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What happens when we encounter poetry in a non-personal, non-teleological environment? Amidst a global pandemic and the collective sensory deprivation of quarantine isolation,  how can we honor and listen to the voices of grief and survival to reimagine our entrapped realities? BEYOND GARDEN is a web-VR poetry installation incorporating audio-visual lighting, ambient sound design, and AR filters, to create a space for healing, togetherness, and encounter, within the confines of a browser.


BEYOND GARDEN is inspired by the ancient Chinese classic Commentary of the Water Classics—a geological essay on the phenomenological language of water that de-centers the human narrative onto the margins. Historically, gardens are a manifestation of utopian ideals, an anthropocentric creation of domesticated, imagined nature. Contemporary gardens are also collective, public spaces for gathering, especially taking on socio-political urgency during the pandemic. By attempting to embody the fluidity depicted in Commentary of the Water Classics, BEYOND GARDEN seeks to reconcile the limits of the anthropocene with the intimation of a language and nature that is beyond anthropocentric encounter. BEYOND GARDEN’s web VR experience and accompanying AR filter opens a vast, flowing, oceanic desert—reimagining a poetic, collective, post-Anthropocene future where nature no longer centers the human. The meditative light and color of the landscape are reactive to the viewers’ time of day, location, and the moon’s API, and the viewer is free to explore all corners of the landscape through keypad controls. Music is an original creation inspired by traditional Chinese musical textures: layered strings, no vocals, and the audio is also reactive to visitor movements and their time of day. The accompanying AR filter allows the visitor to transport their homes into BEYOND GARDEN and explore the new site-specific work in a truly immersive way.


As the visitor gets closer to the many mysterious dune-like capsules that sprinkle the landscape, one hears cascading whispers of eerie, almost non-human voices—collectively inhaling and exhaling, interweaving in and out of consciousness on the margins of soundscape. By entering the capsules, the visitor enters the threshold of a poem, finding herself liminally immersed inside a poem whispered and written by a diasporic Chinese poet . In the year where live poetry readings have become a distant memory, the capsules sing to us from the afterlife—ghostly songs from another world flowing like Taoist virtues of water’s effortless and relentless flow. The bilingual poems interweave Mandarin and English to collectively sing, grieve, and heal towards a shared past and future, making direct sensory contact with the listener through ASMR-whisperings. In the distance, a beam of light beckons, a marker in this seemingly boundless landscape towards which the visitors can travel. Behind them, each visitor leaves a trail of light that quietly disappears as the visitor moves forward, leaving no history or trace of their encounter.


Studio Dyan Jong, Nick Gregg, and


Carlina Duan, JiaoYang Li, and JinJin Xu


LA Design Festival, Life Magazine Cover Story

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