Zed: Automata-Interactive Drawing Installation

Created at Goldsmiths (University of London) for the degree show project of MA computational Art, Zed is a real-time drawing device centred around the character Zed. As the audience turns the handle, the drawing device will control the movement of the paper and the lifting and lowering of the pen to create real-time drawings. The entire process of drawing is intended to evoke a sense of sacredness akin to a religious ritual. At the conclusion of the exhibition, one or several artworks will be produced.

In this project, my goal was to create a symbolic system akin to a pseudo-religion. Zed will serve as a central symbol in the artwork, and the act of drawing will take on the qualities of a sacred religious ritual, aiming to achieve a harmonious balance between elements of cuteness and mystery, as well as a blend of nature and machinery.

Cute anime characters have always played a significant role in my artistic expression. In this project, I’m merging cuteness with ritualistic elements, essentially crafting a pseudo-religious narrative where drawing revolves around the character “Zed.” This narrative embraces an aesthetic that combines cuteness, kitsch, and a sense of the divine, often interwoven with elements of body horror.

The character of Zed draws inspiration from ancient local festivals, where enigmatic, half-human, half-beast figures exist, resembling humans but transcending the boundaries of humanity. I aim to weave together the themes of antiquity, mystique, wilderness, and nature into my artwork.

In my previous works, I focused on converting 3D characters and scenes into 2D drawings. I love how the plotter breathes life into 3D virtual characters on paper. For this project, I want to amplify this vitality. 

I plan to combine characters with the drawing machine to create small mechanical sculptures that construct dynamic scenes. Due to technical limitations, creating and moving the plotters will pose significant challenges. Considering feasibility and the desired effect of scene construction, I have chosen to invest more time in character and scene design.

Automata is a heavy part of my work. I am fascinated by the concept of automata and its ability to blur the boundaries between living organisms and machinery. As an ancient craft, automata use simple mechanical structures to simulate human movements, which aligns perfectly with my goal of infusing virtual characters with a sense of tangible life.

Created using Arduino, A4988 stepper motor drivers and custom enclosure.

Zishi Tu | Instagram