a large painting surface can be initially daunting, I can feel comfortable working with it, and without a pre-defined outcome.

What can you imagine about people that listen to this drumming as a way to reach another unseen side of life?

I imagine that they are very spiritual individuals who practice meditation and other calming techniques to focus or empty the mind of everyday clutter.

How did your painting change throughout the process? Or was your initial mark also the focal point of your painting in the end?

I started by painting one of the first wave motions I saw. The initial stage of the painting process was filled with hesitation and uncertainty. Some of this uneasiness subsided once I softened the green (original colour of the sheet), a colour which I did not envision while listening to the drumming. Prof Kelly also advised me to work with and not against the polka-dot pattern of my sheet, which I used to create the fluid patches of primary colours.

Did anything surprise you?

After overcoming the initial uncertainty, the automatism of creating the abstract painting felt liberating. The mind could take a backseat and be guided by our ears and eyes.

Final Project | Pine Cones

Mood board

Material board

Application board

Final Product

Inspired by how a pine cone opens and closes depending on moisture levels in the environment, I made an interactive ambient-controlled night light that responds to the light conditions in a room.

In the day when the room is bright, the pine cone will remain close and shine dimly. At night when the room is dark, the pine cone will rise and open, spreading its scales, and making the lamp shine brighter.

Resin & Latex | week 13


Spray release agent so the latex or resin can come out from the mould easily

Professionally made moulds for shaping latex

Mix food dye in to get different colours.

Resin Encapsulation

Encapsulate objects such as leaves or insects using liquid resin. Requires a mould to hold the liquid resin.


where dumb ideas prosper