Work in progress: Ocean Room

A look at student projects as they develop

I grew up by the sea. Hong Kong is right on the coast, and you can catch a view of the ocean pretty much wherever you go. Even if you’re deep in the city or up in the mountains, the ocean is always close by. It was a constant in my life: I grew up with the sense that this massive, beautiful piece of blue was always nearby and that it would always be there, wherever I was in the city.

I didn’t realize how comforting that feeling was until I left Hong Kong. I miss seeing the waves on my way to school, I miss the tangy smell of seawater in the air, I miss hearing the roar of waves at night. Most of all, I miss the sense of comfort that came from knowing that the ocean is right there, close to me, a walk or short drive away.

Ocean Room is my attempt to re-create a similar, refuge-like space on campus: a life-sized dome, nine feet wide and eight feet tall, designed to immerse visitors in a re-creation of the ocean. Video projections of waves fill the walls of the dome; the sounds and scent of the sea fill the space inside. A carpet interior, with two sitting chairs, and notebooks for writing or drawing. The entire space aims to create a sense of safety and comfort, so that visitors can rest, reflect, and relax. I wanted to create a space that feels safe, comforting—a place where anyone can escape from the world for a little while. At the same time, this installation is also my tribute to the ocean. I wanted to re-create a small part of the sea here, for everyone who—like me—longs for it when they’re here at Duke.

Finally, Ocean Room is an experiment in space: I wanted to explore how art spaces can influence the way we perceive the world and each other. What kinds of thoughts and emotions will the experience inspire in visitors? What happens when two visitors, otherwise strangers, meet inside? Will the shared experience of the ocean room form subliminal bonds?

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