Ruga Lumina investigates body–space relationships by leveraging digital fabrication and interactive technologies. Ruga Lumina is a spatial construct in the form of a smart luminous “skin” made of thin sheets of folded material that respond to the movement of live bodies within and surrounding its interior space. Spatial occupancy is registered through the use of smart technology; sensor information activates illumination and lighting effects, which, in turn, prompts perceptual and expressive aesthetic qualities as affects. This visual essay gives an account of the construction of Ruga Lumina at two exhibition sites: Detroit Center for Design and Technology (DCDT) in Detroit, Michigan, and 3Labs in Culver City, California. This account describes how bodies can be read and registered upon a spatial surface that points to a potential to re‐envision fundamental notions of surface interiority.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
Science: Susanne Ressl (Assistant Professor, Structural Biology, Indiana University)
I participated at the 2015 Lighting Architecture Movement Project, an international lighting competition based in Vancouver, and was selected as one of the finalists for my folded light art titled Eurus. The theme in 2015 was Crystallize. The competition was evaluated based on aesthetics, function, creativity, social and environmental responsibility and creative interpretation of theme. The 2015 judges include some very well known names in design such as Tom Dixon, Michael Anastassiades, Omer Arbel, Falken Reynolds, John Patkau, Nancy Bendtsen and Andlight. The competition was covered in many major Canadian design magazine and newspaper, including Gray Magazine, the Globe & Mail, Western Living, The Vancouver Sun, etc. As a finalist, I had the opportunity to exhibit at the LAMP event at Jan Kath showroom in Vancouver in February 2016. Below are some pictures from the exhibition, photos courtesy of When They Find Us.
Eurus, part of Anemoi Folded Light Art, has won the Juror’s Award at Craft Forms 2015, an international juried exhibition of Contemporary Craft at Wayne Art Center near Philadelphia. This year the juror is Ronald T. Labaco, Marcia Docter Curator, Museum of Arts and Design, NYC. Only 6 pieces, out of 775 pieces of artwork submissions by 429 artists who participated around the world, won the Juror’s Award. I was very fortunate to chat with Mr. Labaco at the show and learn from him about some very interesting works at the exhibition.
In companion to Craft Forms 2015 exhibition, Wayne Art Center also presents a curated show titled Emergence: Craft + Technology. The show highlights the intertwining between advanced digital processes and the traditional analogy processes.
Both of the shows opens till January 30, 2016. Check it out if you are near Philadelphia. For more information, visitwww.craftforms.org.
A few weeks ago I traveled to Charleston, West Virginia for a new installation of Ruga Swan at Clay Center for the Arts and Science, a 240,000-square-foot facility dedicated to promoting performing arts, visual arts, and the sciences. The installation went extremely well and fast. The staffs of Clay Center were very experienced and professional. It took less than four hours to suspend Ruga Swan’s huge wing-like structure. Now Ruga Swan is siting at the center of a 20,000-square-foot exhibition space what is dedicated to eight other visionary origami artists including Erik Demain and Martin Demaine (both from MIT), Vicent Floderer (France), Paul Jackson (UK/Israel), Robert Lang, Yuko Nishimura (Japan), Richard Sweeney (UK) and Miri Golan (Israel).
I recently exhibited at the Toyota Civic Center at Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. The exhibition site was changed from Toyota Municipal Museum of Art as the museum is currently closed for renovation.
As the feature artist of the International Cultural Art Festival, I exhibited along the sides of sixteen best regional and national artists in Aichi Prefecture. The participating artists included Tomomi Kano and Hisashi Kano from Obara Washi Paper Museum, Professor Koji Shibazaki from Aichi University of the Arts, well known artists Satoru Kato, Ooishi Matsue, Jianxiong Zeng, Yasuo Itami. etc. I exhibited part of my latest collection of folded light art titled Anemoi Light Art, as well as some of my earlier works. Anemoi Light Art is realized by combining algorithm-based digital design and tactile process. The main material is a type of tear-free Japanese-made Shoji paper called Hi-tec Kozo, which has a three-layer structure, with eco-friendly polyester film as core and Kozo Washi on both sides. Kozo Washi is a type of renewable material that is made from the inner bark of Kozo, a type of mulberry tree originated in Japan.
My exhibition was sponsored by Toyota City, Toyota City Education Committee, Toyota City Culture Promotion Foundation and Toyota International Association. Toyota City Mayor Mr. Ota Toshihiko , the President of Toyota International Association Akiko Toyoda, Member of the House of Representatives Yagi Tetsuya, and hundreds of visitors attended the exhibition. In addition, my exhibition was published in one of the four major newspapers in Japan the Chunichi Shimbun and local newspaper the Yahagi Shinpo.
Many thanks to dozens of volunteers who helped set up the exhibition. Special thanks to Satuoru Kato, Lin Yang, Jianxiong Zeng and Akiko Toyoda who meticulously planned and organized the event. Also thanks to Yoshimasa Nakata, Yasuo Itami, Hisashi Kano, Tomomi Kano, Koji Shibazaki and his wife Sachiko Kinoshita, Professor Shibazaki’s student Suzuki Mikako. Without all of your help, the exhibition would have been impossible. Thank you very much for all of your beautiful work.
My trip to Japan was partially funded through a New Frontier Exploratory Travel fellowship from Indiana University. Besides the exhibition, my Japan trip also included visits to Washi paper museums in Obara and Mino, as well as Professor Shibazaki’s paper studio at Aichi Prefecture University of Fine Arts and Music, a state-funded public university in Japan.
Wabi Sabi is a concept of Japanese aesthetics that is expressed through the integrity of hand-made process and nature. Wabi Sabi aesthetic is characterized by imperfection, incompleteness and ever-changing. Through collaborating with many Japanese artists at the International Art Festival in Toyota Civic Center of Aichi prefecture, I became more fascinated with Wabi Sabi aesthetic in Japanese art and design.
Well-known artist Satoru Kato, a practitioner of Ikebana, uses natural materials such as straws, stones, wooden sticks, flowers, etc to create mesmerizing and impermanent installation. He described his work as “making spaces” by “sacrificing the lives of plants in order to give new life to the surroundings.” At the exhibition, Mr. Kato created a large wall installation using dry straws and dyed sponges in about 6 hours.
Artists Hisashi Kano and Tomomi Kano created an ephemeral display of whispering dresses using Washi paper/fabric that were hand-made. They used one of the most traditional techniques that were passed down in the family at their studio in Obara. Mr. Kano said that their intention was to create a new textile for clothing that was effortless, nonrestrictive and free. They used three different types of fiber, including Kozo fiber, to make the paper that is soft and super strong. Hisashi Kano’s father, Toshiharu Kano is a very well-known artist who has exhibited around the world. I was very fortunate to visit Toshiharu Kano and his family at their home studio. Toshiharu’s teacher is Fujii Tatsukichi, one of the most important figure in the contemporary arts and crafts in Japan.
Artist and professor Koji Shibazaki and his student Suzuki Mikako created a serene lighted spatial installation. Professor Shibazaki teaches art and design at Aichi Prefecture University of Fine Arts and Music, a state funded public university in Aichi. Professor Shibazaki’s lighted work is also made of Washi paper, some of them were hand-made in his studio. His intention is to “rekindle the aesthetic sense” found in traditional Japanese houses with fusuma and shoji. Professor Shibazaki’s said that Escher inspired the patterns and illusions found in his lighted work. Suzuki Mikako used silkscreen method to create her intricate wall mural pieces. The simple geometric forms are silkscreened onto hand-made Washi paper in either gold and silver, creating an interesting shimmering under Shibazaki lamps.
My large scale folded art work, Ruga Swan, has been selected as part of a traveling national exhibition entitled Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami (http://www.artsandartists.org/exhibitions-abovethefold.php). This exhibition also includes works by eight other well-known international artists and best-known names in the world of paper folding or origami, including Erik Demain and Martin Demaine (both from MIT), Vicent Floderer (France), Paul Jackson (UK/Israel), Robert Lang, Yuko Nishimura (Japan), Richard Sweeney (UK) and Miri Golan (Israel). The exhibition is organized by a highly reputable international nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. and is curated by Meher McArthur, the former curator of East Asian Art at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California.
The exhibition opened its first venue at the Springfield Museum in Springfield Massachusetts on January 20, 2015 (see the attached photos). The exhibition has been lauded as “a ground-breaking exhibition of sculptures and large-scale origami installations by nine visionary master folders from around the world” (http://www.springfieldmuseums.org/) and the initial response of the exhibitions has been very positive.
The exhibition opened its second venue at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk Virginia. Hermitage Museum and Gardens is a historic arts and crafts house and it provided an unique setting for Ruga Swan. Because of the scale of my work, the installation proved to be very challenging.
The exhibition will then travel to five other museums in the next three years, including the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in Charleston West Virginia, the Longmont Museum & Cultural Center in Longmont Colorado, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles California, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach Florida and the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown Pennsylvania.
Ruga Swan is a part of my creative research on a new type of semi-structure and flexible interior skin, and it is also a conceptual piece in which I’m trying to understand how folding and patterning can be expressed mathematically, physically, and aesthetically; how it can be done using novel fabrication and construction techniques, and how these aspects work together with the conceptual spaces in which they occur.
“Ruga” is a Latin word for making winkles, creases, and folds, and the word has been recently used by material scientists to describe the various physical qualities of these various folded states. Ruga Swan is inspired by the use of folding to create complex topological forms from flat thin sheet materials with simple and low cost tools. Folded forms have inherently rigid properties and at the same time are flexible. There are many examples of folding-inspired design in architecture; however, folded architectural structures rarely make use of one of the main characteristic of folding design – the kinetic ability to morph from a two dimensional surface to a three-dimensional surface. The Ruga Swan project seeks to construct a deployable three dimensional semi-rigid structure that comes from fabricating two dimensional materials, such as corrugated cardboard, and can be collapsed into, again, smaller compressed forms. Hundreds of cardboard pieces were laser-cut by Noblitt Fabricating in Columbus, Indiana. (Noblitt Fabricating has generously supported this project by allowing me to pay for the cost of the laser cutting through an exchange of my Folded Light Art sculptures. See some examples at www.foldedlightart.com.)
Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA
January 20, 2015 – April 24, 2015
Hermitage Museum & Gardens, Norfolk, VA
May 2, 2015 – July 26, 2015
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Charleston, WV
September, 2015 – November 2015, Dates TBD
Longmont Museum & Cultural Center, Longmont, CO
February 12, 2016 – May 1, 2016
Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA
May 28, 2016 – August 21, 2016
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, FL
October 11, 2016 – January 29, 2017
Allentown Art Museum, PA
March 3, 2017 – May 26, 2017
Special thanks to Noblitt Fabricating, Curt Aton, Steve Dixon, Joseph Su, Renzi Huang, Daniel Green, Ron Day, Dexter Wu, Seiya Liu and Jianhuan Ruan.