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A Ballon Show: An experience with an ancient Chinese poem

2017 | Individual work

Kinetic Sculpture, Immigrant, Machine Learning, Home
Arduino, 27 Solonoid Valves, 9 Air Pumps, Customised PCBs, Fans, Led Strips

Poems are written in words. But what stay with us are the emotions they provoke.

A Ballon Show is an experience centered on a kinetic balloon sculpture based on an ancient Chinese poem. It is written in motors, balloons and code, performs different phases of the poem emphasizing the feeling of exile. I believe no matter what culture we come from, there is a powerful commonality in all humankind, and that is what I wanted to explore with this project. 

It is a 9 balloons sculpture. The central balloon represents the first person view of the imprisoned poet, and the rest 8 represent the surrounding world seen by the poet, the relationship between these two sides express the ineffable feelings between the lines of this poem. The poem is seperated into a 6 phases show performed by balloons,they use separate movements, such as inflation, deflation and vibration to speak for the poet and talk to their audience.

Read more on my Medium post


It takes the ancient Chinese poem as an input, along with memories from other immigrant artists, analyzes it with machine learning algorithm and outputs to different emotions. These emotions are being translated into programming language for the machines. The mechanism system of the machine transforms it into balloon language in the end.

The poem

The selected poem, Wave-washed Sands(Lang Tao Sha), is the orientation of the entire experience, which is an ancient Chinese poem written about 1100 years ago. Though lots of people interpret it as a sorrowful moan of a deposed emperor, I tend to read it more as an acceptance and embrace of life after tragedy and parting. Below is the English translation.

Outside the curtain,a mizzling, drizzling rain
This bleak spring,
The chills of foredawn, my silk quilt cannot long sustain.
In dream, never a visitor, finally home.
A waft of peace and joy.
Alone, from gazing afar I must refrain,
Fair is that rivered land.
Easy to part, hard to meet again.
Flowers scattering,stream running.
Far away Spring flying.
Heaven on earth.