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SIAT graduate student exhibits interactive art installation at the 13th Shanghai Biennale

April 12, 2021
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By Clare Slipiec

School of Interactive Arts & Technology Master of Science student Pinyao Liu’s art installation Breath of Light was recently featured at the 13th Shanghai Biennale.

The Biennale, which took place this year from March 5th-21st, is a high-profile contemporary art exhibition in Shanghai, China which takes place every two years. The event, hosted by Shanghai contemporary art museum Power Station of Art, provides an opportunity for artists and curators from around the world to exhibit their art and share design ideas.

Due to the pandemic, the biennale had an extended timeframe and reservation system. All visitors had their temperature taken before entering and had to present their registered health code connected to a health-tracking app that verified users' recent travel history to document possible exposure to COVID-19.

Liu's current research interests involve interaction design in extended reality (XR) and employing technology as a medium to create meaningful experiences. His Breath of Light installation applies this research philosophy by aiming to foster a feeling of connection and awareness through the process of breathing synchronization.

In the Breath of Light installation, two participants can generate their own light with their breath. Sound sensors send the signal data into a custom algorithm which drives fluid particles in real-time. The participants’ breaths are then synchronised and a ripple of light is generated along with ethereal ambient sounds.

When breathing starts, the Breath of Light installation awakens and the gallery is transformed into a communal meditative space.

The inspiration for the installation came from Liu's first lab meeting at the iSpace Lab where Liu is currently completing his Master of Science under the supervision of SIAT professor Bernhard Riecke.

Liu and his fellow students and colleagues participated in a two minute group meditation activity where they closed their eyes and focused on their own and each other's breathing. 

"I felt deeply connected with my labmates despite it being my first time meeting everyone," says Liu. "From that moment I started to think about how we could leverage technology to cultivate and magnify this feeling of connection through a shared breathing experience."

In the future, Liu hopes to continue to use technology to create trans­for­ma­tive experiences that help people become more con­nected with them­selves, each other, and the world around them.

"It’s been very encouraging and fulfilling to see my work have a real impact and help to form meaningful connections between people," says Liu of the installation.

Learn more about Pinyao Liu's research here.