3D-Printed Shadow Art Reveals a Hidden Haiku

Drzach & Suchy introduce a new kind of encrypted message.

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Nov 20 2015, 6:30pm

Images courtesy the artist

What if you could send someone a hidden message that could only be revealed by sunlight? I, for one, can imagine a groundbreaking marketing campaign, a line of advertisements disguised as public furnishings, an entire city’s infrastructure embedded with secret messages plugging some new product. You'd never have to pay for billboard space again.

Light and shadow, both natural and artificial, play a fundamental role in nearly every work of art from the Swiss creative team Drzach & Suchy. Known for their Solar Panel Palm Trees and transforming panel portraits of Muppets, the duo announced their latest contribution to the canon of shadow art history this week, a new project entitled simply, haiku.

The haiku is a centuries-old form of traditional Japanese poetry generally defined by a 17 syllable verse format split across 3 metrical units, in an order of 5,7, and 5 syllables, respectively. Dacha & Suchy’s haiku was written by renowned 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho, one of the most renowned haiku masters of all time. It reads:

old pond

frog jumps in

sound of water

This poem is so monumental to haiku history that it has been translated into English in 31 different ways. The composition above is just one of those translations. The original Japanese text is:

Furu ike ya

kawazu tobikomu

mizu no oto

The artists designed a series a 3D-printed grates that reflect light from the sun onto the bottom of a pool, revealing words written in their shadow. Drzach & Suchy apply a technique similar to the one used in their Shadow Fence project, where casted messages change over time according to the position of the sun.

Looking at the 3D-printed sheets on their own, the words are hidden within the weave of the metal. But when they place these coil sheets on the surface of the water and the sunlight shines through the mesh, projecting the letters on the other side.

One sheet can carry a word on both sides:

GIF by the author, via

The objects in this piece were made via a 3D printing service called i.materialise, an online database and resource for designers.

Check out more images of the project below:

Click here for more from Drzach & Suchy.

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