Nocturnal Garden: Touch Sensor Environmental Art Installation

Relax and listen to Gregory Hanks Green play the Khaen a traditional Lao/Thai mouth organ made of bamboo pipes, as colors reveal the garden forms of the Thai forest. Curate the sound of the Khaen and the colors of the nocturnal garden by touching the tropical plants. Discover each note or song and color the touch triggers. Gregory Hanks Green, the curator of the Echols Collection of Southeast Asian music at the Cornell music library is also a Khaen player. Green can be heard in the Nocturnal Garden playing a song on the Khaen in the Lai Nyai mode or create your own Khaen song as you touch the leafy plants. Khaen is tradition Thai and Laotian free reed instrument that sounds when the player breathes in or out. A touch of the plants provokes a note on the khaen or a complete song played by Green as well as an array of twilight colors.

Collaborators: Artist Joan Marie Kelly and Senior Lecturer at Nanyang Technological University, curated the concept, and design of the touch sensor installation specifically for the natural environment of Koh Lon Thailand and the Digital naturalism conference 2018.  Senior Technical Manager, animation at NTU in Singapore  Nagaraju Thummanapalli coded the music and colored LED light to sensors, Musician Gregory Hanks Green contributed the digital files of himself playing the Khaen, flutist Beth Kelly was music consultant, and Tourism Ethnographer Yuthasak Chatkaewnapanon gave cultural council of the context of the artwork. Below are 2 short videos of the Nocturnal Garden.

IMG_1007              dancing

 IMG_1007 IMG_0992   Joan Kelly testing the Nocturnal Garden IMG_1032 (1)

Nagaraju Thummanapalli teaching Joan Kelly the principals of electricity. Kelly has to do all the connections on site. 

The computer chip, connections to sensors and power bank

Joan Kelly making the connections on site.

Coral-textured Paneling

Inspired by the modular pattern of corals, the project translates the coral textures into modules of tiles through the casting process.

The tiles are scalable to fit different functions from a facade or fence to a seawall tiles friendly to marine lives.


By Eakapob Huangthanapan (Guide)


an Amphibological Research Project


Here at the ​Department of Amphibological Research​, our primary studies are in the equivocal interpretation of the natural world. While on Ko Lon, we used technologically aided misidentification techniques to discover a host of ambiguous new species on the island. However, we became especially fascinated with one particular animal: the hermit crab (Fig. 1).

Figure 1

Hermit crabs in Ko Lon are not difficult to spot: lay still on the beach for more than a couple of minutes and you will soon notice some shells crawling around you. We immediately fell in love with the little crustaceans. Maybe because, unlike most animals, they are so easy to catch and play with: delightful toy-sized robots of nature. Maybe because their mismatched shells gives each one of them a slightly goofy and unique look. Whatever the reason: we started asking ourselves some amphibological questions: is it possible that the different shells reflect different aesthetic preferences and personalities? Or ​vice versa:​ can the chosen shell affect the crab’s attitudes and behaviors? The field seemed ripe for some crab misunderstanding, but we didn’t know how to tackle these important questions.

Figure 2

Then, early on during one of our explorations – when the sand on the beach was still undisturbed by Dinosaur tracks – we noticed the intricate imprints left behind by the hermit crabs (Fig. 2). Rambling and asymmetric, they came in so many different sizes and shapes, almost as varied as their shells. We therefore speculated that the tracks may provide a window into the personality of the crabs. To test this hypothesis, three experimental protocols were designed and performed between July 8 and July 10.

Methods and Results

1. Sand – The most obvious first step was to attempt to record the crab tracks directly on the original inspirational medium: sand. However, we needed a way to record crabs behaviour in a controlled environment, one crab at the time. We proceeded to dig a more or less rectangular arena (Fig. 3A), high enough to prevent a medium sized crab to escape (which some passersby delightfully misunderstood as a crab-fighting pit). We then proceeded to place in the arena 3 separate crabs, with notably different shells, letting them free to wander around for a couple of minutes each and took pictures of their tracks (see Fig. 3B). However, this first method was not satisfying for two reasons: the most extravagant crabs emerge from their burrow toward dusk, which meant that the lighting conditions on the beach were far from ideal at the time of the experiment. Also, the crabs instead of wandering around were mostly trying to escape, slowly demolishing the walls of our arena. Soon enough we decided to fold up the Crab Lab #1.

Figure 3A
Figure 3B
Crab Lab fail

2. Paint – Although less faithful than sand tracks, paint provides a much more durable and easy medium to record the crabs crawling. We first experimented with some blue acrylic paint, to see if the crabs were comfortable with this medium. Protected by their exoskeleton the crabs didn’t seem to mind having their legs dipped in blue paint and we were extremely pleased with the results (Fig. 4A). We therefore proceeded with more elaborate experiments, completely disregarding our original plan to record each crab individually. The painting in Fig. 4B was produced by letting an indeterminate number of crabs, randomly sampled from our surroundings, wander around as long as we pleased.


Figure 4A
Figure 4B

We later got over our excitement and returned to our original goal: we collected 3 crabs (Fig. 5A) with distinctive shells and let each one of them paint for a couple of minutes with a different color on sheets of papers of equal size (NOTE: each crab was arbitrarily moved around at random locations whenever the crab got fixated on a corner – more often than not). Overlapping the separate channels (Fig. 5B) clearly reveals very different levels of craftsmanship and artistic sensibilities.

Crab A (blue) has a bold sensibility with rational, linear strokes. There is a sureness and sophistication to these graphic, directional lines, evoking a flowing river or receding tide.

Crab B (red)’s work takes a more tentative, thoughtful approach – its mark making has an impressionistic quality with a cross-hatched layering effect – describing dimensions of an unknowable form.

Crab C (yellow) took a more playful approach, her work recalls the graffiti like scrawls of a young Cy Twombly. The claws here have a freshness and immediacy that show great promise.

Figure 5A (legend)
Figure 5B

3. Light – Late on the last night of our residency after a hard day in the lab, we thought the crabs could use a little fun. We teamed up with Andy and Chris to create a final, light-based experiment. We temporarily attached colored LED lights to different crabs and allowed them free (more or less) to chart their own courses. First in a confined environment in the house (Fig. 6A) and later completely unbounded on the beach (Fig. 6B). Of course, this technique did not allow us to record the tracks of the crabs in any detail but it had several other advantages: 1) LED lights were more durable than paint; 2) it allowed us to study crabs in the dark and we were in a hurry; 3) it looked pretty damn cool!

We actually had 6 (maybe 7?) crabs in our initial trial and unfortunately LED lights could only be set to 3-4 different wavelengths. This meant that we had crabs with completely different shells wearing the same colour, which completely confounded our results and did not allow us to unequivocally associate specific crabs with their tracks, but to be honest we didn’t much care anymore.

Figure 6A
Figure 6B

(Photography by the indomitable Andy “Don’t” Quitmeyer)


In conclusion, based on our poorly-designed and shoddily-performed experiments we can firmly reject the null hypothesis (based on pure self-confidence): hermit crabs are not just simple arthropods made more relatable to the human eye by their mismatched shells. We argue that these crustaceans exhibit unique personalities and advanced artistic sensibilities, revealed only in part by their choice of shell and crawling behaviour.

Future directions. These experiments, as well as recent reports by Minsky et al. 2018, show that there is great under-appreciated art potential in hermit crabs, and arguably in crabs of all species. Indeed, in the following weeks, while exploring other tropical beaches we came across many interesting sand markings left by other kinds of crabs. Not only do crabs produce elegant tracks when they walk but most of them burrow during the day, producing further patterns of great interest. Here are only two examples: the Ghost Crab (Fig. 7A) besides looking extremely badass, also creates these comet-like shapes around their burrow (Fig. 7B). The elusive Sand Bubbler Crab (too small for us to take a good picture), builds delicate constellations of tiny sand balls (Fig. 8). Finally, take a look at these crazy snails which we met on our last day in Phuket going round and round in celtic-looking tracks (Fig. 9). This will no doubt provide inspiration for many years of amphibological studies.

Figure 7A
Figure 7B
Figure 8


Figure 9

Practical applications. Beyond their aesthetic value, there is considerable potential in crab-inspired designs and tools. As a proof of concept, our in-house designer studied the individual crab markings and processed these into a series of digital brushes (Fig. 10A) – available to download at this link -which she then used to compose a meandering, infinitely repeating pattern (Fig. 10B). Some fabric prints are currently in development and we welcome suggestions for further artistic and commercial applications.

Figure 10A
Figure 10B

Island take away sound glasses – Mónica Rikić

I came with the idea of making a playful device at the island. I brought this 3D printed google looking glasses with no lenses.

The first 2 days I was exploring the island, walking around and recording a lot of sounds.

When I was putting my materials together – arduino, glasses, sensors, speakers – I was talking to Mika and she just put one speaker in one of the lenses and it fit perfectly, so I decided to do a sound experience device with the glasses. I like the idea of ‘seeing sound’ or having an object made for one sense to feel another one.

With some of the bits and pieces put together, I still felt I needed a concept to put everything together.

One day we went to the boat to spend the day – it was amazing. We arrived to a beach at the other side of the island and we stopped there to walk around and swim. Suddenly it started raining, I was a bit cold so, funny enough, I went inside the sea which was much warmer.

I laid in the water, floating, with my eyes closed, and felt supper happy. I could hear the waves and see the lights from the clouds moving in the sky with my eyes closed. I wanted to take that moment home, so that’s what I did through the glasses.

One Arduino, 2 speakers (one for each lens), LED rings and a sound card reader made this simple device that allows you to bring the island home with you.

Tech wise, I recorded sounds of waves and compress them so they could be played by the Arduino. I placed the speakers in the lenses and, behind them, 2 LED rings that would fade in and out randomly with yellowish colors representing the lights in the sky.

The interaction works very simple: you just lay down, put on the glasses with your eyes closed and you just feel the island wherever you are.

Enjoy! (I’ll put some videos as soon as I have better internet connection)

P.S. oh! I also got a Dinacon dinosaur tattoo from Valerie 🙂

Coconut water catcher 1.0

Are your bowls too small to catch your coconut water?
Do you struggle to prevent spilling valuable electrolytes?
Is your refreshing beverage filled with gritty husk?

For the amazing price of pretty much nothing you can catch and drink your coconut water in comfort and style!

You will need to prepare:

– A 5l water or oil bottle
– 2 rubber bands
– Some filter cloth
– A knife
– A sharpie
– A coconut
– A good bashing rock
– Your official Dinacon survival water bottle

1. De-husk your coconut as demonstrated in the official Dinacon documentation:
2. Hold the coconut against the bottle in one hand, and trace its circumference using the sharpie with the other, leaving 4-5cm from the bottom of the bottle.
3. Cut away the plastic area you have traced.
4. Remove the top of the bottle, and fasten your filter cloth over the opening with the rubber bands. Replace the bottle top.
5. Congratulations! You have completed your Better Coconut Water Catcher v1.0


Crack your coconut over the catcher and collect your coconut water in comfort and style!

Remove the cap and pour out refreshing filtered coconut water into your official Dinacon survival water bottle!

3 microfictions on Koh Lon

The idea was to adopt the point of view of select native organisms to sketch a subjective, fragmented portrait of the island, based on observations during my stay, using perspective, empathy and humor.

++++ palm ++++

i knew it was just a matter of time. but it’s important to keep up appearances, i thought. tall and slim, with my nuts at the top. once in a while, i let one drop. this is my gift to the island. anyone who dares to climb my torso and touch my private parts should know they have it coming. i wonder if the humans who drink my clear milk can taste my bitterness when they incinerate plastics and let diesel seep into the soil.

my siblings and i, beacons of baan mai. soak in the tides, survey the boats, sway with the wind, sweat with the rain. caress the air with feathered digits. and of course, blessed by the big buddha on the hilly horizon. a royal perch for the heavy hornbill. home to the golden tree snake. bejewelled by the translucent exuviae of a reborn cicada. because on the ground, we rule.

the question is, why me? neither an elder nor a sprout, just another misplaced middle child in a clan of kings. four full moons ago, it started with the beetle. she burrowed underground. i could sense her within my roots. me, tickled by her visit. she, searching for the perfect nest. because i am royalty, i thought, she chose me. then, she disappeared. it wasn’t long before i understood the curse that she had layed upon me. dozens of larvae, hatching from abandoned eggs, emerged into my entrails. hungry and blind, they ate their way through my wood. the squirming in my loins went on for days and nights, invisible to the outer world. it’s important to keep up appearances, i thought. finally, the grubs disappeared on six legs.

still, i stood straight, tall and lean. yet, turmoil had grown inside me. and dare i say, other species can sense insecurity. the fungi that grew on my skin started out as friends. we exchanged nutrients; both of us grew stronger together. but once they felt the chemical change under my bark, they too began to bite. mycelium crept into my guts, into the crevices left by raw trails. they spread and settled into patches of poisonous white fur, chewing away at the walls between the tunnels. slowly but surely, i was being eaten alive. ravaged within, savaged without. night after day, from moon up to sun down. until sunday, june 24, at 13 hours 8 minutes and 53 seconds, I crashed. i can no longer keep up appearances, i thought. this is my gift to the island.

++++ colony ++++

major 5736: vertical is now horizontal. pass it on.
major 5860: forwardbound, access to roots. check.
major 5817: trunk end, tunnels rotting, mycelium present.
major 5838: scout black ant seized, quartered, dead.
major 5839: carrying to nest 4.
minor 4072: red honeydew milked from scale insects at pasture 2.
minor 4073: carrying to nest 5.
major 6825: commuting to nest 9.
major 6812: carrying major 6813 to help build new nest.
major 3693: stretching out, can’t reach.
major 3694: climbing over, stretching out, can’t reach.
major 3695: climbing over, linking in, stretching out, can’t reach.
major 3696: climbing over, linking in, bridging up, stretching out… leaf reached.
majors 3693+3694+3695+3696: pull!
majors 3493+3494+3495+3496: pull!
majors 3711 through 3722: staple bite. hold. wait.
major 2561: carrying larva across seam. left, tap for silk. right, tap for silk. forward to next stitch, repeat.
major 9480: intruder at northwest. clamp jaw bite.
major 9488: intruder at northwest. attack stance spray.
major 7261: intruder at southeast. attack stance spray.
major 7269: intruder at southeast. clamp jaw bite.
minor 7200: intruders invading nest 1. all save the queen!
minor 7253: protect our larvae!
minor 7218: citric attack!
major 7264: no use, we’re a delicacy.
major 7237: once licked, twice bitten, all minced into garlic tapenade.
major 7999: nest may be cooked, but colony will survive.
major 8000: bon appétit, humans!

++++ hermit ++++

what are you, blind? can’t you see i live here? i know my jade green shell is drop-dead gorgeous, that’s why i chose it. i like the way it accents my bright red body. my old shell didn’t do me justice, but at least it fit. anyway, i outgrew it last month. this jewel fits me like a gem. i’ve finally found the perfect shell, and it’s mine. so bugger off, little crab, you’re too small. better yet, wait in line with the others. your time will come if you’re patient. the last time a human tried to steal my shell, i pinched so hard she tossed me back into the water on the spot. anyway, i prefer kayak rides. one can travel very far, see many more shells of all colors and stripes. in fact, on the other shore i spotted a sharp black and white shell on a snail at high tide. now that would help me stand out among my peers. not like those entire nudie beaches branded blue and red. and some crabs are so flashy they don’t even need shells. just hiding all that iridescent purple blue pink yellow gaudiness underneath a rock, what a waste. besides, they’re huge. if i want a break from the spotlight i’ll duck into some barnacled coral. block the hole with a slug. as long as a moray eel hasn’t already laid dibs, i’m safe. i mean, i’m not always looking for a fight. those sand-camouflaged cannibals are ruthless. if one of them isn’t brandishing some other crab’s claw like a victory torch, it’s dragging another severed torso off for dinner. i may be a scavenger, but i’m not a barbarian. sand bubblers, on the other hand, they have a sense of esthetics. those tiny critters sieve their nutrients right out of the sand at low tide, then after breakfast they leave us with a bubbly mandala on the beach. all that’s really missing is color. now what would mantis shrimp see? even the little ones reflect color, algae green legs moving like a millipede under the microscope, or so i’ve heard. and peacock mantis shrimp, they see psychedelic rainbows. i mean, they are psychedelic rainbows. but then, color isn’t everything. look at the cucumbers, then look at the urchins: same color, totally different shape. the urchins, however, have pretty blue eyes and a pulsing orange heart. not to mention long and elegant spines. but then, i can’t say i spend much time with the filter feeders in the lower sublittoral. in fact, if i’m not getting run over by a stampede of slater bugs scattering across the rocks at dusk, i’m deafened by the snapping of pistol shrimp popping their prey at low tide. anyway—what’s going on?! egret sees red!? no, let go! put me down! my shell, my precious jade shell!

Thank you — to Andy, for leading and encouraging independent discovery of our immediate natural environment, to Tasneem, for her scientific expertise and optimizing our kayak trip around the island, to all the “dinasaurs” who shared this experience with me.

June 24-29

Success with water-adapted augmented reality (AR)

Success with water-adapted augmented reality (AR). Aquatic AR goggles, immersive AR environments … ImmerSea: Subversive Submersibles built and tested in installation experimentations creative real time overlays for experience alteration. Now tabulating off locus reactions.

Coconut Crunching


Check yr Head!

iPad with AR software in the Andaman Sea

Coming soon: We went on the Andaman Sea with six speaker sound fully inflated with compressor zorbatronics and spread the binaural beats across the six speaker immersive submergable and so we had 6d sextanaural sonic body responsive hypno-googah. 


The Department of Amphibological Research is now open for submissions!

Here at the Department of Amphibological Research, we take image recognition on new expeditions in the natural world and tease out the limits of artificial intelligence. We invite you to collaborate with our team by providing new inspiration for our amphibological experiments.

How to get involved:

Submit a specimen for analysis by photographing something in your environment and running it through an AI image recognition software (like this or this e.g.) and sending us the results. We’ll use these to create new amphibological studies for the archive.

As a token of our appreciation, you’ll receive one of our snazzy official patches (below) and a credit on the site!

Additionally, we’d love to hear from participants that have expertise in machine learning and any artists interested in creating amphibological drawings.

Yours in ambiguity,

Pamela + Matteo

Dept of Amphibological Research

Vanessa Rosa

Dates: June 5 – June 26

Vanessa Rosa is a Brazilian visual artist and art historian. She creates projects that mixtures public art, community activities, technological experiments and historical research, usually having painting as her main medium. Currently she has been developing a research about ethnocomputing/ethnomathematics, studying the algorithms embedded in traditional arts from worldwide cultures. Vanessa has worked as project coordinator for different organizations and is an illustrator and art director for Viajante do Tempo publishing company, being one of the company’s owners. She has done mural paintings, residencies, exhibitions and other projects in different countries across South and North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Rupesh Bhattarai

Dates: June 3rd-June 14th

Project: Rupesh will be working on a children’s’ storybook project. The storybook features true stories of local individuals in Kathmandu working in technology.

Bio: Rupesh is an educator and a writer living in Kathmandu.
A primary school classroom is one of his most favorite places to be in. Rupesh started reading child magazines in kindergarten, developed a love for writing in the second grade, an unquenchable awe and enthusiasm to learn science when he was a fourth grader.
His interests have pushed him to become an educator working to foster modern thinking skills in his students through STEAM education, with “Karkhana”.
He is a part of the “Word Warriors”, a local spoken word poetry community in Kathmandu. He performs in local poetry gigs, and experiments with different aspects of poetry with “Kavindrapur”, a little poetry collaborative that he co-founded.