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Practice and Material

Updated: May 12, 2019


I probably met the toughest problem in this section because by the end of March, I had already drawn the sketch of a box, the material for experimenting the property of mirror plastic and the effect of its reflection. However, although I repeatedly contacted with the plastic studio, the technician delayed the finish day again and again, and finally over a month later, I cancelled the order disappointedly because I did not have enough time for experiment. I had to confirm the materials that will be needed and purchase them as quick as possible.

Research of Material

While I was doing the artist research, I noted down some of the materials that I was interested into a list. Then I did some research of the materials to understand whether they could be used in the project.

Idea Development

Based on the draft that I drew in the structure project, I expanded that on with details.

This is my first draft which I sketch the main parts and imagined the effect of each sections. I roughly calculate the size of the project and planned the layout of inside space.

Then I drew a more precise layout with more calculation in the three-dimensional space. I think that was the most difficult part because different from the two-dimensional space, I need to consider the thicknesses of each materials, which will also affect the length or width of the relevant parts.

With repeatedly calculating the size, I finally made a list with the data of every part. On account of the price of the large plastic piece is really expensive, I bought the big parts from Chinese shopping website and then ship to here. For the smaller pieces, I mainly ordered at an plastic cutting website but my order was delayed for two days and generally took nearly half-month to process. Therefore, I also found the technician, Mr Andy Lumber, to help me cut some.

I really appreciate Andy's help and I feel very luck to meet him.

Then I also tried to learn design the layout by software. Therefore I downloaded a Rhinoceros, but I realised that it would take a long time to master it. So I barely made the shape of the outside box.

Development of each sections of the box

In general, the whole box can be divided into two parts. The part A will be inserted a funnel-like cone which has the mirror-effect on the surface and the smaller opening will connect to the part B, where I will install 3 small boxes that the audiences can see through the peepholes. The boxes are respectively representing my understanding of nothingness in Taoism, Buddhism and physics.


This part would probably be the most difficult section because it is too hard to find the proper material and place to make a cone. In the structure project, I did not find any company can make it in either plastic or glass. For this time, I really want to realise this design.

Initially, as what I did in last project, my plan was contacting more companies to see whether there is a chance to make. I considered glass and plastic as the material to make this cone, because they are relatively cheaper than metal. In addition, I think the best choice to make it is the plastic because it is light and firm. Unfortunately, even though I used nearly half month to contact as many companies as possible, the results were either unavailable or no reply.

However, one day my girlfriend suggested me to take a look at 3D print, which became the turning point of the story of this cone. The first problem I met is that I did have a proper file, so what I did is simply send my hand drawing to the companies, but all of them required a formal file for estimating the feasibility. So I found a designer on Taobao, and he helped me to make a STL file. After modifying the model several times, the shape finally achieved my expectation and I was extraordinary exciting to see the birth of a literally formal 3D model that I had imagined thousand of times in my mind.

The second question that I meet is the cost. On account of I need a mirror effect surface, after the 3D printing, the model still need to be coated or polished. At that time, I firstly looked up the cost of printing the metal modal or the translucent model, but due to the required size was quite large, the reference prices were over 250 pounds (without any post processing). Then I looked back to the companies in China again, surprisingly some of them could provide electroplating, which can achieve the mirror effect as well. Finally, I found a cheap but reliable factory to help me print it.

For part 1, I made a list to organise the contact information and the result. Frankly speaking, I had invested so much time in preparing this part. As for me, I think it is worthy that I can really actualise the idea into the physical object.


BOX 1: Medium

I need a medium to connect part A and B together, and the reason why I designed the part A is because I wanted to make this box as a complete "sentence" and the part A is the introduction of it. This cone is the symbol of communicating the thing and non-thing, to narrow down our sight of being and transform into its opposite. The animation on the left side somewhat demonstrate the sense. To move to the part B, I set a periscope that I had experimented in the Dada project. The mirror in box 1 can reflect the light that comes from the cone to the box 2, which transfer the image of the outside world into the box.

BOX 2: Emptiness of Buddhism

With the inspiration from Liliane Lijun's Liquid Reflection, I am going to make a box that contains the liquid paraffin. The back side of the box has a hole that connecting to the periscope and the front side is the peephole; thus, the viewers can see the light that comes from the outside on the surface of liquid paraffin. However, my original was to let the viewers can see the reflection which is projected from the top, but this would require two mirrors

BOX 3: Dao

This is the most difficult part in the project because how to express the nothingness of the Dao is fairly complicated. I planned to use the frosted plastic for the back face of it, so the light of colour changing LED strip can come through it. For the rest faces, I chose to use mirror plastic which can reflect the light, but for the front face, there was a ring in the middle of it needs to be replaced by frosted plastic. The reason was that I would set a white LED strip at the back side of it and the white light was representing the very first of the thing, which can generate all the other visible colours. For the small circle inside the ring, I would use the pitch black to represent opposite side of the thing, which is the non-thing. (I used to plan to add some fog in the box to imply the vagueness of Dao, but considering the safety, I cancelled the plan.)

BOX 4: The Exploration of the Universe

For the last box, I planned to use 4 pieces of mirror plastic which perfectly fit the size of a strobe light to make a box. In the middle of the box, there would be a concave mirror that can magnify the image of peephole in a certain distance. For thousands of years, human tried to find the origin of the world, and people were debating whether the world was coming from nothing or not. However, even until now, the modern science still could not give a convincible answer to it. To take a view back to history, we had been excavating the world into a more and more micro unit, but every time after we found the new areas, the new questions would come up soon. Therefore, I tended to use the strobe light to reflect this feeling, and the sense that when the light of knowledge flickered , what it let us know our restricted cognition, we see what we can see.


After I finished the planning of outcome, I made a shopping list to let myself know what did I buy and I am going to introduce the use of each material.

For the main body of the outcome, I decided to use 5mm mirror plastic to make the out shell, because the glass would be more costly and I thought 5mm thickness would be strong enough. However, after I checked the price in the plastic shop and online, the cost was still expensive. Then I asked the Chinese plastic shop and the price was cheaper than there, though I needed to add the money for International shipment.

For the materials of the boxes inside, I chose to use 5mm plastic as well, and on account of they were not as big as the out shell, I ordered these small pieces online and then go to the plastic shop to drill the holes.

I will use the LED lights in the box 3, and one is Philips Hue Light Strip Plus, which you can set your own colour combinations and remote it through the smart bridge, another one is a 369 degree neon LED strip, which can perfectly illuminate every area without leaving shadow. In addition, because I need to set the light strip into a square, then I must use the connector to link the strips. The disappointing thing was that the jointing points were not very sensitive.

For the box 4, I bought a small strobe light which can adjust the strobing frequency manually. Before that, I had bought one but that just could not strobe the white light, so I returned it back. Meanwhile, I bought a concave mirror after comparing the focal length. For supplying the electricity of these electronic devices, I bought a extension lead which can be put inside the box.

Finally, I chose to use both Gorillas’s super glue and the glue gun to assemble the plastics. I would apply the super glue first, to maintain the shape, then seal the joints with the glue gun.


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