Ruga Lumina at Detroit Center for Design + Technology, Detroit, Michigan

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Ruga Lumina, 2017, Coroplast, Video Projection, Digital Sensor, Detroit Center for Design + Technology, Detroit, Michigan. Photography by Kyle Overton

Ruga Lumina, an ongoing design research project, is part of my solo show, Jiangmei Wu: Folding into Rhythm and Algorithm, that was on display From January 10, 2017, to February 10, 2017, at Detroit Center for Design + Technology in Detroit, Michigan. There was a closing on February 10, 2017. As part of the solo exhibition, I spoke at School of Architecture and Planning at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan on January 12, 2017, at 4:00 pm.

In Ruga Lumina, the latest iteration of  Ruga Interior Skin, interactive digital projection techniques are used to actively engage body-space relationship. As the viewers move in the space, their movements are captured by the Kinect Sensors and the information is translated into color changing information in the digital projections to be projected onto the translucent interior skin that is fabricated from 4 mm Coroplast sheets. A scaffolding that was made of cardboard and wooden rods was used to frame the somewhat flexible topology of the interior skin to facilitate the positioning and connecting of over seventy individual panels. Since the folding mechanism in each of the Coroplast panel is a flexible hinge joint, the edges of the interior skin are reinforced with fixed braces to give rigidity to this otherwise flexible topology.  Both flexible and rigid,  the interactive interior skin draws the connection between the body and the interior space, placing the dichotomy of permanent vs. ephemeral, solid vs. light, and materiality vs. digital fabrication at the center of the concept.

Acknowledgment: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and Center of Arts and Humanities Institute Fellowship, Indiana University. The artist will also like to credit Kyle Overton for his work on interaction technology.

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Ruga Lumina 2017, Detroit Center for Design + Technolgy. Photography by Kyle Overton

 

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Ruga Lumina, 2017, Detroit Center for Design + Technology. Photography by Kyle Overton

 

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Ruga Lumina, 2017, Detroit Center for Design + Technology. Photography by Kyle Overton
Ruga Interior Skin at DCTC
Ruga Lumina 2017, Detroit Center for Design + Technology. Photography by Manzi Yang
Ruga Lumina, 2017, Detroit Center for Design and Technology. Photography by ManziYang

Video of Ruga Lumina deconstruction made of still photography. Photography by Joseph Caputo

Paper Folding Workshop at College of Architecture and Design, Lawrence Technological University

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Folding a piece of paper can be simple and doesn’t require any sophisticated tools. I often tell the students who participate my workshop that paper folding can do a lot more than computer CAD modeling. Since paper folding is unstable and flexible, manipulation of the paper surface to achieve depth and volume is dynamic. The fold stores kinetic energy, which allows the folded form to contract and unfurl. It can then be balanced, connected, hinged, suspended, pulled and popped up to alternate states of disequilibrium and equilibrium. Paper folding is unforgiving and honest. A folded form embeds the memory of a series of actions of scoring, creasing, twisting, wrapping, pressing, bending and folding. Unfolding folded paper reveals a patterned map of creating and generating. Paper folding is generative and evolving. It is difficult to describe an abstract folded form through its visual characteristics. Paper folding is improvisational and unpredictable. A simple fold has many possibilities and can generate many visual results, and it can only be discovered by folding.

About twenty students from the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University participated the workshop. The workshop was conducted in the gallery The students are from Interior Design, Architecture and other programs.

I often begin my process using a step-by-step procedure, or algorithm, first by hand only. I demonstrated this technique to the students.  They started by folding smaller pieces of square paper into simple designs, and they then repeated the same steps for a multiple of times to create repetitions of these simple designs. And finally, they worked on connecting the folded pieces to create a larger form. The students learned that small seeds can be compounded and aggregated to create something that is a lot of complex than the original simple design.

 

Folded Light in Beginning Interior Architecture Studio

fullsizerender-1_editedIn my Beginning Interior Architecture Studio in Fall 2016, co-caught with Jei Kim and Jon Racek, the first year design students were asked to use paper folding design methodology to understand basic design  principles, such as unity, repetition, symmetry, contrast, etc. They were also asked to use the assembly and construction process in paper folding to produce a small scale light sculpture. The project was divided into three cohesive small parts that serve as scaffolds for the students. Prior to this project, majority of students had never folded before and had never made any design objects. Therefore learning scaffolds were necessary.

In the first part, the students were asked to create small units of paper folds from pieces of small square paper based on simple line draws they made using straight edges and compasses. They were asked to explore these pattern in both bilateral and quadrant symmetries. They were given a couple of examples learn about how to assign mountain and valley folds to the lines patterns and then they were asked to turn their own line patterns into crease patterns by exploring various ways of folding and cutting by hands. The students were intimated at first as they were not comfortable working with their hands. They soon gained confidences when they observed how flat pieces of square paper changed into something that had sculptural depths.

In the second part, the students were asked to connect at least eight units of their paper folds together. The goal was to generate somewhat seamless designs. Students were taught to connect the units by using ways to make symmetric pattern in plane, such as translation, rotation, reflection, glide-reflection. They were also taught to use polyhedron geometry to connect the units into spherical volumes. They studied platonic solids such as icosahedron and dodecahedron, Archimedean solids such as cuboctahedron and rhombicuboctahedrons, as well as Catalan solids such as rhombic dodecahedron and rhombic triacontahedron.

In the last part, the students were asked to add more units to create a volumetric paper sculpture. They were graded on the craftsmanship and the final lighted presentation. Many of the students turned in interesting works. Most students did a good job creating their units design, however, they had more difficulty connecting the units together to generate structure volumes.

Special thanks to Noelle Zeichner, Abigail Stawick, Julia Gilstrap and Yuning Ding for providing some of the pictures shown in this blog. For my Folded Light Art brand, please visit www.foldedlightart.com.

Algorithemic Artistry: Washi Light Installation, Ozu Washi,Tokyo

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Exhibition poster featuring Jiangmei Wu’s Eurus at Ozu Washi in Tokyo

Collaborating with Koji Shibazaki, professor of Aichi University of Arts, and Mikako Suzuki, Japnese master in foil painting, I exhibited at the prestigious Ozu Washi gallery in Nihonbashi, Tokyo in July 2017. Ozu Washi paper store/museum has been making and selling paper since the early 17th century. Today, the store/museum is world famous for its handmade paper and vast collection paper related art and design.

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Ozu Washi Store/Museum in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Source: http://www.ozuwashi.net

The exhibition was sponsored by Aichi University of Arts. About 1300 beautiful designed postcards were printed and distributed in Nagoya and Tokyo areas. Hundreds of visitors came to the exhibition. The exhibition was truly a collaborative effort. Three large scale foil painting tapestries, measuring as big as 3′ by 7′, were made from the Washi paper that was hand-made and silver and gold foil painted in Aichi University of Arts. I also exhibited my latest folded light art collection as well as the award-winning Eurus. Special thanks to Koji Shibazaki, Mikako Suzuki and Sachiko Shibazaki. Without you, the exhibition would be impossible!!!

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1300 postcards were printed. Postcard designed by Koji Shibazaki with custom typeface
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A view of the exhibition. Photo courtesy of Sachiko Shibazaki
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A view of the exhibition. Photo courtesy of Sachiko Shibazaki
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Exhbition entrance
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A display at Ozu Washi
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A view of the exhibition. Photo courtesy of Sachiko Shibazaki

Engaging body-space relationship: making of an interactive interior skin

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A prototype of To Feel the Space. Photo courtesy of Kyle Overton

Citation: Wu, J. (2016). Engaging body-spacer relationship: Making of an interactive interior skin, IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Fall 2016

Link to PDF

There is an increasing interest in interior design theory that focuses on understanding interior spaces as both the specifics of objects and environments within the interior and the subjects who experience them through their bodily presence. If a theory of interiority cannot simply be characterized by reference to qualities such as walls, ceilings and floors in a Cartesian space and by the objects and finishing contained in it, and we wish to engage physical and psychological body-space relationships as well, then what are some new spatial expressions that can affect our perception of space? What is our perception of a space? What does it mean to feel a space? According to Gestalt psychology, when we enter an interior space, what is first and immediately perceived is neither the subjective sensation nor shapes, colors, or objects, but rather, atmosphere. German philosopher, Gernot Böhme, in his seminal work, Atmosphere as The Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics, articulated the interrelationship between the subjects and objects in atmospheric space. According to Böhme, atmospheres are neither something object nor something subject. Instead, atmospheres are both object-like, articulating their presence through qualities, and at the same time subject-like, presenting a bodily state of being of subjects in space.

Human skin is the interface between the body and world: it is our outermost organ that protects our physical bodies, it is sensuous to touch and constantly gives us information about our surroundings. In design history the concept of ‘skin’ has been used as a site for rich metaphors referring to the clothing that wraps around the body or the building walls that enclose and protect our body. In fact, ‘second skin’ is often used as a metaphor for clothing or fashion while ‘third skin’ is often used as a metaphor for architectural cladding and surface interiority. An architectural skin, referred to generically as the boundary between indoor and outdoor, has to negotiate with both exterior and interior presences. In contrast, interior skin, mediated by architectural skin, can be understood as a series of layers demarcating various interior enclosures: inside and outside demarcation is erased and dichotomy becomes relevant only to the presence of the body.

Directly borrowing from the metaphor of human skin, this art installation To Feel the Space, is a full scale interactive interior skin that is produced by using folded plastic corrugation boards and digital technologies. It attempts to explore the potential object-like and subject-like expression of interior atmosphere by focusing on the ephemeral status between subject and object and capturing the fleeting moments of body-space experience. Situated within a large public space, for example, an exhibition hall, the form of the interior skin, digitally fabricated from folded plates is not the result of the design generated from a specific program, but the result of parameterizing the dome-like structure to the bodily dimensions and movement. The interior skin, as the object in space, actively engages with the subjects as they walk into the exhibition space. Digital cameras capture the colors palettes from the clothing people wear in space and add the live color information to a database to be live project-mapped onto the interior skin. As the people move closer to and within the interior skin, the additional digital cameras will capture people’s movements in space and allow for the interactive plays between the bodies and the space. When people move outside of the interior skin and the exhibition hall, they will leave their color information behind in the space and therefore the space is present with the traces of bodies even if the bodies are absent in space. As a result, the atmosphere is neither objective nor subjective, but infused with the fleeting interplay between the object and the subject that is felt through the body and met with the eyes.

Acknowledgement: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and Center of Arts and Humanities Institute Fellowship, Indiana University. The author would like to thank Kyle Overton for working on aspects of the interactive technology.

Upcoming Exhibition: Light Harvest

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A photograph of one of the three chains of Light Harvesting Complex. Photo courtesy of Kyle Overton

Light Harvest will be part of a group exhibit, (Re)imagining Science at Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University. It is also part of Themester 2016 exhibitions that is centered on the theme of Beauty. The show opens on Oct 14th 2016.

This project is inspired by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s work on form and growth and the structural biology. In 1917, Thompson first published his magnum opus “On Growth and Form,” with a second edition appeared in 1942. Thompson studied the system of forms and structures found in all species of nature. He was the first bio-mathematician who used mathematical and geometric analysis to study the myriad living forms as a product of dynamics at work at cellular and tissue level within all organisms. For Thompson, the beautiful world we live in can be understood as an ethereal palpitation of waves of energy making up all things. Thompson’s book has inspired generations of artists and designs in search of beauty found in natural structures that reach into vastness and smallness beyond our human sensory range.

Proteins are essential to all forms of life on earth. Without proteins there would be no life as we know it. Proteins are small molecular machines with unique folding structures. Their various functions rely on their proper structural architecture; this is called the structure-functional relationship. Protein structures cannot be seen with the naked eye, therefore structural biologists use X-ray Crystallography to determine the structure of proteins, which can be visualized in 3D. This allows not just analyzing the folding structure to understand a protein’s function; it also reveals the beauty of nature’s design on the atomic level.

The particular protein that is presented in Light Harvest is called Light Harvesting Complex, which is the solar sail of the photosynthesis components in plants and some micro-organisms that uses bundled sunlight and together with water to create sugar and oxygen, thus providing the basis for life on this planet. It is made of three amino acid chains with 207 amino acids in each of the chains. Computer algorithm-based program Grasshopper was used to create the scaffolding of the three-dimensional protein chain. 642 pieces of roll out patterns, of which 207 were unique, were laser-cut and etched at Noblitt Fabricating in Columbus Indiana and were hand-folded and assembled at my studio at Smith Research Center. The material is high-tec kozo, a type of Japanese-made paper that comes from renewable mulberry trees.

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Layout of three canopies of Light Harvest at Smith Research Center

Video projection mapping technologies will be used to bring the light, colors, and the interactivity to live. For the artistic meanings and the science behind Light Harvest, please come to the show on Oct 14th and make sure to check out www.foldedlightart.com for more information.

Acknowledgement: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and the Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Project Credits: 

  • Science: Susanne Ressl (Assistant Professor, Structural Biology, Indiana University)
  • Technology: Kyle Overton (Ph.D. student, HCID, Indiana University)
  • Fabrication: Steve Dixon (Noblitt Fabricating, Columbus, Indiana)
  • Production: Siqiao Gao (Undergraduate student, Interior Design, Indiana University)

 

Gold and Silver Foil Painting with Mikako Suzuki

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Gold and silver foiling painting is a very special traditional Japanese art form. One of the masters in foil painting is Mikako Suzuki. A graduate of Aichi University of Arts, Ms Suzuki has been practicing foil painting in her studio in Nagoya for almost of a decade. I was very fortunate again to learn the technique from her during my visit to Aichi University of Arts in the summer of 2016.

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Detail of Mikako Suzuki’s gold foil painting

Before I arrived at Aichi, I designed a set of abstract and generative diagrams for the making foil prints on hand-made Washi paper. The first step of gold and silver foil painting was to use silk printing technique to print a very thin layer of Nori, or Japanese paper glue, to the Washi paper. A small amount of yellow oil paint was added to the Nori so that the original pattern would be visible after silk screen printing. The next step involved transferring a foil sheet and layering it on top of the silk screen printed sheet, a process turned out to be a lot more difficult than I imagined.

A pack of silver foil of 50 pieces usually costs over $100. Comparing to silver foils, gold foils are a lot more expensive and precious, often costing twice as much. Separating a single piece of foil sheet and picking it up without breaking or tearing it required very special tools and very soft and steady hands. Ms Suzuki uses sets of bamboo tweezers. She first burnished one of the corners of foil stack to separate sheets of the foil and then picked a single sheet up using the bamboo tweezers. She then moved gracefully and laid the foil on the top of the silk screen printed patterns. Since this process needed to be accomplished before the Nori dried, Ms Suzuki, Professor Shibazaki and I had to work simultaneously together. As we worked on the foiling, several of Shibazaki’s assistants were working on the silk screening simultaneously. Since the foil was so delicate and could break easily, I learned never to directly touch the foil using my hands. I learned to blow on the foil slightly so that the foil would stick with the Nori glue patterns.

The next day we were ready to brush off the part of the foil that were not glued to the Nori pattern. By doing this, the initial patterns with the design were revealed as the foil painting. We then pieced together hundreds of the foil painted Washi to make large tapestries to be shown at Ozu Washi gallery in Tokyo.

 

Paper Making at Aichi University of Arts, Nagoya, Japan

I had a very special and fruitful paper making workshop with Professor Koji Shibazaki at his research lab (labo.z-mz.com) at Aichi University of Arts in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture, Japan this summer. Professor Shibazaki’ researches and creative activities are centered on the traditional Japanese Washi paper, a type of paper that is hand made from the barks of various mulberry pants, such as Kozo, Gampi and Mitsumata. He has been giving workshops and lectures on traditional Washi paper making and exhibiting his amazing lighted art pieces that are made out of hand-made Washi paper in Germany and France.

I arrived at Aichi University of Arts in mid-July and the temperature during the day had been in the mid 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Though it was not the ideal temperature for making traditional Washi, Professor Shibazaki and his students had managed to conduct a very successful paper making workshop. We made a variety of paper from outer barks of Mitsumata, a mixture of outer barks of Mitsumata and inner barks of Kozo, and from fine inner barks of Kozo, using several different techniques Professor Shibazaki demonstrated. The papers that were made from outer barks of Mitsumata and the mixture of Mitsumata and Kozo were used to create three large tapestries that were finished with gold and silver foil printings and were later exhibited at Ozu Washi Gallery in Tokyo.

Though I have learned about paper making by reading and watching videos before this workshop, I had no idea how time consuming the entire process took, from the preparation to the actual paper making. However, after this experience, I realize that how important it is for an artist/designer to start at the material level. Working with the material directly opens new opportunities for me to discover novel ways and new processes to design, a topic I hope to focus in the near future.

To speed up the process, Professor Shibazaki and his assistants had prepared different batches of the raw material before I arrived in Nagoya as this part of the process typically took about two to three days. To prepare for Kozo paper making, about 1.5 kg of raw material Kozo and 300 g of soda ash, another name for Sodium Carbonate, were combined and soaked in a large water pot for one day (it would have required two days of soaking during the winter months). These Kozo fibers were then boiled for about three hours and were left to soak in the water pot overnight.

When I arrived in the lab, we started the process by washing the Kozo fibers to get rid of yellow and brown coloration and other impurities.  The results were the soft, long and strong Kozo fibers with beautiful off-white color. I could hardly believe that these raw fibers were able to be turned into beautiful translucent sheets of paper at the end of the process.

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Washing Kozo fiber (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki)

After washing, I learned the most labor consuming process of breaking down the fibers by hand using large wooden mallets that were made by Professor Shibazaki himself. According to Professor Shibazaki, this labor consuming hand process couldn’t be simply replaced by machines as the hand techniques would produce finer and stronger fibers than the machines. Several of us took turns pounding and smashing the fibers for a few hours using two different mallets.

Preparing Kozo fibers ( (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki)
Preparing Washi fibers (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki)

After we prepared the Washi fibers we then worked on preparation of “Neri” by crushing “Tororo Aoi” and then by beating and mixing it with water. We put the “Tororo Aoi” in a cloth bag and squeezed it to remove sticky liquid that was then used in the paper making. This sticky and gooey liquid was the true secret behind all papermaking. It was hydrophilic with a negative electro-chemical charge, helping to suspend the paper fiber evenly in the water and produce strong molecular bonds between the fiber, water and “Neri”. Besides obtaining “Neri” from “Tororo Aoi,” Professor Shibazahi also used ready-made powders he purchased from handmade paper shops to simplify this process. The “Neri” was then added to a large water vat, also called “Sukifune,” with a mixture that was made of about 400 grams of Washi fiber and 200 liters of cold water. Before the “Neri” was added, the mixture had to be stirred skillfully so that the fibers could be separated evenly.

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Preparing “Neri” ( (Photo Courtesy: Sachiko Shibazaki))

The last step in the preparation of paper making before actual paper making was to prepare “Shito,” or the plate to put web paper. Professor Shibazaki used simple alignment methods to make sure that the set up would allow each wet paper sheet to be aligned and separated properly. In one instance, he used thin gauges to separate the paper in a grid, and in another instance he used nylon threads to keep each of the wet sheets of paper separated.

After all these preparation, we finally started making paper. The goal here was to keep the paper fiber to spread evenly and smoothly on “Su”, or the bamboo blind that used by Japanese traditional paper makers. The “Su” were in various of dimensions, depending on the sizes of the paper one was making. There were only a very few handmade paper artisans who could produce high quality “Su” these days and the one that Professor Shibazhaki used in the workshop could cost up to $2000 and would allow us to produce two pieces of A2 paper simultaneously. Using “Su” to make paper was a very artistic, rhythmic and beautiful process. I was told that I must listen to the sound of the water movements. Smooth water movements would produce beautiful and smooth paper. After about twenty tries, I felt that I was finally able to adjust the forward-back and left-right movements of “Su” and hear various sounds of the water splashing and flowing. And I knew I was far from being a paper making expert.

Folded Light Art at SIGGRAPH 2016

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Folded Light Art, the design brand that I have established since 2013,  was chosen by SIGGRAPH Studio committee to be highlighted at SIGGRAPH 2016 in Anaheim, California. It was very interesting and exciting for me to be invited to SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest, most influential annual event in computer graphics and interactive techniques. At SIGGRAPH, participants were invited to have hands-on experience in paper folding and making small-scale folded lights.

The curator of SIGGRAPH Studio this year was Gerry Derksen, who is Associate Professor in Visual Communication Design at the Winthrop University. He described to me that there have been increasing interests at the culture of physical making with tangible materials among academics and professionals who primarily work in digital environment. Digital environment, unlimited by its virtual power, is quite different from paper folding, which is bounded by material realities and sets of mathematical and physical rules. So why do people who primarily work in digital environment become interested at paper folding? While paper folding can be simply done by hands, to design original crease patterns for paper folding is not so simple. Furthermore, to simulate the paper folding in digital space indeed is a very complicate computational task. Therefore paper folding is a perfect medium that bridges the digital world and the analog space. Understanding how paper folding works both in digital and analog environments might provide us with new insights on creating innovative digital tools to mitigate the difference between the virtual and the real.

Folded Light Art attracted great interests from SIGGRAPH community. Pieces of cardstock paper were laser cut and scored with sets of pre-designed crease patterns on site and were handed to participants to fold and assemble. During the five-day event at SIGGRAPH, there were such high demands and interests at Folded Light Art that laser-cut paper ran out frequently. The most common question I received from the participants at SIGGRAPH was how I came up with an original origami design . My answer to these questions was always the same: I came up with the design by folding and playing with a piece of paper by hand first.

Many thanks to Adam Roth, Haodan Tan, and many other student volunteers at SIGGRAPH for helping with this installation. Without all your help, the installation won’t have been possible.