fluffy paper dragon

Made by Carolyn Cai and Min Hwang

it's a fluffy paper dragon. (an abstract dragon.)

Created: November 28th, 2016



Our work was an art installation, bringing to life the idea of a "fluffy paper dragon" that was intended to be enjoyable for participants to interact with. In this installation, participants were able to move the dragon so that it swayed gently and created the bright sound of a wind chime. They could also pet it and move their hand through paper strips to have an interesting tactile experience. The playful interaction evokes the nostalgia of childhood. With the dragon's backdrop featuring projections of beautiful natural scenery involving water, the symbolism of the dragon and the water cycle come together to suggest movement, strong spirit, and the journey of life from childhood to adulthood. 



Interaction demo.
Carolyn Cai - https://youtu.be/LFi-PctF3_M


Initial response

The fluffy paper dragon was definitely an eye catcher. The location of the dragon, which was right in front of the door made people detect him at one glance. His unique (but strangely cute) outlook charmed people to come closer and stroke him. Moreover, the video that was playing on top of the dragon also allowed people to get interested since it is not static and has a lot of dynamic scenes which intrigue the viewers. Many people would come forward and ask what the thing is and was willing to interact with the installation.

Interaction - Petting

The Interaction was a key value when we designed the dragon in the first place. Our intention was to make people come by the dragon and play along. This plan worked out quite well as a lot of people approached the installation and tried to pet the dragon. The soft appearance of the cotton balls has encouraged people's curiosity and sensory stimulation.

Interaction - Stroking

Furthermore, the lower part of the dragon, which is made out of hand-made shredded paper strips, was also a big attraction. When instructed, the audience would come towards the dragon and stroke his belly as prompted, and figure out that it has a unique feeling that they want to try it few more times. In the case when the paper strips were shaking because of an external force, viewers were more tempted to come and stroke the dragon. 

Interaction - Moving

As seen in the video above, moving the dragon around was another option for the viewers to appreciate the installation. This feature was not that obvious at the first glance, but when we introduced this new way of interaction with the dragon, the viewers gladly joined in and tried to move the dragon so that the wind chime at the end of the dragon will ring. Due to the fact that the wind chime was not visible from the front, where people pulled the string to move the dragon, they were decently surprised by the noise of the chime. After moving and sensing this auditory stimulant, they tend to walk around the dragon to find the source of the sound.


There were a few viewers who asked the intention of the video compilation that was projected on the dragon and the wall. Other times, the video projected interesting shade on the dragon, which allowed people to appreciate the aesthetic of nature. 



We approached the project with the idea to make a dragon-like shape out of cut paper and cardboard, and suspend it from the ceiling in a way that people could interact with it by moving its body around. Interaction was an important concept when we designed and built the dragon as we wanted to represent childhood memory of pure sensory touches. From our readings, Katja Kwastek's Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art and Paul Dourish's Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction, we learned that interaction has many different aspects that we have to think upon. Paul argues in his writing that "technology should be perceived as an extension of the body part - ready-to-hand - without interrupting user’s conscious." Even though the installation is not solely technological or digital figure, we were influenced by the concept that in order to make the best experience out of the dragon, we should design it to be intuitive so that we do not interrupt the viewer's sensational stimulation. We kept this concept in mind while following procedure to create the body of the dragon:

To start off, we wanted to make it in a modular way so we came up with several ideas for making the units of the body. After deciding on a design, we used everyday materials in creative ways in order to bring it to life. Each unit was created using cardboard and strips of tracing paper, which were very meticulously hand-cut using a ruler and x-acto knife. After connecting the units using fishing line, we installed the piece by suspending it from the ceiling using more fishing line -- a very intensive process as it was difficult to have our creature keep a rounded shape. Finally, we covered each unit in soft stuffing material. We also attached a wind chime to the end of the dragon so that it would make noise when it was moved. 

Since this project branches out from the installation with media component, we also had to work on the media, which was the video to be played in the background. Among diverse idea of how to utilize media, we were inspired by a former Ideate project for generative performance, Silhouette performance. Silhouette performance brought up the concept of shadow and how they could be used in an artful way. From further research on installations using shadows such as shadow bath and musical shadows, we could confirm that projecting over the dragon so that the shadow of the dragon would make a feeling that the dragon is flying in the background scene will make the best use of media component. 

To find the right contents to the project was another task for us. In many of South Eastern Asia's literature, water is often used as a metaphor for a life. For example, a Korean poem, "Longing" by Chi-hwan Yu, sings about the sea and the ocean. In this poem, he uses the property of water to materialize the abstract concept of human life. The water starts from the sky, then flow across different terrains, then finally, reaches the sea. This common metaphor on water has inspired us to make a media aspect out of water cycle. We spent a lot of time choosing only the scenes we want to use and to give meaning to the visual media. 

In the end, the chosen scenery and sequence were used as a metaphor for life, and in addition, they were projected onto the dragon, giving the visual effect of the dragon flying around. 



Overall our installation project of making a Fluffy paper dragon was a big success. First of all, the dragon had the following aesthetic properties: fluffiness, dragon-like, large size, that we planned and built it to have. Even though we had to compromise the way it was installed or how the basic units look like to meet our materials' strength and given environment, the dragon exists as a dragon. It fulfilled our expectation.

Furthermore, as the viewers approached our installation, they reacted to the dragon as we intended. People would be attracted by the fluffy and friendly appearance of the dragon, then pet, stroke and move the dragon around to fulfill their desire to gain primary stimulation. In addition, people who interacted with the dragon commented that it was fun to play around with it, which was our ultimate goal. Therefore it could be said that our project has accomplished what we wanted out of it in personal and also public ways.

Despite our high opinion of our project, there are some aspects that we could definitely have improved on. For example, our media component could have been stronger; people did not really see beyond its aesthetic value, so we could have perhaps used better scenes or chosen to focus more on aesthetics. As well, we were not entirely able to get our dragon to look the way we wanted it to, due to the difficulty and time constraints of installing such a work. While the final result may not have been perfectly polished, we are nonetheless quite satisfied and proud of it. 



We want to extend the idea and design of this project (http://ideate.xsead.cmu.edu/gallery/projects/rhythm-of-shadow) to create a paper dragon using the same material. The design of the dragon is an abstraction of traditional East Asian dragons -- a long and thin body.  

The goal is to create a representation of the dragon's body using paper, which will then hang from the ceiling. We are planning to include more of an interactive component in our installation so the dragon will be flexible and able to be moved around by visitors. The dragon's body will be composed of several "units" connected by twine to make a curved shape. Each unit will have shredded paper hanging from it to create a fluffy look, as in the current cover photo for this project.  Finally, we will try to use sound and/or light to enhance the aesthetic experience, i.e. by illuminating the dragon or making some noises when it is moved.

it's fluffy.
Daniele papuli art installation.thumb

Precedents (Carolyn)

1. Various paper installations by Daniele Papuli

Daniele Papuli is the artist who created the above installation, which inspired parts of our project design. Unfortunately, I can't find any info specifically about this piece, but the artist is known for his delicate and intricate paper sculptures that explore form and space as well as the versatility of paper as a material. The installations are assembled out of countless sheets or strips of cut paper to create "numberless sensorial, visual, and tactile suggestions" depending on how the paper is manipulated. In our project, we would also like to use paper in different ways – i.e. shredded vs. cut from a sheet – in order to create an interesting visual and tactile experience for visitors.

2. the event of a thread, by Ann Hamilton (2012-13)

I first encountered this work in a Looking Out.

"the event of a thread" was an exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory. It consists of several components: First, a white sheet in the middle of the room that is connected to a multitude of threads which are woven into the ceiling. The motion of visitors on the swings causes the sheet to undulate. There are also audio and written components.

I think that the part of this installation that relates most to our project is how it is interactive through play. Visitors are able to participate by moving around on swings, which is very appealing to adults because it is an activity reminiscent of childhood days. The softness and purity of the white sheet also evokes these kinds of feelings. So, I hope we can incorporate these feelings and aspects of play into our installation as well.

3. koinobori

Koinobori are koi-shaped wind socks that are flown in Japan to celebrate Children's Day in early May. Koi (carp) are chosen for their spirit, strength, and determination, which are of course desirable aspects in children. The image of the koi moving in the wind in clear, warm weather also evokes strong feelings of freedom. We feel that the koinobori is a good precedent for our project based on the symbolism of childhood and freedom, and we would like our dragon to have a similar design as well with a body that can move about (somewhat) freely. I also find it appropriate how it's sometimes said that a koi swam upstream to become a dragon.

Precedents (Min)

"With Wind," an installation at Ai Weiwei's Alcatraz exhibition


Ai Weiwei’s With Wind is an installation in Alcatraz that has a shape of Dragon. The installation has along body shaped like a traditional Chinese dragon kite and suspended by strings from the ceiling, which snakes gracefully throughout the open factory floor. Its body is covered with painting of flowers that are from countries who promotes liberty and quotes by prominent dissidents.

Ai Weiwei tried to talk about freedom by installing this piece of art in the prison of Alcatraz. The contrast between the background and the colorful dragon gives a dramatic experience to the viewers.

Our installation, the fluffy paper dragon will build up to Ai Weiwei’s idea with dragon. We want our installation to have the figure of dragon, and this is why I looked into this specific piece of art. We intend our dragon also incorporate the spirit of liberty as we did in our childhood. By adding interactive ability to the installation we make, we will try to go one step further from where Ai Weiwei was.

Andy Warhol Silver Clouds


Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds is an installation art with bunch of floating shining balloons. The balloons are half full of helium thus floats around the viewer as if it is in a different world. I was deeply moved by this art when I went to the Andy Warhol museum. As I interacted with the art, I could feel joy, and I could also observe that other people wanted to participate and interact with this piece of art.

Clouds created an ethereal, joyful atmosphere, and challenged traditional expectations of art by mingling with and touching the viewer.

The main takeaway from this art is the interactive part of it. We want to implement the Silver Clouds’ interactive ability to our installation so that our installation does not end up with mere space holder but a truly interactive piece of art. We hope we can make this project into a dragon that is so tempting to interact with.

Rhythm of shadows By Yemi, Di Wang, Min Hwang and Joanna Baranowski

Rhythm of shadows is a former ideate project that the team I was in did for module 3: physical installation project. This project is done to represent a different special atmosphere inside the Hunt library. The half transparent paper strips that come down from the ceiling represents different space according to the media component it had.

In our project, we are going to build up more on the movement aspect of the Rhythm of shadows. The movement aspect of this piece was wind: when wind blow from one end, the strips moved towards to the ceiling. The original intent was to represent the movement of grass that lies down when wind blows, but this idea was not explored thoroughly due to the time constraint and technical constraint. In this installation project reprise, we are going to move this movement aspect to interactive aspect, so that people can actually see the effect of their interaction with the piece as a movement of the piece. We are taking the idea of paper strips and how the installation grows from the top of the ceiling. 

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62-150 Intro to Media Synthesis and Analysis

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New creative industries are empowering new modes of collaborative consumption, creation and reuse of media. This often relies on successful collaborations between cross-trained artists, designers a...more


it's a fluffy paper dragon. (an abstract dragon.)