duke | artist, engineer

Ocean Room – Artist Notes


Ocean Room – Artist Notes

This is an informal description of the inspiration, motivation, and goals behind my installation Ocean Room. View the installation page here.

Inspiration, purpose, goals

I grew up by the sea. Hong Kong is right on the coast, and you can catch a view of the ocean pretty much wherever you go. Even if you’re deep in the city or up in the mountains, the ocean is always close by. It was a constant in my life: I grew up with the sense that this massive, beautiful piece of blue was always nearby, and that it would always be there, wherever I was in the city.

A promenade along the Hong Kong coastline. Photo taken by myself, December 2018.

I didn’t realize how comforting that feeling was until I left Hong Kong. One of the things I miss most when I’m at Duke is being close to the sea. I miss seeing the waves on my way to school, I miss the tangy smell of seawater in the air, I miss hearing the roar of waves at night. Most of all, I miss the sense of comfort that came from knowing that the ocean is right there, close to me, a walk or short drive away.  

Here at Duke, I’ve found myself turning to the meditation room beside Bryan Center as a place of refuge whenever I’m stressed or upset. The room is quiet, secluded, and almost always empty. Every time I step inside the room and close the door behind me, I’m moved by an overwhelming sense of safety and security.

Ocean Room is my attempt to recreate a similar, refuge-like space on campus. I wanted to create a space that feels safe, comforting – a place where anyone can escape from the world for a little while. I often feel that there are not enough of these spaces in our lives; especially in high-stress environments like college campuses, these spaces can serve to foster mental wellbeing and recovery. I hope that Ocean Room will be able to underscore the demand and dire need for more refuge-spaces in our communities.

At the same time, this installation is also my tribute to the ocean. I wanted to recreate a small part of the sea here, for everyone who – like me – longs for it when they’re here at Duke.  

Finally, Ocean Room is an experiment in space. I wanted to explore how art spaces can influence the way we perceive the world and each other, and the interactions they can create. What kinds of thoughts and emotions will the experience inspire in visitors? What happens when two visitors, otherwise strangers, meet inside? Will the Ocean Room experience form a subliminal bond between visitors?

My goal is for visitors – from Duke, Durham, NC and beyond – to use the space as a place to escape from the world, to rest, reflect, and mediate in peace. I hope visitors will end up visiting the space not just once, but regularly throughout the exhibition period. I also hope that strangers who meet inside the dome will use the opportunity to talk, interact with and learn from one another – and perhaps even become friends.