nicholas hanna: water calligraphy device at beijing design week 2011
sep 30, 2011
nicholas hanna: water calligraphy device at beijing design week 2011


‘water calligraphy device’ by nicholas hanna, on exhibition during beijing design week 2011
image © designboom

‘water calligraphy device’ by canada-born, beijing-based media artist nicholas hanna
reinterprets the chinese tradition of using a water brush to write poetry in public spaces
by transforming a flat-bead tricycle into a poetry-writing device.

in beijing, these tricycles are a common form of transportation, adapted by residents
into everything from carts to traveling market stalls. hanna’s ‘water calligraphy device’
uses a computer, mounted on the handlebars, to transmit passages of chinese literature
to an electrical system and array of solenoid valves. each character is converted into a dot matrix,
to which the valves synchronize the release of droplets of water as the tricycle moves forward.
thus as the device moves forward, passages of text appear behind it, only to gradually evaporate
just as in traditional water brush painting.

‘water calligraphy device’ is traveling through beijing’s historic dashilar district
through october 3rd, 2011, as part of beijing design week.


video courtesy of nicholas hanna


video courtesy of nicholas hanna


the project draws from the chinese tradition of writing calligraphy in public spaces using a water brush


view of the device in use


closer view of the characters


the tricycle leaves poetry in its wake as it travels through the neighborhoods of dashilar, beijing


view of the solenoid valve system
image © designboom


detail of the device wiring
image © designboom


top view
image © designboom

the flat-bead tricycles hannas used to create ‘water calligraphy device’ are ubiquitous throughout beijing:


many vendors convert their tricycles into carts to transport and sell fruits and vegetables
image © designboom


another common sight is their use to transport cardboard and other materials
image © designboom


beijing design week converted a tricycle of their own into an information stall, filled with guidebooks, press postcards, and maps
image © designboom

from september 26th through october 3rd, 2011, designers and thinkers from across the world gather in beijing, china
for  beijing design week and beijing international design triennial. exhibitions, conferences, workshops and lectures
across the city address the theme of ‘design beijing – good design’ for the nine-day event, which looks to transform
the ubiquity of ‘made in china’ to ‘designed in china’.

beijing design week is presented by the ministry of culture, ministry of education, the china federation of literary
and art circles, and the municipal government of beijing, in collaboration this year with tsinghua university.

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