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Folded Light Art

Origami is commonly known as a Japanese and Chinese ancient paper-folding art that can be traced back to the time when paper was invented in China, about two thousand years ago. In the past few decades, Origami, both as an art and a science, has been developing rapidly and has become a fertile ground for cross-pollination among the arts, humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. New areas in origami—including rigid origami, thick origami, origami tessellation, curve folding— are concerned not only with the artistic aspects, but also with the underlying mathematics, computational simulations, and applications in the material and structural engineering of origami. These new areas of origami, are not particularly restricted to folding with paper. Instead, a variety of materials, from graphene at the nanoscale to timber at the architecture scale, have been studied and fabricated using folding techniques. While folding a piece of paper does not require sophisticated tools, folding graphene or timber requires complex scientific, engineering, and mathematical studies. Because of this complexity, mathematical theorems concerning geometric properties in folding thick panels have been studied. Computer algorithms have been developed to simulate kinetic behaviors in the folding of rigid origami. Finite element analysis has been used to study the mechanical behaviors of a foldable and deployable structure. Many more research projects focus on understanding the computational complexity and geometric algorithms of folding and unfolding.

While research into folding has been conducted in computer science, mathematics, engineering, and material science, folding in art and design has yet to be taken more seriously other than in its association with traditional origami as a craft activity. I attempt to bring new awareness to this unique expression of art and design by exploring folding conceptually and mathematically and by seeking innovative ways of form-finding and material-making in art and design. For artists and designers, folding can be seen as a conceptual expression and a material operation. By linking both, folding becomes a powerful medium for exploring various didactic material and cultural concepts, such as interiority and exteriority, subjectivity and objectivity, and boundary and space. For designers, understanding the intrinsic logics of natural forms (for example, in protein folding or leaf furling) and applying these logics to new materials result in new designs. As an artist, designer, and researcher, I am equally intrigued by the fertile conceptual grounds, the rich geometric and tectonic forms, the sophisticated mathematical understandings, and the broad material applicability of origami. In particular, I am interested in how to explore folding through spatial art installations, how to invent new folding designs based on mathematical understandings, how to digitally fabricate these new designs and structures in various materials (not necessarily paper) based on computational design and engineering analysis, and most importantly, I am interested in exploring how these aspects work together within the conceptual and physical spaces in which they occur. Instead of exploring these various aspects in isolation, I often overlap inquires in art, design, mathematics, engineering, and technologies in my creative and research scholarship.

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