An Electronical, Computational, Light and Sound Sculpture unveiling the unseen underworld and the symbolic reflections
between Nature's interconnectedness and human life  

Interactive Installation
C++ / P5.js
Exhibition Video

Photo Credit: Wallis Millar-Blanchaer

"By utilizing technology and cognitive science, my aim is to empower the inanimate root, giving back its agency to reveal the beauty through human interaction and allowing it to generate its own artificial life. Simultaneously, this immersive experience transforms the physical realm into a secret spiritual domain underneath the ground, inviting human participants to contemplate on the intrinsic interconnectedness between humans and nature."

Exhibition Video:


In my past years, I nurtured myself two profound passions: a deep connection to nature, evolving into my spiritual wellspring, and a keen interest in cognitive psychology. Channeling the wisdom of the greatest psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, who once described life as a plant living on its rhizome, I found resonance in the idea that true life lies concealed beneath the surface.

Inspired by nature's intricate web of interconnectedness, particularly the silent dialogues between plants through fungi and bacteria, I explore symbolic reflections relevant to the human life. This conceptual framework laid the foundation for this light and sound sculpture—an artistic endeavor dedicated to utilizing technology to augment the unveiling of concealed aspects in both nature and human existence.

Fungal networks in Amazon forests

Human's nervous system inside the brain


Although I’ve always loved trees, my love and admiration for them has deepened considerably since reading a book about how tree communicate news through their intersection roots, with the special fungal networks affectionately called the “wood wide web”. For this project, I did more research related this ecosystems and found more fascinating facts of this old living organisms. 

Scientifically, the phenomenon commonly known as the “wood wide web” is accurately termed 'Mycorrhizal networks'. These networks are intricately formed through fungi connecting trees and plants within forest ecosystems. Fungi play a pivotal role by aiding in the transmission of signals such as alerts to danger, distress, and other chemical information.

Additionally, they act as conduits for the transportation of mineral nutrients, facilitating responses and mutual support among networked trees and plants. Another crucial component within this intricate network is the 'Root nodule', a specialized structure formed on the roots of trees through a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This symbiosis is integral to the nitrogen cycle, contributing significantly to the supply of essential nutrients to trees and plants. Notably, the nutrients synthesized in the root nodules are also transmitted through the mycorrhizal networks, fostering a collaborative exchange among the interconnected vegetation. This complex interplay underscores the importance of mycorrhizal networks and root nodules in sustaining the overall health and vitality of forest ecosystems.

Nitrogen Fixing Nodules on Clover

Robinia pseudoacacia root nodules

Concept Development:

These intriguing science facts about trees and the forest ecosystem inspire me to contemplate more expansively about the human species. It leads me to reflect on the neurosystem within our brains, which fundamentally shapes our identity, on the struggles that form our resilience, and the networks we build in our communities and societies, sharing similar values with these ecosystems.

The term 'Root nodule' regarding bacteria particularly caught my attention. Typically, people have negative feelings towards bacteria, much like the struggles and diversity encountered in life. We all have a natural instinct to distance ourselves from it as fast as possible. When this separation isn't fast enough, it can evoke feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and other challenging emotions based on different resilience skills. On the contrary, these bacteria, known as root nodules, play a vital role in providing one of the most important mineral nutrients, nitrogen, to trees and plants through the process of nitrogen fixation. The transfer of nutrients through the mycorrhizal network, involving fungi, supports neighboring plants.

The idea of creating an underground sculpture that reveals this fascinating ecosystem quickly emerged in my mind. Conversely, everyone in the room becomes part of this root system – various organisms, including fungi, insects, and bacteria. Each element is crucial to the roots. Through technology, my hope is to metaphorically empower these roots, giving them the agency to reveal themselves through movement. They start generating a random frequency of melody, as if they are emerging from nature, performing on their own.

Metaphorically, they unveil the true beauty of how the root system transforms struggles (represented by bacteria ‘root nodule’) into something beautiful and vital for their overall health through light (photosynthesis).
This multidisciplinary sculpture immerses viewers in a sensory exploration, inviting them to witness the performance of roots, lights, and sounds that mirrors the interconnected dance of life. The integration of technology acts as a bridge, allowing us to connect with the intricate web of nature and life's processes. Root serves as a reminder that hidden within struggles are transformative moments, and each element, no matter how small, plays a crucial role in the flourishing symphony of existence.

First sketch for the project

Design Thinking:

Although I faced a little difficulty initially in figuring out how to work with multiple sensors in one project without conflicts, building the electronic circuit for this project turned out to be quite straightforward for me. The main challenge in the early stages was determining the computational sound that I hoped these augmented root systems could use to generate their own unique voice. My goal was to achieve a spiritual and ethereal theme to capture the essence of the underground world. After some research, I discovered the Mozzi library, a convenient sound library built into the Arduino system.

So technically, this project is preprogrammed using Arduino Nano and Arduino MKR Zero. The entire sculpture is attached to a stepper motor that spins at a smooth speed. During motion, the ultrasonic sensor automatically calculates the distance of each root and root nodule (which might be completely randomized). Based on the incoming data, the preprogrammed Arduino updates the sine wave frequency through the Mozzi library, effectively becoming the "physical voice" of the root. When people walk underneath, the voice is updated to a higher frequency.

The second interactive element involves a PIR sensor detecting human presence. This triggers 16 green LED lights to illuminate one by one, resembling the intricate communication network (mycorrhizal network) hidden underneath, akin to the human neurosystem.

People will observe, listen, and contemplate as they engage with the root sculpture. They can enjoy the ethereal play of light reflections created through prisms, offering a meditative and engaging sensory experience. Encouraging visitors to walk around the room mirrors the activities of the organisms within the underground world. The motion of individuals becomes analogous to the movements that trigger communication within the root system, manifested through the dynamic interplay of LED lights in a captivating web-like display.

Physical computing:

Electronic components -Arduino Nano, Arduino MKR zero, Arduino Mega, PIR sensor, Ultrasonic sensor, Stepper motor, Motor module, Taidacent 12 Wires slip ring, micro LED lights(I wired them in parallel, so they can fire up one by one), cooper wires, speaker, and Adafruit AS7341 Spectral Sensor (Although decided not use this sensor in the final project due to its overall accuracy, I intend to explore and develop this concept further in the future).

CODING LANUAGE: c++, p5.js:

This project is primarily using C++ language to program Arduino Nano, MKR Zero, Mega, and various sensors and modules.

For the P5 part, I intend to utilize computer vision in machine learning field to create a root generator capable of extracting an average color through mathematical equations. This average color, combined with Perlin noise and randomized parameters, will be used to draw roots in real-time through a hidden webcam. The average color, angle, and length are updated simultaneously. This process resembles another concept in psychology, indicating that individuals can always rewire their 'roots' (neural pathways).

Similar to the key elements of randomness and imperfection in nature, I have integrated these aspects into my P5 coding sketches. The integration of technology and computational language serves as a bridge, deepening the connection between the intricate web of nature and the profound meaning hidden within.

This additional P5.js part explores how, much like our nervous system, humans have the power to nurture their own roots. Despite a significant part of our brain operating on autopilot, our brains are adaptable and can change over time. Every person has the ability to rewire their brain and improve their well-being based on different approaches to life events — and it's never too late to cultivate your own roots.

The average color, angle, and length are updated simultaneously in real-time through user interaction.

Light and shadow:

In order to achieve the best  illumination effect, I tried various types of light bulbs, for instance full-spectrum sunlight bulb, dimmable LED Edison bulb, halogen landscape light, and incandescent lightbulb, etc.

However, none of these bulbs worked as I expected. My speculation is none of these are good at spreading lightwaves effectively, so the space stayed lit with the same wave length of light, making it hard for our eyes to see a colorful rainbow-like effect.

I ended up using flashlight for this project at current stage since it has an intensively strong and focused light, despite LED light can compare to natural sunlight, it still covers a wide range of colors. This broad spectrum should be good enough to produce colorful reflection when goes through prisms. Building on this idea and after multiple experiments, I successfully recreate sunlight like effect through prisms in a dark environment. This leads and inspired another engaging concept for the  future development of this project.


SculptureBox materials: green acrylic block box to represent the surface areas of a tree or a plant.
Root materials: Steel wire, plaster, clay, crystal balls.
Lightning2 Zoomable Flashlights, with 90000 High Lumen



Ancestral art in modern life

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