Week 5:Transcending the Limits of the Real

Video Sketching Practice

The earth is also called water polo, I have a kind of obsession with the sea, there are so many mysteries hidden underwater waiting for us to explore. Water is the source of life, and all life on earth stems from the occurrence of water. In the solar system, only the position of the earth produces water and life, and then we are here.

Video prototype 1

Video sketch 1 shows a wonderful journey starting from each individual’s screens. We all hate the sound of the alarm clock, because every time we open our eyes, we have to face the screen and tasks. Imagine if we could go beyond the shackles of the physical body, sleep in the wind, travel through any corner of the world, open our eyes with the cries of whales, and see this wonderful world. We can travel infinitely, regardless of the macro or micro world. We can say that the world is this planet, or that the ball on the dog’s collar is a planet. The planet model that appeared at the end of the video was made in a creative practice class during my freshman year. After absorbing light, it can emit a faint light in a dark place.

Video prototype 2

This video was produced after seeing the news: Fukushima: Japan ‘to release contaminated water into sea.’ It has been a hot topic since nuclear-contaminated water at Fukushima was accidentally leak into the sea in 2011. 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and the whole globe is connected with the ocean current.

Week 4: Step Out and Look Wider

Jellyfish Vancouver Aquarium, photo by April Tian

Action 4: Step Out and Look Wider – Generation

Consider your Action 3: when working with your chosen lexicon phrase what peripheral ideas/spaces did you touch on or think about. What is the broader field around your initial intervention? How is this important to you? How is it important to someone else? How is this important to a community? What’s the relationship between this and global-scale concerns?

Take these thoughts (or writing) with you and…
– Leave your home. (if you’re not in quarantine)
– Prioritize seeking things of nature. Seek out beings, found materials and phenomenon.
– Develop many-things inspired by the peripheral space / the field / the broader context.
Allow yourself to re-define the problem through new acts of making

Prompting questions: (You are not obligated to answer these)
Consider how your neighbourhood contributes to your feelings/sense of home?
What does a change in context do to your thinking?
How does/can nature play a role in your designs?

We don’t expect “solutions”. We would really like to have some provocations for interesting and engaging conversations about context; how does moving from the specific and local context in Action #3, to the broad and wide in Action #4, impact our making?

Thinking before doing

Continuing to think about the previous action, I extended from the studio space to the blue planet we live in and then to the entire galaxy. I tried to find some connections from the micro to the macro level. I have to say that I am a very self-directed person. I think all the actions or designs I have done are based on the fact that I am still live in the world. Therefore, I care about the works’ uniqueness, and I always hope to connect myself to these works because, in the world of art, the works we have done live longer than people.


Looking back to the stretch lexicon, I made this mindmap better to find the connection and continuity between these actions. Transcending human-centred design is a hot topic in recent years. I also believe that design should not be limited to the human category. The design itself is a concept created by humans, and all human activities can be defined as design. No matter who we are designing for, an environment designed for sustainable development, or artificial reproduction technology designed for endangered animals, the core purpose is to keep the human species exist longer in the world.

This video was taken in May 2020 when flowers are still blooming even under the stress of COVID-19. I want to get close to natural voices and sights to keep my connections with the earth. Burnaby central park is the place where I give me a mental treatment when I met problems. Starting with thinking about the environment, with the continuous development of human civilization, there is less green space that can remain as it is. In Vancouver, we may not have a particularly obvious feeling because the government has done extraordinary performance in this aspect. To the contradictory, Montreal does not have such a good green rate. Only when humans and nature live in harmony can they maintain symbiosis.

Throughout our human history, the disappearance of Atlantis and Mayan civilization can give us a bold guess. Human civilization has disappeared on the earth several times, and the era we are now in is developing rapidly; then, What role does design play here? Is it to make our lives more convenient or push us to the death of human civilization faster?
What does the world look like when all activities have not started, how does this space actually operate? I want to get out of our most commonly used observation methods. Apart from our own perspective, what other angles can we see on the other side of the design?

Making without thinking, think after making

Based on the black tape practice of action3, I want to visualize human society’s limitations on design. As designers, we have many factors that we have to refer to, such as the pressure by the government’s power and the economy on design. Designers are tied to their hands and feet, like tying themselves in gorgeous ballet shoes. Although they look elegant, there are so many helpless and restrained hidden behind it.

Limitation and restrictions

Inspirng with the ‘black tape’ exercise, I realized that my dog ​​is closer to the ground than I was, so from her perspective, how it feels about our community and nature? As a one-and-a-half year old puppy, I recorded a video of her actions close contact with nature outside since she was so small.

Since her legs are very short, and she likes to lie down while walking, I am curious about what kind of creatures her belly touches on the ground. So I wrapped the black tape around her waist in opposite from her coat, and walked in the small park we go to most often.

Stripe dog

As always, she lay on the ground and really helped me complete the task. Standing at my height, these withered plants hidden in the grass are hard to see. My dog ​​shows very well that the observed details are different due to different heights. This requires us as designers to understand more comprehensively on things we don’t usually notice.

I made the used tape into a sculpture, showing the complexity of the world in a circling form. We, human beings, have been wiped lightly like feathers in the long river of history. Some people have left a mark, and some people have disappeared in it.

I don’t expect my design to make a great contribution, I just hope that I can live according to my own wishes and understand the world from my perspective.

Week 3: Extending and Seeking

Starting from “Extend your studio space beyond the screen/the desk/the room.” I started thinking about what is the start of the starting point before extending the space. By referring to what I did for action 1, I want to start from a tiny point where everything started.

A dot can be the beginning of everything, it can be the first microorganism that appeared in the ocean thousands of years ago, it can be our earth, it can be dust in the universe, it can also be the starting point of a line on paper.

I spent a very long time on understanding the brief of action 3, I was so confused about what the form could be. But then considering the commonality of studios at school in the normal time or at home like what we are experiencing right now, I’m thinking if I can combine those spaces together someway. Myself as the main object using both spaces is the connection for them.

In terms of spatial relationships, I hope to connect the two spaces by myself, and I think ‘extending’ is not limited to space. Creativity and imagination are also extendable, and I’m seeking what valuable and interesting in this mental space. All these theoretical actions are done by humans, and I want to jump out of the limitation of the physical spaces.

Lexicon: More than human-centered; scaling in/scaling out

Video prototype for action 3
Studio at ecu

At the end of the black line is a black box. I hope it can remind me to think out of the box at any time. The studio in reality is like this black box. As “designers situated in the box”, I hope we can transcend physical constraints and come to a spiritual level. I don’t want my creativity to be constrained by the actual knowledge system, also based on what we practiced in class, I was doing this stretch lexicon with Shankar and Zahra on “more than human-centred” it actually connects my points together. I don’t want to limit myself to one direction, it contains the shift between large scope and miniature in design.

The picture in the middle was drawn when I was preparing to apply for graduate school at the beginning of this year. At that time, I was under tremendous pressure, not only psychological but also financially. When looking at this painting, we need to look at it from another angle. After rotating by 90 degrees, we can see a trace of light in the clouded sky and connected with the dark blue ocean. It is a reminder for me to be optimistic even under a high-pressure environment. I’ve been trying to connect artistic thinking to my design practices since they have dramatic differences and are somehow contradictory. I want to take that idea back to my practice. I’ve been struggling with different ways of thinking based on different areas of study. I can still remember when I was in my first year, John was walking me through the print media studio, and saying that design is limiting our original creativities, and suggesting me to continue in the visual art area. But I chose design eventually because I want to explore a different perspective of thinking aside from the 15 years of experience in the visual art area. I started learning drawing at the age of 3 and continuing learning in that area until I came to ECU and joined the industrial design program. Design thinking is helping me forming the way how I look at this world, at the same time, this kind of emotional and subjective view in visual art is also affecting some of my design practices.

By cleaning the old studio spaces while doing this action, I felt lonely in this place where I stayed for 3 years. Recalling this time last year, I still had classes with my friends, talking about grad design, but now I’m the only one continuing to go to school, which makes me feel a little sad. I transform all things I left for my graduation design to this new studio space. Here’s what ends in my studio.

April Tian Mixed-media painting 2019

I really want to focus on exploring want I have started researching within spiritual peace and mental balancing with the help of nature. I found water magical to find spiritual connections with nature; I found the aquarium actually helping me calming down; I started thinking deeper and trying to find the connection between individuals and the planet. There are so many nature-related elements in my design, and I’m still using paintings to express myself as well.

Cloud. 2020 demo photo

Here’s where I have started with that research: http://gradshow.ecuad.ca/industrial-design-2020/cloud-2020-april-tian/

Week 2: Terroir

Hand drawn set of healthy food ingredient doodles

I am paired with Soumya in this action, it is very interesting for me to learn about Indian cuisine. I think India is a master of spices, but I don’t know much about spices. The essence of Indian cuisine lies in the use of spices. We were chatting about the preference of food on each other’s culture, then we made up a schedule together to make sure we get enough time to cook. We were giving some initial dishes to each other, and the first thing that came up to my mind is a dumpling, however, Soumya’s family can not have meat in her mom’s house, so I thought about eggs instead.

Thinking through the dishes deep in my mind, I want to give Soumya the recipe for making egg custard. When I was a 4-5-year-old girl, every weekend when I went to visit my grandparents, they cook this dish for me. In order to have the whole thing on my own when my grandpa was trying to have a scoop of that, I said this sentence which all of my family used to laugh at me even after I grew up: I can eat hundreds of this egg custard. Even until now, this dish is still being a big part of my eating habit.

I’m offering Soumya 3 options to pick:

Egg custartd
egg with green onion pancake
Golden egg fried rice

Soumya chose egg fried rice as a result. In consideration on my personal story with egg fried rice, when I was at a very young age, I was very picky on eating food. Egg fried rice is the fastest dish I can finish eating. Also, it is the first dish my bofriend cooked for me. It always in compainon within my eating habit.

My recipe offer for Soumya

I have to say, this recipe is different from what I normally do, I learned this recipe from a Chinese celebrity, and the outcome of egg fried rice will be golden on every single piece of rice. In return, Soumya give me four options to try.

vegetable pancake
fried vegetable
Spicy 6 Indian cuisine at Vancouver downtown

Talking about Indian cuisine. This Spicy 6 restaurant is my favourite Indian restaurant in Vancouver. Unlike other restaurants, Spice 6 makes me feel that the dishes here are more authentic, although I have never been to India. The taste of their kheer is really impressive and delicious which makes me always curious about the recipe. So I picked kheer as my action 2 object. And she’s also saying that this is the first thing she made for being independent.

Soumya’s recipe

Get ready for cooking.

Action 2 video presentation

After class, I found that most of us are focusing on the making process but not the reflecting process. So I think there should be further thinking on the reflection. Aside from how the dish tastes, how the ingredients making connections to the maker is also concerned.

As I was trying to feel how the ingredients actually transforming the information of nature to me, I took some rice and squeeze it in my hand to feel how the rice is crushing between each other, and how the milk soak into my fingers. Instead of having the dish in a normal way which is eating them, I’m wondering how my hands think.

Acrylic painting

A visual representative form of showing how human’s hands incorporate with ingredients. I’m designing for startups program this semester, and I’m helping RCU(responsible cannabis use) developing their brand, and I’m currently in the research stage. My colleagues suggested that I should try it a bit, which can help me better understand the difference between THC and CBD. This idea of painting came to me after eating chocolate with THC.

This is a very interesting action, it not only allows me to understand the mystery of the taste of kheer, but also allows me to find a new way to appreciate how things exist.

Week 1: Home ground

Home ground: an area, locality, or subject with which one is intimately familiar: Dictionary.com

Starting from my story

0 km

I was born in this city called Shenyang located in northeast China, and I have spent around 6 years there before I moved to Beijing, which is far away from my relatives. I can still remember I was crying with my grandmother on the street because we are leaving the home ground at the age of 6. The impressions for Shenyang is my grandparents, snow and cold, skewers.

The Forbidden City, 2019, A Tian

695.0 km

Then I have started the second journey of my life in my most familiar city: Beijing.  I spent about 12 years living in this city, and this is the place where traditional Chinese aesthetics are planted in my heart. Every year when I travel back to Beijing I have to go visit the Forbidden City, I can feel some kind of mysterious connections to this land. The impression for Beijing is: politics, hot and dry, nobility, history, friends and parents.

For most people living in Beijing feel it is difficult for them to truly integrate into this city, nor can they feel that they are a member of this city since it is the capital of China, and it is not easy to survive in a high-consumption city. But, with my parents, I love this city.

In my second year of high school, I left home by my own and came to France for the first time. When I stood on the ground of a French airport, I did not feel the strangeness of a foreign country. On the contrary, when the heat wave hits my face, I look at the stains on the ground, and I only feel the sense of being down to earth. No matter which country we are in, as long as we are on the surface of the earth, it feels assured.

ECU 2015, A Tian


Starting from 2015, I moved to Vancouver for education purposes, this is the first time I left my parents and tried to be independent. I’ve stayed here for 5 years, I’ll be here for another two years at least, so I define vancouver as my third hometown.

Answer to myself

Sometimes I get really confused, and I always question myself, where is my home? Literally, looking from my past experience, I feel like a duckweed floating between different cities and don’t know where to settle. In the mind of most Chinese people, a stable home should be achieved by having a fixed asset, but in my opinion, where emotional sustenance is the real home.

Mind mapping

Word in the center: Home ground

Second roll: Beijing, memories, relatives, love and simple, safe, familiar. intimate space

Third roll: emotional connections, cultural impression, nationality, blood relation, spiritual values, location, historical background

Forth roll: unity, universal, ancestors, originate, profound mystery, empathy, truth

In this mind map, a home ground is not talking about a specific location, or under a specific cultural settings. Based on what I have experenced through these years, it is trying to find the emotional connections between me as a person living in 2020, and the world, in other words, the earth where we are living in.

This planet has created human civilization, and because of this special geographical location, life and everything we have now arises, so what I want to express is the connection between me as a human being and the universe.

Earth’s location

As we are experiencing now, we should have been sitting in a classroom together and discussing our home ground, but we are now together through the network, no matter how far we are, we are sharing experiences on the earth together.

Myth hypothesis

1511 fresco at Dalbyneder church

There are many different cultures on the earth, each country has its own story, but the similarities in these stories may support a new idea: maybe the stories we read in different cultures can build for us a whole, worldwide system of myths and stories.


Almost no one knows this mural locally, but when the Chinese see this mural, many people can call him Xing Tian. Legend has it that Xing Tian was a civil servant of Emperor Yan, good at music and handsome, he was originally a graceful gentleman. However, after the Yan Emperor was defeated by the Yellow Emperor, Xing Tian refused to accept him, and went to Chi You to fight back against the Yellow Emperor. However, Chi You was defeated by the Yellow Emperor and Xing Tian was captured alive. He refused to surrender, so Huang Di used Xuanyuan sword to chop off Xing Tian’s head, but Huang Di was worried that Xing Tian would be resurrected, so he destroyed his head.

The ancient Egyptians and Chinese had the same understanding of resurrection, and it required two conditions. First, the person who can be resurrected must have the blood of God and be the descendant of God. The ancient Egyptians said that as long as they are descendants of the sun god, pharaohs with true god blood can be resurrected. Second, the corpse must be intact. After the corpse is destroyed, it cannot be resurrected. In order to keep the corpse intact, the ancient Egyptians specially invented the mummification technology.


Although Xing Tian did not have the blood of the gods of heaven and earth, nor did he have a complete body, he said in the “Shan Hai Jing” that Xing Tian’s faith in loyalty to Emperor Yan still moved heaven and earth, and heaven and earth resurrected Xing Tian. Xing Tian did not have a head and he used double breasts as eyes. ,Using his belly button as his mouth, he picked up his axe and shield to find the Yellow Emperor for a decisive battle, but in fact, Xingtian’s fake eyes couldn’t see anything at all, and his fake mouth also made any noise. From then on it became a headless monster . Constantly hacking towards the sky, always fighting with an invisible enemy, what is even more tragic is that he didn’t know the skills of fighting, so his antics looked like dancing to the Yellow Emperor. The Yellow Emperor did not kill Xingtian again. So Xing Tian became a sad hero.

The story of Xing Tian is recorded in the “Shan Hai Jing-Overseas Western Jing”, that is, according to the world view of Shan Hai Jing, the story of Xing Tian took place overseas in the West of China. This place may be Denmark, so Xing Tian’s murals will appear in the suburbs of Denmark. Little church. Western scholars said that this monster is called Blemmyes. The first person to record this monster was Herodotus, the father of ancient Greek history 2500 years ago.
Herodotus heard from Memphis that Blemmyes is a country in the forest, with beasts everywhere. People in this country are headless, with eyes, noses, and mouths on their chests. Later, Western historians followed historical clues. According to research, blemmyes did exist, and they also had war with the Roman Empire.


In the records of Shanhaijing, the structure of the earth in ancient times is very different from that in modern times, and the distance between countries today is probably adjacent in ancient times.The earth has been our common home from ancient times to the present. These myths are also evidence of the interconnection between nations.

Action 1: home ground

Material: pearls, aluminum wires

In this sculpture, there are two kinds of aluminum wires. The thin part represents our universe, and the thick part stands for different dimensions. It may also be parallel space or unknown knowledge. Each individual pearl is like a planet, moving along its own orbit, but they share the same space together, it is also like what we are experiencing right now, walking along their own life trajectories, but gathered in this virtual space at this moment.

Its main body is a cube. I choose to use a square as the basis is to set a reminder that I should think out of the box, always holding doubts. What we see or learn is not necessarily the truth of the matter. There are many more unknown things waiting for us to discover on this planet.