Shanghai Design Week

See-Soul interactive installation, Shanghai 2020

No man is an island? In the era of social distancing, VAVE Studio created an interactive installation by the name ‘See-Soul’ to enable people to experience the subtle connection between two completely independent individuals.

During COVID-19 all of humanity was forced to remain socially distant, so there is an opportunity to stop and rethink our relationship to each other and with the community. ‘No man is an island’. In the same sense, each individual’s unique soul can influence others far beyond our imagination. To dig the meaning, ‘Design Shanghai’ presents designers with a thought-provoking issue: ‘Together’.


‘Together’ tries to express the beautiful and harmonic vision of individual independence tied with emotional tolerance, and tries to elicit social thinking. There are many ways to provoke thinking, and art design is an excellent channel to create an emotional experience. The power of art cannot be quantified, but the results of design can be measured by the emotional resonance of the audience, which is exactly the design philosophy VAVE wants to explore and to bring to perfection – to find the perfect balance between art and design.

In this experiment, VAVE tries to arouse deep thinking in participants from ‘ego’ to ‘superego’. Assuming we are used to focusing on self-expression, what kind of emotional experience can remind us that our behavior is connected to the community as a whole?

Many artists and designers have tried this before, e.g. an art installation by Ronald Rael on the U.S. -Mexican border. He created a see-saw for Mexican and US kids through the border fence. It is a beautiful reminder that we can create strong bonds no matter where we are located.

The purpose of See-Soul is to create a playful connection between two people, invisible to the individual and still noticeable – a look in the mirror and in your own soul. By swinging on the see-saw, you will only be able to spot your reflection in the mirror; nevertheless, there is someone on the other side of it, behind the mirror. Someone you cannot see, and who cannot see you either. But together, you swing.

See-soul is reminding participants that ‘social distancing’ does not equate ‘social isolation’ in a humorous and playful fashion. Although each individual is powerless by nature, through cooperation and interaction we can create a win-win situation by employing collective strength; just as the interaction between the two people cannot be separated by the circular mirror. Only when the cooperation and interaction kept a dynamic balance on the see-saw we can truly enjoy the fun.

Therefore this installation expresses ‘social isolation’ only by appearance. In fact, it encourages participants to feel ‘social connection’ by experience under the mere appearance of ‘social isolation’.

The device consists of the background curtain, the main see-saw, the dividing round mirror and a light box. The three-colored light source in the light box creates a three-colored overlay of the see-saw and the participants’ shadow on the background screen.

After calculation, the see-saw moves up and down in a circular trajectory on both sides of the fulcrum. Meanwhile the split mirror in the center flips back and forth on the ground fulcrum in accordance with the movement. This way the participants will see their self-image on the other side through the mirror no matter how far they go up.

It may seem like you are entertaining with yourself, but your fun actually comes from interacting with others. Because ‘no man is an island, entirely of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’
(John Donne).

VAVE Studio

VAVE Studio – Haijie Hu, Tobias Geisler

VAVE Studio – Junlei Zhou, Matthias Sütterlin, Benjamin Mühlbauer

VAVE Studio – Laureline Dufour, Silvia Li

VAVE Studio – Frank Fu

Promotion and Operation
VAVE Studio – Renee Xu

Nantong Yatai Exhibition Ltd.Co.