Spiritual Play: The Crusades

multi-media installation

Spiritual Play: The Crusades is a multimedia installation that combines cartography, collections of badges,soundscape, text pieces, and kinetic sculpture, with an intense focus on videogame and its spiritual dimensions. Referring to the Crusades, a spiritually driven military pilgrimage, a conquest to the religiously different other, this project invites the audiences to play the role of a pilgrim. While telling this story about the journey of pilgrimage to themselves, they become the other as opposed to their identityin reality, and experience spirituality in games without becoming a believer of specific religion. Built on Johan Huizinga’s articulation of war as a form of play, the ludic identity construction theory from Playful Identities, and Stef Aupers’ spiritual play theory, the project examines these theories in practice. This project is fueled by my interest in the video game Europa Universalis IV and the Crusades King V, games that prominently feature map as projections of players’ desire to conquer. Similarly, my project began as a mapping endeavor to provide the instruments for playful readings and fantasizing.

The first map I made was Antioch City Plan. This map is part of a greater cartographic endeavor to map all the strategically and relighiously significant cities during the Crusades, and their surrounding topography. I began by training myself to be a soviet Union military cartographer, and simultaneously explore the specifc way they encode human-inhabited space, to contemplate the topics of war, spirituality, nationlism, knowledge system, and fictional narratives.

Man Who Conquered The World From His Apartment

Algorithm, posters, board game set, bed set, binoculars, pizza, waste tin can, ladder, iPad, printer

This installation reveals the room of a man who conquered the world in a war simulation game using the machine he invented. He grew up under a collectivism, and patriarchal education and was surrounded by the grand narrative imposed by the media and the Chinese government. As an idealist, he believes in the value of the dream of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and sees it as the only way to self-accomplishment. Pressured by the gap between the great dream and his poverty-stricken reality, he was eventually driven insane to realize this dream.

Perceiving the world map as a representation of political powers, this man developed an artificial intelligence program that turns anything it sees into a map for the game of conquest called RISK. While the machine operates based on a graphic matching algorithm and a printer, it matches color areas and objects in the input images with the reality and game world region’s shape in the dataset.

The Ant and The Grasshopper

3D printed grasshopper head, found clothing, found pickaxe, silicone skin, concrete, wires, gold bar, quarry stone, diamond, petroleum, trading card(lumber, coal, marble)

This piece attempts to define the word “play” and confront the accompanying anxiety concerning the ideal of existence for society and individuals. The installation depicts a resident of an imagined utopia; a utopia theorized by Bernard Suits in 1978, in which all needs for instrumental and productivity are satisfied, and the only thing left for humans to do is to play games. When games are fabricated and made-believe as all the activity used to be driven by economic needs and social growth, the distinction between labor and game becomes inexplicit and even interchangeable.

The grasshopper in this project refers to the one in the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper by Aesop, yet presents another interpretation. Instead of being lazy and shortsighted, this grasshopper resembles someone in disguise playing a game without knowing it, who therefore believe game playing to be the essential life of the grasshopper.

Heroic Moment - Prologue

Instruction, Silicone, Hydro Stone, Rigid Urethane, Packaging Bubbles, Prints, Dice, Game Table, Tablecloth, MDF wood

Heroic Moment - Prologue initiates the idea with a board game set a half year ago and Heroic Moment concludes it with a mobile box that is supposed to encapsulate the game set, reflecting my on-going research and thinking on critical game theory, hero theory, and self-inquiry into my fluid childhood perception of “hero”.

Modified based on Senet, Heroic Moment - Prologue is a competitive board game between two players and requires the players to perform a specific finger gesture in order to play. It is created in 2022.

My childhood close friend and I came up with this finger gesture to satisfy our desire to play the role of something greater, cooler, wilder than who we are, and something that can be acted and interact with different environments yet still contains ourselves in it. Aging from 9 to 14, I put my bizarre fantasy drawn from East Asian cultural products into the self-directed theatre for myself being the only audience, imagery involving a hero, monster, God, dragon, landscape, architecture, my success and frustration in real life, and my imagination towards females. In these imagined plays, I enjoy the simultaneous sensations of playing the role of a hero, while looking at the person I am playing as a spectacle. My self-inquiry about this feeling led me to an ancient Egyptian board game called Senet, which provides a set of rules that enable similar kinds of interactions between two players and observers.


14 varied paper airplanes, 14 scents, instruction sheets, clear plastic bags, clear acrylic

Soaring is an instructional kit stored in an acrylic box comprising 14 paper airplanes applied with different scents in different colors and shapes, and an instruction sheet. Players are invited to take the airplanes outdoor and fly the airplane following a 4-step instruction which requires actions of smelling, throwing, running, and hearing. The instruction for different airplanes varies in the second step based primarily on the scents that highlight central elements in various natural landscapes. Soaring transforms the natural environment into a playground and the human body into an object for play. Throughout the process, a unique and personal attachment to the natural landscape is created with uniform guidelines. As paper airplanes take off from hands, players’ minds take off and soar by imagination.