PERCEIVING…:Kaixin Li

 

ASN MA DEGREE SHOWS

 

Growing up in China, and spending most of my academic career studying and working with architecture in Shanghai, where is known as a ‘concrete forest’ city. The fast-growing urbanization and civilization changes in China and Chinese ancient philosophy has established my original perspective of the world. As a trained architect in China, my main focus is the intermedia to technology, society influence and globality.

Since arriving in Scotland, my perspective has been changed by the landscape and cultural of this society compared to what it is like in China. I explored new methodology and ontological reflection from observation of the foreign Scotland landscape and ­research of nature. The conflict between man-made world and natural world underlies my practice.

 

Zi Ran (Nature)

 

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Lao zi: Reversion is the action of Tao. Reversion of what? Civilization. Then Zi Ran develops into an iconoclastic social idea called Wu Wei: non-action. The term non-action does not mean inactivity but rather ‘taking no action that is contrary to nature. [1]

Living in the concrete forest for 6 years, I’m familiar with how fast humans use concrete to civilise the man-made land. The philosophy of Taoism and the reality forms a significant distinction. According to Tao, any slight accumulation of man-made civilization constitutes a serious encumbrance to the freedom of spirit. The philosophy of life always exists in micro things. You can see the whole world from a flower. [2] The secret of the universe exists in a normal flower. Time and space can be eternity and infinity when you started to slow down and value a grain of sand or a wild flower. To us, a flower is normal, however, it can be the heaven for bees. Different creatures seem to have different scale of life in terms of life expectancy. While considering of the cycle of life and death, all the lives are infinite cycle. The scale of world and the time are always involved in ancient Chinese philosophy.

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In Zi Ran, further research suggest of human’s influence on the earth has affected nature over time. Having worked with architecture previously, I discovered the importance of concrete is to building our human empire. Concrete makes our structure of buildings fundamental. The globalized urbanization made concrete a worldwide material, however with this comes its drawbacks due to the proven fact of producing large amount of carbon emission. We took actions to the nature and we can’t stop it now. ‘Human enterprises’ is the main cause that has driven ‘dramatic acceleration’ along with social, economic, and environmental factors over the past two centuries. The work is keen to present another perspective to see the world, slowing down in this accelerating urbanized world and finding the answer from the normal element around you.

 

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Zi Ran creates a dialogue between Man-made world to natural world. The poetic sentence ‘You can see the whole world from a flower’ was exhibited by letter press, which is a process of slowing down, getting along with yourself, that requires practicing and attention to details. Along with it, a cracked concrete slab with flowers growing in between it. The cracked concrete is based on the reality of the abandoned city of Pripyat. It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against wildlife it has also turned them against the earth. [3] The contrast between the fragility of flower and fractured concrete shows the current reality. Whether the flower will survive from the tough condition, left by humans, is unpredictable.

 

The delicate letter press of Chinese ancient saying and the cracked concrete slab are exhibited together on the wall, expressing how humans ideology towards nature shifted through time. Exhibiting concrete slab on the wall as a canvas painting, it also provides audience a different way to see this commonly-used material as well as our current world.

What will the future be? The work left an open ending to all these questions.

There is room to argue about the relative importance of contingency in the history of life, which remains a controversial subject today. However, Gould’s insight that we can hardly foreshadow the success of modern lineages beyond a future extinction is a humbling reminder of the complexity of evolutionary transitions. [4]

 

BLACKHOUSE BY CODING

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The first research field trip was to the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, where locates in the northwest of Scotland, the main island in the Outer Hebrides. Isle of Lewis has the ancient Scottish landscape, architecture, language and culture. While those are facing extinction meanwhile because of the cultural assimilation and urbanization, this is an issue all over the world due to globalization. Time is a creator. It created the man-made world after human. Creating a dialogue to the past with the modern technology becomes the intention to response to the traditional Scottish island.

Blackhouse [tigh Dubh], double thickness walls and thatched roof, was the main architectural style in Scotland before 1850. The traditional thatched houses once sheltered families and their animals under the same roof. It’s a record of a unique insight into island life. While blackhouse are abandoned after people started using single thickness wall whitehouse [tigh geal], which is more modern and separate the livestock in in separate dwellings.

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To develop a further understanding of the place identity and history, I picked blackhouse as a message showing the influence of modern technology to the past tradition. I still remember my passion after hearing my architecture tutor told us ‘Architects shapes the world’ in the first lesson. Seeing the disappearing and abandoned blackhouse in the isle of Lewis, as well as human losing their traditions, I start to rethink about the ’shape the world’. With the help of technology, we easily build our man-made world. I wonder how man-made production changes the world and if the world after shaping with technologies only adds convenience and efficiency compared to the natural world.

I used the Arduino drawing machines to draw the element of blackhouse. Driven by the code, the machine can draw the lines accurate and fast.

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In doing this, there are limitations. The machine cannot lift the pen so it has to connect two singular lines when it’s not continuous. This is an interaction between technological innovation and historical domain. The present implicates past and future. The symbol of aging building and the speeding machine are put together, exhibiting the drawings of blackhouse and the codes that drives the machine, it forms a dialogue between the past and the future. Will the retelling of the blackhouse by Arduino evoke your nostalgia?

‘When the camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image.’— Berger J(2008)

The reproduction by machines make all fast wide spread, however, it is destroying the unique identity.

 

Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing shares how our perspectives towards nature has changed in regards to different position.

The use of Sphagnum moss, has its significance in history as a reminder that it healed the wounds of thousands in World War I. More importantly, the plant itself growing and decaying at the same time, are key species on peatlands as their unique properties actually drive the formation of peat. Peatlands are a type of wetlands which are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, as well as the largest natural terrestrial carbon store.[5] If the peatlands are damaged, they will become a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

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I was inspired by the different views of moss when exploring the Blackwood forest. During daylight, moss appeared especially fresh and bright with the reflection of sunshine that drew most of my attention. When I walked closer, I found that the root were rotting and turned dark red. It forms a huge contract with my first observation. I became particularly interested in that what we see from the appearance is not everything behind it. Our perspectives can be influenced by the ways of seeing it.

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Ways of Seeing is the work combined with Arduino and processing coding technology, when people walking slowly towards the screen, the image gets blurred/ unblurred and the image changing as well. Audience can see different views when they change their position.

Showing the nature fragility and impermanence, the blurring is changed in response to viewers’ bodily presence. The interaction offers a reminder that the seemingly intangible digital world is anchored in the earthly realm. It leads us to think about how human beings should see the world and the relationship between us and nature.

 

Virtual Future

Virtual Future was exhibited in Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation. I was driven by the different perspective to climate change as a Chinese individual. In China, most social media are talking about economic growth rather than the environmental issue and carbon emission problems. Seeing the trash classification and all the environmental protest for the first time here in Edinburgh, I was impressed by people’s concern of protecting the environment. After dozens of interviews with Chinese people on their recognition of the current situation regarding to the planet environmental safety, I realized they are still quite optimistic about the climate change and more concerned about luxury product than environment.

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Human plays an intelligent role during the earth evolution; we invent and create technology, machines and new materials to make our lives easier and solve problems. I designed a product for future, Eco Dome, which can solve our future problems caused by carbon emission. Furthermore, it offers different luxury brand options for people preference.

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Research on the consequence of excessive carbon emission is made to response the function of Eco Dome- the fictitious product for the imagination of human’s evolution after we destroyed the earth. The bilingual poster of the advertising is designed with different options of brand. It is a speculation on how climate change will affect product design, as well as a virtual future after the result of human shaping the world without a restriction.

 

 

References

  1. Tazi N. Keywords: Nature[J]. Cape Town: Double Storey, 2005.
  2. Buddhist scriptures[M]. Penguin, 1959.
  3. Carson R. Silent spring[M]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002.
  4. Gould S J. Wonderful life: The Burgess Shale and the nature of history[M]. WW Norton & Company, 1990.
  5. IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) (2017). Peatlands and climate change https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/peatlands-and-climate-change

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