Impermanent Zen Garden · 无常禅园

Read More

本文中文版链接 (Chinese version):

Impermanent Zen Garden contrasts the Buddhist idea of impermanence with the principle of mindfulness meditation. Zen practitioners believe that through mindful observation one can gain wisdom. Therefore, Zen gardens were built around the world to provide serene environments for meditators to focus their minds.

However, in this Impermanent Zen Garden, almost every aspect of the environment is constantly changing. Once the meditator focuses their mind on any object in the meditation room or in the garden, they will notice the moving mountains on the doors, the floating clouds on the walls, the smoke being blown on the ceiling, the water permeating through the tatami, the water stains coming and going on the garden walls, the touring glosses on the rocks, the traveling ripples on the sand, and the blinking stars in the night-sky. Not any two moments are identical, so that it seems impossible to fully observe any moment.

Therefore, the dilemma is thrown to the audience, and the decision is up to them to make. Are you going to concede that the world is ultimately agnostic, or are you determined to embrace each and every present moment in this impermanent world?

Impermanent Zen Garden is a dynamic environment made with Unity. The ever-changing contents are generated in real time using custom shader programs.

Shan Shui in the World · 世间山水

Read More

本文中文版链接 (Chinese version):

Shan Shui in the World presents shanshui (山水, landscape) paintings of selected places in the world generated by a computational process based on geography-related information.

This project revisits the ideas implicit in Chinese literati paintings of shan shui: the relationship between urban life and people’s yearning for the nature, and between social responsibility and spiritual purity. For an audience living in an urban area, a traditional shanshui painting provides them with spiritual support through the depiction of the natural scene of elsewhere. With generative technology, however, Shan Shui in the World has the ability to represent any place in the world—including the city where the audience is—in the form of a shanshui painting based on geography-related information of the place.

The notion that shan shui can exist right here (though in a generative parallel world) not only underscores the contrast between the artificial world and nature, but also reminds the audience of an alternative approach to spiritual strength: instead of resorting to the shan shui of elsewhere, we may be able to obtain inner peace from the “shan shui” of our present location by looking inward.

The Generative Process

In this first production of Shan Shui in the World, the shan shui of Manhattan, New York is generated based on its building information. The generative engine was written in C++ with use of creative coding toolkit openFrameworks. The code that renders the shanshui painting was written in OpenGL Shading Language as fragment shaders.

Height and area of the buildings in Manhattan, New York plotted according to their location.

Adjacent buildings merged into mountains, indicated by colors.

Outline of the mountains generated based on building information.

Mountains rendered in the style of ink-wash painting.

Mountains rendered in the style of blue-green shan shui.


The generative shanshui paintings were printed and framed into traditional Chinese scroll paintings, and inscribed and sealed by hand.

A partially unfurled handscroll, together with a furled one in a samite box.

Details of a scroll painting.

Two seals and their imprints, together with red ink and a carving knife.

Generative Shanshui Paintings

Scroll of Shan Shui in Manhattan, New York. 2016. Handscroll. Ink on paper. (192 × 12 inch) Scroll left to see the whole painting.

Downtown Manhattan, New York, High Distance. 2016. Hanging scroll. Ink on paper. (24 × 55 inch)

Uptown Manhattan, New York, Level Distance. 2016. Hanging scroll. Ink on paper. (24 × 55 inch)

Scroll of Blue-green Shan Shui in Manhattan, New York. 2016. Handscroll. Ink and colors on silk. (178 × 12 inch) Scroll left to see the whole painting.

Blue-green Downtown Manhattan, New York, High Distance. 2016. Hanging scroll. Ink and colors on silk. (24 × 55 inch)

Blue-green Uptown Manhattan, New York, Level Distance. 2016. Hanging scroll. Ink and colors on silk. (24 × 55 inch)

Scroll of Blue-green Shan Shui in Baltimore. 2016. Hanging scroll. Ink and colors on silk. (20 × 55 inch)



(Credits: The geographical data used by Shan Shui in the World is from © OpenStreetMap contributors, Who’s On First, Natural Earth, and through Mapzen.)

Observe the Heart · 观心

Read More

The video above shows a technical prototype for Observe the Heart.

If you ask a Zen master how to meditate, he might answer you, "Observe the heart." But the heart is so abstract to imagine, not even to mention observation. Observe the Heart is an artistic attempt to represent the meditator's mental state, generating visuals and sounds based on realtime brainwave input. The generative visuals are projected back onto the meditator, transforming the introspective meditation into an observable performance, in a sense.

There is more to tell about the concept. While third-party audiences can watch and hear one's meditation, the meditator themselves couldn't experience the generative contents in real time (given that they close their eyes during the meditation, and may even wear earplugs to block the sound). It is then questionable who is this meditation for. Moreover, the meditator will nonetheless be curious about how their meditation looks and sounds like, and this mental activity will be captured by the brainwave sensor and be reflected by the generative output. Therefore, it could make it even harder for the meditator to really "observe the heart".

The experience is designed to be installed in a dark room. The meditator sits in the center of the ground, with a projector projecting the generative visuals onto them. The audiences watch the meditation from above in order to get a better view. In this demonstrative production, a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG headset is used to sense the meditator's brainwave. An openFrameworks application analyses the brainwave signal, and drives a GLSL fragment shader to render the generative visuals, and a Max patch to generate the sound. The generative approaches could be enriched for better output in future productions.

Shan Shui on the Empire State Building

Read More

Shan Shui on the Empire State Building is a proposal of presenting Chinese shanshui paintings on the facade of skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building use projection mapping technique. In the demonstrative mockup video above, the projection is on a large print of a photo of the Empire State Building and other buildings in New York. The shanshui painting projected is painted by renowned contemporary painter Li Keran (李可染, 1907–1989).

Shanshui painting depicts natural scenes in a semi-abstracted purified way. Behind this very spiritual art form are the naturalistic ideology of the Chinese and their thinking about the relationship between urban life and people's yearning for nature. Imposing the depictions of the natural scenes directly onto skyscrapers—the symbol of urban life and the artificial world—makes a dramatic contrast between the two. Shan shui on the Empire State Building not only is an spectacle to watch, but also provokes the audience's awareness and consideration about this relationship.

(Shan shui on the Empire State Building is a collaboration between SHI Weili and Lisa MARKS. Shanshui painting credit: LI Keran. Photo credit: Daniel SCHWEN, Empire State Building as seen from Top of the Rock. Music credit: QIAO Shan, Flowing Water.)

Willow and Flowers · 柳暗花明

Read More

(The game can only be played on a computer with a web browser other than Chrome.)

Willow and Flowers is a poetic interactive experience of reaching one's goal after hitting dead ends, turning back and find alternative paths.

The name of the project comes from a famous line by the great Chinese poet Lu You, which translates as: "After endless mountains and rivers that leave doubt whether there is a path out, suddenly one encounters the shade of a willow, bright flowers and a lovely village."

Willow and Flowers is a web game made with Unity.


  • Click the game scene to have control.
  • Use the mouse the look around.
  • Use the arrow keys to move.
  • Try to find a way to the open end of the scene (indicated by the floating red arrow).

(Music Credit: Lost by Capozio.)

Shader Odyssey

Read More

A tribute to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece, Shader Odyssey is a two-minute movie entirely done in one fragment shader, which is a kind of program that runs on the GPU (graphics processing unit) of the computer. All the graphics are computer-generated in real time — no 3D modeling or pre-rendered texture is used. The blending and timing are done in the shader as well.

One of the characteristics of shader programs is that in each frame, the color of all the pixels are computed in parallel (simultaneously), which makes it feasible (not computation-heavy) to scale the canvas and duplicate the content to a great degree. That's one of the reason why this movie includes so many repeating patterns—by duplicating things, I also want to evoke a feeling from the audience about how tiny and insignificant we human-beings are in front of the cosmos.

The original shader code can be accessed via GitHub.

(Music credit: The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2002.)

DT Emotions

Read More

Have you ever taken a close look at your friends' daily face expressions? It should be fun to do so! In this video, emotions of MFA Design and Technology students during the Red Bull Design Jam in September 2014 are magnified by slow-motion shooting and accompanied by hilarious music. How interesting it is to look at familiar things happening just on a different time scale.

(Cinematography: WANG Luobin. Video Editing and Sound Design: SHI Weili. Thanks for all the DT friends who showed their emotions in the video!)

WAKE-UP CALLS: Online Exhibition of Space-modification Arts

Read More

Visit the exhibition:

WAKE-UP CALLS is an online exhibition of artworks which have the potential to stir up people’s neglected sensation, consideration and imagination of space. Spacial consciousness had once been so vital to our ancestors when the human species was spending its childhood in the wilds, and has been largely forgotten because we now spend most of our lifetime in regular-shaped artificial boxes. Are you as curious, brave and excited about your life as the child you once were? Are you still well connected to the world by persistently looking out from your headspace? The selected artworks in this exhibition could be wake-up calls for the audience’s spacial consciousness through revealing the wonders of various alternative spaces.

A total of 50 works of space modification art are shown in this exhibition. They are all explicitly created for artistic purposes—no pragmatic works, such as architecture, are included. All the selected artworks should make modification to the actual space—they can be installations which physically occupy (and modify) the space, or paintings which make virtual modifications to the space, but cannot be a painting which depicts a modified space without having a strong connection with the physical space in which itself resides.

One unique feature of this exhibition is its categorization of artworks according to each piece’s approaches to space modification. By using the word “approach” here, we don’t mean the technologies involved in making the modification—such as lighting, projection mapping, anamorphosis, etc. They are not the main interest of this exhibition, because we believe that the artist’s mind should not be too tool-oriented. Furthermore, with similar technologies, drastically different artworks could be made—this makes the comparison among the works less feasible. Instead, by using the word “approach”, we mean that we categorize the artworks according to the perceived changes in the modified space, that is, the first level of effect the space modification creates on the audience. This categorization indicates the general direction the artwork heads for; and beyond this first level of impression, various resonating effects can arise in the mind of the audience , which makes the comparison within the category interesting, meaningful and fruitful.

The approaches used in the categorization are listed below, with a brief explanation to each:

  • Augmented Depth: Making the dimension of the space larger than it actually is, usually by indicating additional space which is outside of and connected to the physical one.
  • Intruding Otherness: Basically the reverse of augmented depth. Introducing things from without the modified space, which changes the contour of the latter.
  • Empty Fullness: Filling the space with very little material. Often used together with intruding otherness.
  • Dimensional Contrast: Intriguing the audience’s perception of scale by stressing the contrast of dimension between different elements within the space, or between the space and the audience.
  • Distortion: Alternating the form of the space to generate unevenness with it, either physically or visually.
  • Displacement: Placing objects or the audience to an unconventional location, in order to reveal a new point of view or create alienness.
  • Alternative Texture: Intriguing the audience’s sense of touch by emphasizing a tactile material or imposing an alternative texture onto the space. Often used together with empty fullness.
  • Instability: Indicating the potential to change by emphasizing seemingly unstable elements in space.
  • Performative Space: Revealing time-based multimedia content to the audience.

The completeness of the above categorization has been examined in making this exhibition—every selected artwork falls into at least one category. A majority of the works actually fall into more than one categories, which makes it interesting to consider the relation among these space modification approaches. The audience need to be aware that the number of approaches an artwork involves does not indicate its level of sophistication by any means, and that the categorization of the artworks in the exhibition is inevitably subjective and can only be used for reference. Nonetheless, the categorization and comparison of a relatively large amount of artworks in the domain of space modification is intriguing and should provide insights and inspirations to both the audience and the artists interested in this field.

Oculi: A Show of Alternative Spaces

Read More

腾讯视频链接 (video link for visitors in China):

Long after our farewells to the forest, the savannah and the cave, the homo sapiens are so accustomed to living in human-scaled cube-shaped white boxes. Having been interacting with this kind of space since birth, we take our boxed life for granted. We tend to not take much consideration of other forms of space, and even neglect our consciousness of space most of the time.

Oculi aims to wake up the audience’s sense of space. Being presented within an apartment, it consists of six installations under the name of oculus. Through the use of projection mapping, each oculus brings the image of a poetic alternative space into the exhibition venue, superimposing it onto the physical space of the apartment. These shape, scale or location alternations, in contrast to the otherwise ordinary living environment, evoke the audience’s nostalgia for their forgotten sensation and imagination of space.

Greetings, Kung-fu Masters!

Read More

This 30-second piece depicts a friendly exchange of martial arts techniques between two kung-fu masters—Master Lee and Master Chen—entirely using sound. They started by greeting each other, and then demonstrated their recently learned techniques respectively. Eventually they got into the real fight, which ended with a strong final hit and mutual compliments.

Studio recording of the masters' voice and shoutings was mixed with sound effects (air friction, hits, footsteps and explosion) and background music. Panning automation was used to bring about a sense of movement across space. The slower pace at the beginning helps to highlight the fast and dense climax. The overall rhythm was kept lighthearted in accord with the friendly mood of this kung-fu exchange. The recording and editing was done using Pro Tools.

(Special Thanks to Ralph MOREAU for contributing the voice of Master Lee. Music credit: YU Lingling, Ambush from Ten Sides.)