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The middle of nowhere

While one may need to immerse himself in the community for a certain period of time in order to discover the way how people make meaning of something, could an ethnographer at the same time treat himself as one of the participants during the observation too?

There are certain kinds of distinctive attitudes between an inhabitant and a tourist. Insiders and outsiders surely experience landscapes differently for some reasons.

An example of mine would be the first time when I was in high school in Saigon, I used to be called “Tàu Khựa”, meaning a dirty Chinese. Fair enough, so would Vietnam be my home actually? What was wrong with us for speaking Vietnamese and Cantonese at the same time, I wondered? That is still a question.

Then as time flew, I was settled in a Japanese workplace. By saving my week holidays for years to decide to have to trip to a land that I thought at least I could see the experience as an insider, Hong Kong was the decision I made. Unfortunately, I was wrong again, because the Hongkongers called me “越南鬼”, which meant Vietnamese demon. What was I supposed to react? What else could I do except for pretending I did not understand what they said? Denis Cosgrove indicated “The way people see their world is a vital clue to the way they understand that world and their relationship with it.” (Cosgrove, 1985). What if one tried his best but no luck for forming the relationship with the land? We cannot deny the reality that almost everyone needs a better place to live. But a better place to live has nothing to do with modern high technology or the luxury, but about the word home. If one lives in a palace with Lamborghini cars, but never feels home, then neither an insider nor outsider he would be, and he would be stuck in the middle of nowhere.

One may never stop seeking a land, a land where he belongs to, to dwell in a real home. If Maurice Merleau-Ponty once has said that nobody would understand better than the insiders do how the miracle in their world is worked (Merleau-Ponty, 1962), Xu Liu on the other hand, described on the Old Book of Tang a phrase “當局者迷,旁觀者清”, that those who have already involved in the game cannot see the most of the game (Liu, 1975). It is clear that somehow I was unsuccessful to try to be an insider, but somehow I failed to identify myself as an outsider in both of the countries.

There is no doubt that being an insider or outsider is considered an unremarkable topic to discuss, observing the way how they interact with us, the cultural homeless people, might be the first exercise to do to study and define a place which we are proud to call a real “home”.

- Cosgrove, D. E. (1985). Social formation and symbolic landscape. Madison, Wis : University of Wisconsin Press.
- Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of perception. London, Routledge & Paul; New York, Humanities.
- Liu, X. (1975). Old Book Of Tang 旧唐书. 中华书局.

Research: Place & Space


While my final project work involves two disciplines from curating and digital interaction, selecting which roles to match with parts in the work is difficult.

In this concert of Jay Chou in 2013 for instance, the company Digital Domain, innovative visual production house, grouped together hologram technicians, sound artists, visual effect artists in order to work in a transdisciplinary practice.

To work separately as a hologram technician or a sound artist is not hard, but to come in one place a purpose for a final work at one space, all experts would have to do research on each other, so that one can not only understand the role of  himself, but also pull co-worker’s perspectives and apply into his practice.



Research: Text & Design Strategies


In Designing the Spectator Experience, researchers indicated that there are four design strategies. Hidden manipulations, enable the spectator to act as a performer, reveal effects, and a suspenseful method.


Sometimes it could be called precision, but sometimes acceptable inaccuracy could become an original idea (Bowers, 2014). Errors doesn’t mean wrong and degradation, but in fact brings some excitements not only to participants but also the bystanders who are watching the piece of art and waiting for their turn.


While giving audience the privilege to explore the non-errors piece from visuals to techniques, considering the acceptable inaccuracies as part of the artwork has a role for creative practitioners to play with.


- Bowers, J. (2014). HSS8120 Tutorial.
- Reeves, S. and Benford, S. and Fraser, M. (2005). Designing the Spectator Experience.

Thanks to Dr. Tom Schofield for the article.

Research: Desire in Design



When I was supposed to walk back to the city centre from part-time work, unconsciously I was lost up to Coast Road. By catching this little bridge on my wandering, it suggested that things could come with signs and symbols.
The word DESIGN in this case for example, can be split into two aspects.
One is DE which means to re-do something, to re-construct something.
Another one is SIGN which means a symbol or a sign.
So DESIGN literally means to re-create something from something that already had?


In terms of individualism, a problem occurs that everyone will try to make their own understanding by adding their own background and story into (Barthes, 1967).
So designers are those who always fail because they could never ever serve everyone even for the same sign?
Red could be luck to her, but could be danger to him? Maybe?
If designers make things because they were already in their world, then will the thing they call passion conquers all?

Exist but not exist

Design might be just design rather than a story of a thing that tells a story of another thing. A river might be just a river rather than a life flow. A bridge might be just a bridge rather than a relationship between people.
We “rarely does the eye light on a thing, and then only when it has recognised that thing as the sign of another thing” (Calvino, 1978).


- Roland Barthes. The Death of the Author. Retrieved October 12, 2014, from the TBook website:
- Calvino, I. (1978). Invisible cities. New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
- Calvino, I. (1977). The nonexistent knight & The cloven viscount. New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Simulacra in research. Written vs Verbal communication


A Simulacrum:

That was another interesting tour to Hancock again. As an instinct, I stepped straight upward as usual to the Egyptian floor. I saw it. It was in pretty much the same size as in the imaginary pictures that I had in mind by researching through websites and books these months.

A lovely couple that I think they were British, were standing right next to it and playing with their tries to translate their alphabetical names into hieroglyphs. They did not even choked on their response, when I asked them whether this Rosetta stone is the real one or not, by saying that “yeah, this is the real one!”.

So the Rosetta Stone is in Hancock, not British Museum! I was shocked! Everything I did for the research from the beginning was all wrong! I failed!

A Truth:

I hated to be cheated by written letters. Words for me are more important than anything else. So the only solution was to find a damn curator and gave it one more chance for the verbal communication.

“You are right. The real stone is in British Museum. This is just the reproduction.”, he said.

Alrighty. I was calmed and started whispering to myself that “well, sometimes denying reality is also a part of your research too”.

Transdisciplinarity with Koyaanisqatsi



Coincidentally occurred from my favourite Koyaanisquatsi (1983) by Godfrey Reggio. Though there was no narration and dialogue during the documentary, it conveyed all meanings from human’s dependence on technology to the relationship with landscape.

Both Dr. Ian McDonald (COM8005) and Dr. Ian Thompson (APL8000) suggested this film not because their names are both Ian, I believe. Suddenly noticed the relationship between documentary practice and conceptualising landscape, I did nothing but gave it a try by putting them together through research in my digital creative practice.

Imagine you’re in a desert, the materials you’ve got are only sunlight and sand. And it’s enough to make your day with an omelette on the sand for breakfast, isn’t it?


The question is, are we free to do it or we are destroying the sand surface? Are we here for making or destroying? What is the purpose of our existence?
As far as I know, “Our existence is still a mystery” (Thompson, 2014).

Life out of balance:

Everything started from a problem. We have problems, thus having ideas, thus making things. We collect materials, make things creatively. But then someday the things we’ve made will plan to either remember or destroy us. The material itself at the beginning didn’t have the meaning at all, we made it meaningful, we sent out message, one day, it bounces back to us.

At the end of the day, time talks.

Just sit back with my popcorn, watch and rethink. I’ve got one more film to re-watch tonight.



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