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Sound Art Imagines a Different Kind of Zen Garden

Does it still rock if a Japanese rock garden has no rocks? We investigate.

by Nathaniel Ainley
17 June 2016, 2:20pm

Screencaps via

A new kind of Japanese rock garden has emerged out of a thesis show at Parsons' Design and Technology MFA program. Instead of sand, tt’s a special meditation quadrant that uses sound. Shanghai-born artist Jingying (Eric) Jiang developed the installation, Path, which lets users use perform classic raking movements with a sensor-enabled wooden rake. Its two mounted sensors measure how fast the rake is moving, as well as its spatial relationship to the rocks placed across the floor. The rake’s speed and location trigger different frequencies of an audio sample of a monk chanting. 

Path from Eric Jiang on Vimeo.

The faster you move the rake, the higher the frequency. Every time the head of the rake gets near one of the stones, speakers ring out a loud ‘DING!’ encouraging users to experiment with different raking speeds in order to uncover their preferred sounds. Once the perfect pitch is found, users are then tasked with the challenge of preserving it. In the video demonstration above, Jiang stands barefoot in a carpeted room with three rocks scattered across it. He moves about the room experimenting with different outputs as he rakes imaginary sand.

Jiang’s work looks at interactive installations and tangible interfaces: operating systems you can engage with physically as well as mentally. He hopes the installation will serve as a demonstration of how technology can be utilized as a meditative tool. Path works to cultivate a calming atmosphere and guide people’s minds towards what the artist calls the same “similar routinized levels of simplicity and tranquility” Buddhist monks cultivate in their own Zen gardens.

Check out more of Jiang’s work on his website.

Related:

Step Inside A Digital Zen Garden

Behold, The Programmable Robotic Zen Garden

Disrupt Your Day with a Zen-Like "Kinetic" Sculpture

Tagged:
Technology
Installation
Design
sound
Sampling
zen
MFA
stone
sensors
gardens
Eric Jiang
Jingying Jiang