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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Laniakea: Form Experiment 1

In my concept, each clay object represents a single universe. They might be the same, or have similar shape, but different size, or totally different. The concept is still in the middle of developing, while I was suggested to make some prototype. Because sometimes, sketches are one thing, but making them into 3D and specific material.

Here is the original sketch. I designed four types of them. The one in the right-hand corner on the top shows disc like universes, on the separate branch of 'world trees'. Sand fro the top universe will drop down to the universe below. And for the one in the same corner on the bottom, they are mountain like the universe, representing ridges of the mountain. Their triangular shape and the way they distribute are more or less inspired by religious, or monumental architectures, such as Torii at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, or Egyptian Pyramid. 

I decided to start with the triangular one. Mainly because I am more sure about the concept of this one. 

In the beginning, I rolled a slab and carved it into the triangular shape I want. Then I built the structure on the side. After that, I rolled another slab, forming the details and attaching them together. 

The effect was not too bad, but there were some problems. The two slabs collapsed to each other, which twisted the form and caused standing trouble. I should have let the clay dry a bit more before connect the two slabs. 

Then I made the second one, letting the first one dry before I do any adjustment further. Because I want a cut-off effect on the hypotenuse, so I started to build the object from it this time. I cut slabs into different size and shape, and built the two walls of the object at the same time.

I got more control in this way. However, when I made it stand upright, there was something wrong with the shape of the bottom that it was not stable enough. It was alright when it was wet, since wet clay is more sticky, but not after drying. I need to find a way to fix this next time.

Besides, I made some simple paper model to get a rough idea about how they might look like when I put them into right position.

Then I started to manipulate the model. Paper was too flexible in this case, but it provided me some new perspective. 

These are some small samples I made when I designed the form, so that they look quite different from each other. There were made of Milliput Clay. It was not the best option to work with in this case, and these samples were too small for me to control the shape. However, I found them quite interesting. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Tony's Tour: Oxford- Pitt Rivers Museum, The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Museum of History of Science

Today, we followed Tony to Oxford and visited several museums. There are Pitt Rivers Museum, The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Museum of History of Science, and Modern Art Oxford.

Our first destination was Pitt Rivers. To get there, we went through Natural History Museum. These two buildings are connected together. 

Pitts Rivers Museum, founded by Lt-General Pitt Rivers in 1884, was an ethnographical museum. The objects in the museum are specially displayed typologically, grouped by their form or purpose, instead of following their geographical or cultural region. This is quite unusual compared with other museum, which gives us a new perspective to look all these objects. Apart from beautiful or valuable objects, the museum also houses objects for daily use, revealing the life of people in the past.

Numerous objects are kept in glass and wooden cabinets. For some bigger pieces, they are hung on the wall or suspended in the sky, like boats and big pieces of fabric. Ground floor was divided into sections like: basketry, rope and string, magic, ritual, religion and belief, vessels, musical instruments, treatment of the Dead, and so on. Personally, I found sections about magic, ritual and death are too scary, while vessels and instruments are most interesting. I can never imagined except vessels made of glass, wood, ceramic and metal, there are so many other types of vessels. It is exciting to see that depending on the region people lived, they tried hard to exploit the materials they could get. For example, people from tropical islands may use coconut shell as container. And these vessels even have aesthetic value, which were beautifully made. 

water container made of coconut shell

made of ostrich egg


made of bamboo

I found this in the basketry section. It is full of delicate details and adorable form.

As an ancient Africa doll, this one with a mellow body and warm smile, looks so cute.

I found these fans and feather works in the following images in the second floor. Many of them are quite unusual that can be a nice reference in the future.

This one was made of leather, how curious.

And these astonishing feather hats.

The one below is a traditional technique of making hair decor. The crucial material was kingfisher's feather, which has gleamy vibrant blue. It is now illegal to do so, because the kingfishers are rare and precious today. Not a long time ago, I saw someone online find a way to mimic this effect by replacing the feather with blue silk ribbon.

These are some odd sun glasses. You have to admit that people invented some really odd things. Some of them even look like laser eyes in the movie.

After lunch, we went to the Museum of History of Science.
Most collections in the museum are astronomical instruments. Recently, due to several reasons, my theme becomes something about cosmology. Before I went to the museum, I happened to review some basic knowledge about cosmology. So these instruments are quite relevant. There are the model s for geocentric theory, heliocentric theory, sundials from various countries, and so on.

This one shows the map on the earth as well as the corresponding celestial map.  
This one shows that in Indian Methodology, our land is a sphere and supported by elephants.
As a background research, it is important to know what happened and how people thought in the past, in different regions. And it can be really helpful for me to see them in real after reading. In this way, I can understand the research I did better. And among all the information and knowledge, I need to find the one that can support my project.

On the way back home, I had a nice conversation with our new classmate Angelique. She is a Phd in Physics, and she said she will send me a reading list about cosmology, which is really helpful.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Final Project Primary Description


Laniakea is the name of our home supercluster, which means ‘immeasurable heaven’ in Hawaiian.

I would like to borrow this name as the key words of my final project, which will rise the questions that human beings keep asking themselves from the beginning. Where did our universe come from? How does it look like? Does it has a boundary?

To do the project, I will look into cosmology, while focusing more on the religious cosmology rather than physical cosmology, and how it has been presented in art. Ultimately, the project will show my understanding and imagination. 


Ceramics, sand, plants, animals, etc.


In fish tank, size roughly 1m*1m?
(Fish tank in Horniman Museum?)

First thoughts:

The colour of glaze will be like the effect of universe. Fantasy, Landscape. Each piece is an entire universe, similar or totally different.


Did I make it too complicated? 

In what way that I can explain the idea through the work properly?

I have some initial visual ideas before the research started. Would the ideas prevent me from having new ideas? Would the research help me combing my thoughts and make them logical?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Artist: Pierre Huyghe - Aquarium Project

I had no chance to see Pierre's work in person, so I did some research online. The first time I saw he work was about 1 year ago. During the time I tried to find an opportunity of internship or part-time job in Aquarium Architecture. One of Pierre's work was on their website. 

Here is the introduction I found on Wiki about this artist:

Wiki: Pierre Huyghe (born 11 September 1962) is a French artist who works in a variety of media from films and sculptures to public interventions and living systems.

Huyghe has been working with time-based situations and has explored the exhibition process from the 90’s. His works imply such diverse forms as living systems, objects, films, photographs, drawings and music. In recent years, he has created self-generating systems, including living entities and artifacts, in which emergence and rhythm are indeterminate and exist beyond our presence. Taking the exhibition and its ritual as an object in itself, Pierre Huyghe has worked to change the paradigm of this encounter, exploring the possibility of this dynamic experience.

Nevertheless Pierre's work is more from the art prospect, while I am trying to do some artful design. Because he is also working with live ecosystem that it is worthwhile to study his work.  Pierre showed one of his aquarium in Frieze 2011. 

Frieze Project: Pierre Huyghe’s aquarium was a live ecosystem that hosted a specific narrative created for Frieze Art Fair. This narrative was enacted by particular seawater creatures selected as the players in Huyghe’s aquatic performance. —— This is also what I am planing to do. I would like to let animals and plants in my work become actors, playing certain roles in the environment I create for them. However, it is quite often that I could not combine the design of the environment and their role well enough. Sometimes, it is like when I am satisfied with the environment, but there are no certain role for them to play. In a word, it is not easy to balance these two aspects and create a harmony relationship. Perhaps this is one of the ultimate problems I need to solve.

While the conditions in which the players coexisted were constructed within a fictitious narrative, the behavioural relationships between the players were real and not scripted. —— The interesting part for me is that even a role has been given, but the player's action is actually out of control. And that is something I would like to observe for a long time.

Recollection, 2011. Live Marine Ecosystem, Glass Tank, Filtration System. Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli
Pierre: For this specific tank, the sculpture of Brancusi's Sleeping Muse will rest at the bottom of the tank. It is a shiny head reflecting the surroundings. A giant hermit crab will live within the muse's head and will transport its home all around a brutal landscape. As I was saying, I'm focusing on the animals' behaviours, the biosemiotics. I try to exploit the very basic or essential animal behaviour or need and try to match these behaviours in constructed situations.  ——This is one way of thinking. I realise that perhaps I put more efforts in constructing environment. I probably should use more of their behaviour to create interesting narrative, rather than design the environment first and try to fit them in, is it? Cause I cannot twist their behaviour, even I am not intended to against their nature. But there is some disharmony in the way I am thinking.

Here are another serious of work. 

Pierre Huyghe: IN. BORDER. DEEP at Hauser & Wirth London (2014)
Review by Bill ClarkeFurther into the space are three aquariums, filled with water and plants taken from Claude Monet’s ponds in Giverny. Monet’s ponds were artificially engineered into being in 1893 and became the subject of his Nymphéas series. The aquariums are made of glass that hides their contents when they aren’t illuminated; when they suddenly do light up we see water lilies, and salamanders and fish darting for cover. (We also read that the lighting sequence is  based on the weather conditions recorded at Giverny between 1914 and 1918 when Monet produced the Nymphéas works, but knowing such minutiae about the work doesn’t seem to add much.

Visually, there is a sense of poetry, stillness and mysterious beauty in his work, with misty water, and unconventional lighting system giving lower illumine and curious colour. I especially like the one with salamanders. Someone suggested that maybe I should make the tank I made less like commercial aquarium. I believe I can get some inspiration from here.

I only stepped into fresh water tank, since I know more about this field. While Pierre did many works to do with marine tank. To me, marine tank is another mysterious complicated world. Maybe it is time or in the future for me to corporate with experts who know better. I mean for sure that people have different division in terms of work, and it might be impossible or not necessary for me to become an expert in fish keeping and aquascape. We all need to work with others, but somehow until now I still kept a feeling that I should all do it by myself. Perhaps I should switch a bit.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Theme exploring - Laniakea: sketch and concept development 1

During the holiday, I have been thought about the themes I had come up with. From the very beginning to the recent one called Frozen, they all seemed to be not right.

The following images show how the idea has been developed.

I thought about adding elements from the temple to the shape of the mountain, such as columns. Because mountain has its relation to many myths and religions. Ancient Egyptians thought the mountain is the first land appear from the chaotic sea, which is a place of paradise.

The wine glass tank in the image belongs to Horniman Museum. I was attracted by it since the first glance. Its form is so special, which has a sense of dramatic and romantic that is different from normal glass tank. I hoped I can show my works in this tank, but they rejected my proposal, considering health and safety issue to the animals.

I thought about that the universe are plants, which can grow bigger and bigger if watered properly. Then I considered using three basic shapes to design the form of the universe.