Research process about Thesis Project in Winter Break

In last semester, I started to think my thesis project and I already had some ideas assembling in a rough way. In general, my thesis idea will much related to space, vision, structure and interaction.

I am fascinated by the concept of space, and how digital media can  challenge spatial boundaries, encouraging audiences to suspend their sense of reality and become immersed in a new surreal space. The concept of space is an origin, from which I think about many spatial elements, such as light, vision, sound and interaction. In another way, I can replace the word “space” with “context.”

The book Brutal and Beautiful by Elain Harwood, an architecture historian, offers this thought: “Space is a consecrate place and no one knows the dimension and depth.” I was inspired by this sentence and these words also reminded me of some other influential installation artists such as Ann Hamilton, Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell. They are all masters of how to handle spaces and successfully leverage space with their artistic concept, visual elements, materials, sound and interactivity. Their works provided an immersive environment for the spectators, and more importantly, they provide a new impressive experience for viewers.

In my perspective, a space can be a canvas, and inside the space, as if on a canvas. I need put the installation, create the visual elements  incorporate the sound, develop an interactive function and guide to my audiences to a real immersive experience and make them generate some new emotion and perception.


Based on these elements, although I am not clear about what I need to do in a physically or practical way, but at least I already established the direction of my research. I will develop it through this semester. Through this semester, I need to prepare my materials, explore the technology, resolve problems in technology and constantly refine the artistic content.

Recently, I read a book, Picture and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings, by SAIC professor and art historian James Elkins. This books introduces why people cry in front of paintings. Although crying in front of a painting may be a “weird” experience for some, whichever part drives people to weep, they definitely be touched by personal experience, memory or encounters and shocked by the artwork. They may feel sad or excited, or they may feel they have been placed in a special environment and encounter a sort of new sense that they have never felt before. That’s my goal. It is a big goal, but I try to make something stimulating, powerful and thought-provoking, whatever through the visual content, interactive experiences or the space itself.

Similarly, artist Tatsuo Miyajima, who is a contemporary installation artist who has made many digital art installations. He always employs massive spaces to display his installations and presents infinite environments for audiences. Miyajima likes to use LED components as his screen and use large digital number as his main visual elements. These vast LED lights are installed on huge, flat wall without any other light sources, and diffuse the blue light which creates a mysterious an tight environment. I have been the spatial installation in UCCA in Beijing; Inside, I felt like surrounded by the digital elements, as if go in to a cyber and virtual world. Despite my attraction to the powerful environment, I felt uncomfortable with my eyes and after I had stayed in the space for a while, I felt fearful and nervous.

In addition, Jim Campbell also greatly inspired me a lot, especially in visual and interaction aspects. He is a pioneer artist of new media art, who has recently created many interactive light installations. His work always consists of bulbs and the bulbs arrays in cubic shapes like a screen, and the video on it is presented as a blur moving images, which looks emanational and touching in some way. I will try to use this method to present my video material, but I might not use the exact same form of LED screens. Campell’s concept just made me open my mind that anything could be my screen including velvet, LEDs, or even some natural things or new materials. I think these explorations might create new visual effects that have not ever seen it before; I need to explore materials further.

In term of interaction, I am fascinated with some interactive tools, such as web-cameras, sampling sound and video in real-time, and using tracking tools to make trails when people pass by in front of installation. I think I will work more on the technological aspects and find the most suitable approach to accurately convey my concept.

I am most inspired by Elke Reinhuber, a German artist who use panoramic screens to present her AR video work. I do like the immersive spaces and how she uses new technology to make the environment more immersive. Panoramic screen create 360° environment which can form a complete visual space and totally immerse the viewers in the stimulated world without interruptions.

In last semester, I have introduced another artist, Camille Utterback who made a landscape piece and employed bodies to change the video through walking pass the screen. I might use a similar method to make an interactive effect in front of my installation wall. Viewers may walk parallel to it from left to right and their bodies can be a reader and writer of the landscape. They leave their portraits behind which blend together with other in a mix of multiple, time-based layers.