The Ink River

The Ink River at NTU ADM Portfolio

Abstract or Summary of Project

A river flows.

                        We are

                                     one river…

We are one river on the same journey. Let’s encourage one another to move on and ahead.

The Ink River celebrates the beauty in the unexpected through experimental ink imagery making. We want to help people to be brave to make mistakes and to view hardships as something valuable. Together, we share our stories and positive messages in hopes of encouraging those we love to keep on moving in life.

Process and More Details

1 – The Ink River Square is where it all starts. 

Participants will create their own part of the river by experimenting by pouring the ink on the acrylic square. The nature of pouring ink is that it is unexpected and solely dependent on how the water flows over the acrylic sheet. It will reveal surprising shapes and shades that forms abstract images. They will then take a snapshot or video of what they had created and upload it to the Instagram Feed via hashtagging “#theinkriver”.

The square consists of a paper spread with information about The Ink River and the instructions, a ink sachet and an acrylic square sheet.

This little design is treated in a way that looks and feels like dried up ink revealing the words #theinkriver.

(Please click on the last image for a close-up of the  introduction and instruction sheet)

This square will be subsequently passed on to another friend and their friend and so on. It relates to the idea of flow and collaboration.
The box is made of watercolour paper and is meant to get more paint on it as they are handed to more people. So the appearance of the box will differ as time goes by. However, at this stage, the idea of the shade on the lower right outside complimenting with the upper left inside is also symbolic of this how we are pieced together to become one river.

2 – View The Ink River official Instagram page by clicking here. #theinkriver feed is where we find the ever-flowing river of beautiful images and lovely words.

Instagram is a social network platform for people to share personal content through images and videos. A distinctive feature is that it confines photos to a square shape and is view on different grids on different devices.

As an avid user of Instagram, I was inspired by the tags and relays trending on Instagram.  I found it an extremely interesting tool to get people from all walks of life to participate and contribute to a meaningful cause. I was also disheartened to see posts from friends who are going through a hard time or are facing negativity. I wanted to bring more positivity to my friend’s lives and the Instagram community as a whole. I also saw this feed almost like a never-ending collaborative artwork.

This is the process I advocate to participants, in which one looks like the abstract image created and then use their imagination to be inspired and write a meaningful post. Below are actual post which my friends have posted.

After my friends posted their images and words, it garnered quite a bit of attention and people where attracted to the artistic quality of it.

On the instagram page, there is also a link to the art film. As well as posts about The Ink River Square.

3 – The Ink River Film

This film was kept abstract on purpose, so that it gives spaces for the viewer to start thinking introspectively and reveal their own story.
For me, the film tells the narrative of a person’s life, with its ups and downs and how he overcomes the difficulty with new found peace at the end.

It will be interesting to note that segments of the art film and the squares are individual stories that can actually be found on the Instagram feed. The visual language used here ties in with the Instagram feed, of how I want people to tell their own story.

Processes and Problem Solving:

Throughout the whole project, I took a more experimental approach in my research and discovery with river and ink, but this wasn’t always so. Sometimes I come up with ideas based on a preference or how convenient it would be. 
One of the biggest problems faced was the disability to use the laser cut machine. After that I started to question a lot of things in my project. Where was my project going? How was I to get people to understand and be moved to action by such abstract visuals? I questioned my processes and went back to experimentation. It is the first time I had scrutinized every detail and element to be pushed towards my concept.

For the kit, I made hand cut stencils, tested different image transfer techniques and many different ways of creating a language that showed rawness and exploration. I had tried using straws, glass bottles and other means to contain my ink. But in the end, I adopted the square shape packet, as the shape is the commonality for the project. However, this small square packet took me hours to do, as I used a hand sealer to melt the plastic in the square shape I wanted the ink inside. I also had to test out and find the right proportion of the black square to the white square of the box. Even after pouring out the ink, the transparent square packet with the remainder ink turns into a means of creating an abstract image as well. 

As for the instruction slip, I had to test print the composition so many times in order to get the right font size, boldness, greyness and composition of the words. Initially they were to be two separate papers, but I had the idea for a spread instead, which created a flowing composition to tie in with the idea of river and create an interesting reading sequence. It also tied in in the way it is flipped open, much like the box itself.

As a whole, the entire box was made after much experimentation and it was a really new process I never thought I would be able to work with. Because a lot of things were based on the uncontrollable elements. However it stayed true to the message of my project, which is that there is beauty in the unexpected.

As for the Instagram page, I had my friends make their own images with the kit. What I learnt is that, my target audience was narrowed down to only those who used Instagram and had their accounts on public. That can be quite limited, and something of a pity.

Also, there were mainly two camps when it comes to responsiveness to the project. Some of them had a keen interest in trying new things and found the activity very fun and even therapeutic. Whereas there are another people who stress at the activity. They were very worried that they would not create a good image, and said they didn’t know how to paint well, along with other insecurities. However, after much prompting, they overcomed that initial fear and created unique images and meaningful posts.

It enabled them to open up to being creative and become artists themselves. It allowed them to be more introspective as well. I was  really surprised to see some really meaningful posts and it really got me thinking about how much people want to say loving things but just never did. I feel my project allowed them to do so, so it is really significant for me. Now, there have been quite a bit of feedback from my friends that they really like the project and have started following the account on Instagram on their own accord too.

The process for making the video was very organic and experimental. I took videos of ink and water as I improvised and just experimented with the medium, trying to achieve different expressions of shapes and shades. Then when I look at the footage, I imagine scenarios that link to the ink river’s purpose to tell stories to encourage people to continue on. Then as I watch the clips, I came up with a song and recorded it as I came up with a tune. I also recorded sound of the rain and thunder as it was raining that day. And lastly, I edited and fine-tuned the scenes into something with a sort of narrative.

I decided to keep it simple to just a very raw humming tune because after trying typography and composing a song on the ukulele or piano, they distracted more than informed or add value to the film. All my past efforts by making a storyboard, planning scenes were scraped. It was really uncomfortable to make a film in such a way. But I felt made me stay true to the whole system of experimenting. Also, I scraped the reciting of actual words and poetry because I wanted the viewer to be able to imagine and discover their own inner story. This linked to the process in which people create content of their posts as well, that is through viewing the ink images and using their imagination. 

The journey with this project was a unique one and I learnt that experimentation is also a kind of research. And one main lesson to take away is that you’ll only learn by finding out and by doing! I hoped for a system and visual language that was approachable and relayed honesty and I really think this project came through to what my goals were. And this project turned out to be one of the most meaningful ones I have done in school. And I think I will continually be adding more images to the page in the future and encouraging people through it.


Posted on

March 27, 2015

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