A green lightning ball releases audio.

Sinistra Chengjun Pan

Destined Failure

I attempt to examine the complex structure of human communication, explaining why it is bound to fail. By reproducing experienceable phenomena, I demonstrate how they can expose communication structure and reveal the limitations of our perception and symbolization.
I divide the process of communication into six stages: input, detection, symbolization, dictionary, interpretation, and output. In this thesis, I examine the flaws and challenges that arise in the first five stages. I argue that reception acts as a filter and that understanding relies on a symbolic system that is full of redundancies. Therefore, every interpretation is destined to be a deviation.


A transparent pyramid glows with its surrounding sound.

red pyramid

6 x6 x 6"

Red Pyramid is a sound interactive device that explores the nature of human perception from a transcendental idealist perspective. It responds to frequencies between 20KHz and 80KHz, which exist beyond the range of human hearing by changing its brightness. It is a simple yet effective way of helping individuals become aware of the sounds in their environment that they are unable to hear. Perception plays a significant role in understanding the Red Pyramid’s purpose. Perception can be defined as the process by which individuals organize and interpret sensory information to give meaning to their environment. Red Pyramid serves as a reminder that human perception has its limitations, as there is information that exists outside the range of human perception. The device’s ability to detect these sounds highlights the importance of acknowledging the individual’s perception of a sound, despite the inability of others to detect it.


A landscape photograph framed and mounted on the wall.

A Still landscape

Moving Image
24 x 16 x 2"

Still Landscape is a looping video that appears to be a static landscape photograph mounted on a wall, yet it is more than just an image. This looping video presents subtle changes that elude the naked eye, emphasizing the existence of a filtering mechanism in our perceptual process. This mechanism dismisses information considered less crucial, resulting in change blindness.


A green lightning ball with a shrill noise.

A Volume Lost in a Library

7 x 7 x 8"

A Volume Lost in a Library is an interactive sound installation that explores the perceptual process and symbolic understanding. The installation, primarily a green plasma ball, emits sound that varies based on audience interaction. Initially, it produces a sine-wave synthesis, a form of artificially degraded speech. Upon physical contact, it shifts to normal human speech. When the audience hears the normal speech and then revisits the sine-wave synthesis, they perceive it differently, understanding it as a fully intelligible sentence. This transformation illustrates a top-down perceptual process, suggesting that past experiences shape the perception of new experiences. The installation metaphorically reflects the difficulty in comprehending a message without a familiar "dictionary" or context, alluding to the failure of indexicalism.


A zine floats beneath a luminous magnifying glass.

A Black Swan A False Swan?(Falseswan)

4.25 x 5.5"

 Is A Black Swan A False Swan? (Falseswan) is a project encapsulated in a zine that delves into the formation and transformation of symbols, essential cognitive processes for communication. Falseswan uses the example of the term "swan" to illustrate how the meaning of a symbol evolves over time. It highlights how societal advancements and new discoveries, like the existence of black swans, can redefine a symbol, as seen with the modification of the swan's description in Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary. Falseswan identifies two stages in symbolization: pre-symbolic (before the symbol is created) and post-symbolic (where its characteristics define it). The text presents a linguistic map leading to the symbolization conclusion, wherein elements lacking symbolic attributes are negated. Falseswan offers an in-depth exploration of the evolution of symbols, indicating how they are formed, altered, and even discarded in the process of communication and knowledge expansion.


A square lamp with a toggle switch in the front.

A Blue Light

Acrylic, Glass
6 x 6 x 6"

A Blue Light an installation that employs a broken blue light among functioning red and green lights to explore the complex process of symbolic interpretation. When the audience realizes the blue light is broken, their interpretation of this "brokenness" changes their perception of the entire symbolic context. This interpretation, however, varies from person to person, with some focusing on the color and others on functionality, leading to distinct mental images. This reveals one principle of redundancy, where the meaning of a symbol is influenced by what it excludes, leading to misinterpretation and miscommunication. Further, it shows how an inclusive statement like "all lights matter" can negate the original statement, in this case, the broken blue light. The installation highlights how perception is influenced by past experiences and how top-down feedback can speed up recognition. It ultimately suggests that language interpretation and perception are not just a game of words, but an intricate process shaped by socio-cultural contexts and personal factors.


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