Reflecting ON The BorderLINE


The ON The BorderLINE exhibition was held at Shibuya QWS, Tokyo, on 25-28 February 2021. In this post, the participants of this first student-led project of the STADHI Satellite Lab at Tokyo Tech reflect on the experience of creating artworks and share lessons learned from the event.

“I chose this lab because it was called Science & Art Lab,” Masamune Kawasaki, the 2nd year master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course who directed the event, talked about his motivation in organizing the exhibition. After gaining experience in creating artworks and managing exhibitions outside the university in the previous year, he led the team of students from Nohara laboratory of the Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering Department at Tokyo Tech. “[…] I thought we could do it, so I suggested holding it at Tokyo Tech.”

The exhibition space in Shibuya QWS (Credits: Kazuyoshi Natada)

The student-centered event was partly supported by the Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI) through a programme that aims to integrate science/technology with art/design. Visitors were invited to experience the feeling of standing on various overlooked borderlines by engaging with a total of nine works purposefully made by nine students. Acting as both artists and management staff, the students carried out the project mostly online. The exhibition itself was held face-to-face in February 2021 under strict preventive measures put in place against COVID-19 infection in Tokyo. Despite the situation, more than 160 people visited the space and many expressed a great interest. Reflecting on the event here, some students share their honest views on the experience of holding the exhibition.


“Although before creating I thought it seemed too difficult, it was not difficult to create when I started.”

ON The BorderLINE was born from the urge to re-examine various ‘borders’ in the current uncertain and chaotic modern times. Trying to capture their own unique ‘borderline’ perspective, each artist translated it into exhibits. Utilizing their knowledge and field of expertise from studying at Tokyo Tech, each also aimed to achieve certain individual aspirations.

“I was trying to capture my feelings towards science and technology,” said Chihiro Wada about her work entitled Her artwork stemmed from her research at Tokyo Tech as a 2nd year Doctoral student with a specialization in gender studies. Her knowledge of cultural signs and text helped in the creation of the artwork: “I tried to evoke a culturally general mental reaction towards the work while at the same time trying to create a confusing effect to stimulate people’s interpretation.” Her final piece resembled mushroom clouds in black and white, which was intended to create an ambiguous, unstable and indescribable psychological landscape. While the making process was relatively simple, she felt that deciding on the final design of the work was a major challenge.

Some visitors shared their impressions of the artworks on a board purposefully prepared for the occasion. Their comments reflect thoughts born after interacting with the students during the exhibition. “I realized that the ‘white feelings’ are not always ‘pure white’ […],” was mentioned after understanding the detail behind color used in the Chihiro Wada was filled with awe by new and interesting interpretations of her work. “Through hearing their comments, I also re-interpreted my artwork,” she stated.

Concept photo of (Credit: Chihiro Wada)

Rei Sato, a 2nd year Master student of the Global Engineering for Development, Environment, and Society (GEDES) course, was inspired by a London-based quantum music project for his 複雑系の音色/Complex Network Tones. “I tried to create state-of-the-art artworks based on science (physics research) and art (music), which is a completely new concept all over the world.” Based on previous studies, he tried to implement the algorithm from scratch and developed the programming by himself to create an original music piece. A visitor asked, paraphrasing the artist: “So this is the sound of this (natural) world?”. Sato reflected on his participation in the show, “Although before creating, I thought it seemed too difficult, it was not difficult to create when I started”. One of the challenges that required much effort was to visually present his non-tangible work through a digital visualization of the music.

Rei Sato explaining his Complex Network Tones (Credit: Masamune Kawasaki)

In her Your Touch Makes Me Fragrant, Yuke Wang, 2nd year Master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course, applied her theoretical olfactory research to interaction design. “I want to let people think about the relationship between humans and man-made things,” she said. Her interactive installation gave out an aroma when touched. She described the aroma as a metaphor for emotion and attachment. “Attachment makes artificial things emotional and special.” On a practical level, she especially pointed out how her technical background helped her in solving the problems she met in the making process.

The students spent months ‘translating’ their concepts into artworks, by sharing and discussing among each other while at the same time progressing with the overall event plan. Several WRHI members served as advisors, including Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and Prof. Masahiko Hara and Dr. Giorgio Salani from Tokyo Tech. From them, the students received valuable feedback, technical hints to solve any bottlenecks, and overall guidance in materializing their ideas.


“Through hearing their comments, I also re-interpreted my artwork.”

During the event, visitors could enjoy the exhibits while interacting with the students at the space. Serving as hall staff, the students were ready to explain each artwork to the visitors. Sometimes the talks went beyond simple explanations of individual works and reached a re-questioning of various underlying concepts and thoughts.

“Although I think my idea was easy to understand, there were still many in the audience who did not understand the concept until I explained it to them,” said Yamei, who was in her 2nd year of the Engineering Sciences and Design master course. Her piece, 私たちの間/ Border Between Us, was a clay sculpture based on the concept of the ever-present border of communication. While she was comfortable to be totally free in expressing herself, she felt insecure at the same time. Without a proper background in art, she wondered how far she managed to successfully convey her message. However, comments from visitors helped her become more confident. “Oh, although it sounds sad that we cannot truly understand each other, the relationship between us is still warm just like your work shows,” was one of the meaningful responses she received from visitors. “I suppose that most of them (visitors) did feel it (the message).”

The sculpture “Border Between Us” by Yamei (Credits: Yamei)

“[…] I am very glad I could have chance to apply the science communication theory I learned at Nohara laboratory,” Farah Fauzia, a 1st year Master student of GEDES course commented. Her work 社会apparatus/Society Apparatus was meant to convey the message that ‘it is fine to preserve our own color’ through unmixed colorful liquids inside laboratory vessels. Originally graduated from Chemical Engineering major before coming to Tokyo Tech, she tried to give a simple explanation of the scientific reason why the liquids could not get mixed to the visitors. “[I] wondered if there is also something in society that plays the role of surfactants,” one of the visitors commented on the work by using the technical term mentioned by the artists during the explanation. “I learned how to interact with visitors, especially using simple language […],” Fauzia reflected. Another memorable comment from some foreign-national visitors was: “They said they can relate to the concept. It (this artwork) was rather a ‘brave’ message to the Japanese society that was possible probably because of our diverse background.”

The numerous visitors to the exhibition included students, researchers, designers, creators, journalists, and business people. Some were foreign nationals, who enjoyed talking with students using a language other than Japanese. “I thought I had to prepare my business card and portfolio…” one of the students admitted when asked what they would do differently next time.

Visitors left many comments for the artists (Credit: Masamune Kawasaki)


“I learned that we had to pass lots of processes to exhibit artworks.”

“Attending the exhibition is not only about creating a fine work,” Rei Sato reflected. “[…] I think most of us did not consider them at all at first.” Most members of the 9-strong team acted as both artists and management staff for this exhibition and struggled to find a balance between working on personal pieces and planning the event. “I learned that we had to pass lots of processes to exhibit artworks,” one stated. Most students identified time management as the most challenging aspect of the whole experience. “It was truly hard work,” Masamune Kawasaki – who led the team – admitted during the final evaluation meeting.

The artists also served as staff during the event (Credits: Yuke Wang)

Under the COVID-19 infection risk, they needed to figure out how to smoothly carry out most of the production work online. For example, the team relied on the virtual layout of Shibuya QWS Playground to design the exhibition floor—since only limited people could visit the place during the preparation phase, and some trouble arose on the spot. “[…] You should leave enough time to test and adjust it in the exhibition space,” Yuke Wang reflected on her experience of taking long a time to find and fix a problem with her interactive installation that did not work well after its installation. “[…] Anything could happen during the exhibition time,” Farah Fauzia added, “It was very important to stay aware of overall exhibition space so we could respond swiftly.”

Another voiced a different opinion, “I think the most difficult part is generating good ideas”. The students spent months shaping their concepts into exhibits and went through a process of problem finding and solving in expressing their ideas. Chihiro Wada explored different ideas before finally settling on her [] work. “I just kept thinking and thinking through creating my piece. It was a lot of work, but I believed it was necessary to the current me,” she explained.

When asked whether making the artwork helped them become a better researcher, some students were unconvinced. “I am not sure that they are related but […] I think it makes me better person,” Yamei expressed. Yuke Wang, who produced two pieces for the exhibition, pointed out the difference between the two activities: “Doing research is trying to figure out “why” and trying to express clearly to let other people understand. No ambiguity. But making artwork is more about expressing yourself. And different people can have different understanding of your artwork. There can be ambiguity.” However, most of them also agree that there are similarities between artwork production and research activities. “I think the process of finding a question and solving it is similar,” Wang said. “It was practically a trial and error, or experiments,” another added. “By not giving up and facing the challenge, we will equip ourselves with the necessary skills to become a good researcher,” Fauzia argued.

“I just kept thinking and thinking through creating my piece. It was a lot of work, but I believed it was necessary to the current me.”


The students also shared personal impressions on their own pieces. “I like the texture and delicacy of my piece,” one of them honestly said. While others also stated they like their own pieces in terms of idea and quality, some felt not quite satisfied, “if I have more time, I can make them better.” Another student also added, “Next time, I would like […] to enhance the impact and message of the artwork.”

Some enjoyed receiving feedback and wanted to enable more interaction with the audience. “This experience is priceless,” one of the students summarized. For another student, through talking with various people with various background, one can also sell his/her own name. “This experience gives us a wide view not only of our artwork but also trigger future plans,” Rei Sato stated.

Visitors in the exhibition space (Credits: Farah Fauzia)

If there were opportunities in the future, all the students involved in the show agreed they would love to make artwork again. “Of course. I always have [a] strong desire of creating something,” Yamei eagerly stated. “I feel I need to express my thoughts not only through academic articles but also through art,” Chihiro Wada added. Another student also mentioned that this kind of experience is something that she probably could not easily come across in the future.

On the final evaluation meeting, event producer and director Masamune Kawasaki said he was glad this time there were some members who said they would want to experience the process again, “I think it was a good thing. We have experienced it once so we should be able to proceed more smoothly next time.” As all concerning issues (especially on the management side) were being evaluated, he hopes the event can be held annually. “We should collaborate with other universities,” one argued. During the event, some visitors from the architecture and literature department of another university came to talk about the overall exhibition with great interest. “It would be interesting to collaborate with them,” Kawasaki agreed.

He also pointed out his opinion that there might be something that can only be possible to be produced here in ScienceXArt Nohara Laboratory. “Unlike other laboratories, each individual has [a] different specialty, so the output will be different.” Different from art colleges who usually have a decided fixed output, university students (especially in non-art related majors) attempting to make artworks from original concepts may introduce interesting scientific innovations.

“This experience is priceless.”

Borrowing Prof. Kayoko Nohara’s words, through this exhibition, the Tokyo Tech students who specialize in science and technology have been trying to communicate with audience in a way that differ from your usual language. By integrating science/technology with art/design, they tried to explore media and tools that can capture the potential behind the organized chaos of the borderline. Reflecting on the experiences, they hoped the baton could be passed on to invite more audiences visiting whole new perspectives in future events.

Written by Farah Fauzia, based on an interview by Dr. Giorgio Salani. Edited by Giorgio Salani.

Contributor: Chihiro Wada, Yuke Wang, Rei Sato, Farah Fauzia, Yamei

2021年2月25〜28日にON The BorderLINE展示会(が東京の渋谷QWSで開催されました。この学生中心のイベントは、科学・技術とアート・デザインの融合を目的としたプログラムである東京工業大学WRHIによって部分的にサポートされました。観客には、9人の学生が制作した9作品に触れ、見落とされがちなさまざまな境界線に立つ感覚を体験してもらいました。



また、Science x Artラボである野原研究室でしか作れないものがあるかもしれないという観客からの反応もありました。このイベントでは、科学・技術を専門とする東工大生たちが、いつもの言葉ではない形で、コミュニケーションを図ろうとしています。科学・技術をアート・デザインと統合することにより、彼らは境界線の組織化された混沌の背後にある可能性を受けとめ発信できるメディアとツールを探求しようとしました。

ON the borderLINE のイベントについてはこちら(。

25-28 February 2021: “On the border LINE” Exhibition


“ON the border LINE” was an exhibition based on re-examination of “border” in the current uncertain and chaotic modern times. Boundaries divide anything into two: this is science, this is not science; this is art, this is not art; this is seeing, this is hearing. What about the border itself? Much ambiguity is expected where boundaries are drawn. Students from the Dept. of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering at Tokyo Tech explored and translated this concept into exhibits, and invited visitors to take a look at the world from various borderline perspectives.”

The exhibition was held on 25-28 February 2021 at the Playground of Shibuya Scramble Square QWS in Tokyo. Despite strict preventive measures put in place against COVID-19 infection, more than 160 people visited the space during the 4-day face-to-face exhibition. The project aimed to re-frame various ambiguous boundaries in modern times under the current disarrayed global condition.

In 2020, our ‘normal’ everyday activities were suddenly disrupted by the spread of COVID-19. Since then, human life has been significantly affected. Countless visible borders, such as masks and social distancing, have become indispensable. At the same time, the ‘new normal’ has redefined various views of the world. However, amidst these uncertainties and disorder, there must be something that can only be captured at this very moment. Based on this feeling, this exhibition was held to invite visitors to experience the feeling of standing on various overlooked borderlines.

The show was directed by Masamune Kawasaki, 2nd year Master’s student of the Engineering Sciences and Design course. A total of nine works from Tokyo Tech students were exhibited.

Complex Tones (複雑系の音色) by Rei Sato

“If I didn’t see this work, I probably wouldn’t have encountered the world of quantum for the rest of my life…”
(impression from anonymous visitor)

Complex Tones (複雑系の音色)” by Rei Sato (Photo credit: artist)

Making use of knowledge from his field of interest – physics research – Rei Sato brought the visitors to listen to his mysterious ‘quantum music’. Referring to music that operates in quantum mechanic ways, quantum music has been recently recognized as a new music technology mainly in Western Europe. These tones enabled visitors to hear previously unperceived quantum interaction through music. This works as a border that connects people and complex systems. Chihiro Wada

“…we probably have been living while struggling to deal with this kind of dual opposition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)” by Chihiro Wada (Photo credit: artist)

Using a black and white theme, Chihiro Wada expressed her personal view of science and technology. The title represents the atomic bombing that happened on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 in her hometown of Hiroshima, which was also the birth of her complex feelings toward science. Specializing in the field of Gender Studies of Humanities, her view toward science and technology gradually changed after enrolling in Tokyo Tech, a concept she tried to convey through this work.

Your Touch Makes Me Fragrant by Yuke Wang

“The scent of artificial flowers was very mysterious. Just like a science fiction!” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Your Touch Makes Me Fragrant” by Yuke Wang (Photo credit: artist)

Through this ‘cyber flower’ interactive installation, Yuke Wang tried to explore the relationship between humans and artificial things. The ‘dead’ flower would become ‘alive’ with emotion and give out fragrance just like a real flower when coming in contact with a human. Having been working on olfactory research, Yuke Wang designed this artificial flower to give out a rose scent after being directly touched by the visitors.

“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei

“I can watch this forever…” (impression from anonymous visitor)

“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei, BACK (Photo credit: artist)
“Border Between Us (私たちの間)” by Yamei, FRONT (Photo credit: artist)

This sculpture work represented a mass of ‘love’, which exists with an unfilled gap. Through this work, Yamei expressed how ‘words’ are an important element in building relationships between people. The various expressions of love written on this work represent any means for people to express and listen, in the effort to understand and be understood. While the gap–border of communication exists forever, people are still yearning to build ‘love’ between them.

Face Myself by Ayano Nagata

“I didn’t know that just by having something else replaced your own face, your mind could be affected this much.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Face Myself” by Ayano Nagata (Photo credit: artist)

Inspired by the mask that has become part of everyday life during the Coronavirus pandemic, this interactive installation was designed as a ‘mirror’ that can show different ‘faces’ of oneself. Through this work, Ayano Nagata tried to realize the desire of ‘choosing body and fashion that can express one’s personality without being bound by natural body’ in the future. In this AR-based installation, visitors could have their face replaced by non-human avatars while still wearing masks.

Society Apparatus (社会apparatus) by Farah Fauzia

“…I wonder if human also possess some kind of independent thing that will never get mixed.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Society Apparatus (社会apparatus)” by Farah Fauzia (Photo credit: artist)

Making use of knowledge in Chemistry from her Chemical Engineering background, Farah Fauzia wanted to deliver the beauty of ‘layers’ that form in society. Through this colorful installation, visitors could directly see how various liquids would not blend even if they were mixed together due to their different characteristics. With this demonstration, she tried to convey her opinion that it should be fine to stay true to our own ‘color’ in society.

The Boundary Line by Wang Hezheng

“This made me realize that the boundaries in the landscape are not just those created by humans.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

The Boundary Line” by Wang Hezheng (Photo credit: artist)

By following the hundreds of photos taken along the journey from Tokyo Tech to the Shibuya QWS venue that were displayed on the floor of exhibition hall, Wang Hezheng invited the visitors to re-discover the beauty of the inconspicuous scenery in daily life. Graduated from Architecture studies, she transformed the everyday landscape into novel scenery by noticing the ‘boundary line’ that divide the materials, colors, and spaces and let visitors to enjoy new perspectives.

Rethinking the Subject (主体再考) by Tomohiro Ichikawa

“It was interesting to express the current social situation and the emotions of people living in it.”
(impression from anonymous visitor)

Rethinking the Subject (主体再考)” by Tomohiro Ichikawa (Photo credit: artist)

This work expressed two systems – open and closed – using the flow of water. Tomohiro Ichikawa wanted to convey his view that current society – in chaos due to forces such as capitalism and the Coronavirus pandemic, has divided people into independent subjects. Having major interest in Psychology research, he tried to re-question the whole situation by positioning the ‘subject’ from different point of view together with the visitors.

Is it evolution or erosion (進化か、侵食か) by Natsumi Kato and Yuke Wang

“It was beautiful to contrast technology and tradition.” (impression from anonymous visitor)

Is it evolution or erosion (進化か、侵食か)” by Natsumi Kato and Yuke Wang (Photo credit: artists)

Using Kintsugi (金継ぎ) to connect traditional ceramic vessels and modern plastic cups, Kato and Wang tried to question the value of new things. As human lives become more efficient, some value is added but some is lost when things become more convenient. Is it evolution, or is it erosion? The set of new things born from different value aimed to ask such question to the visitors.


During the exhibition, visitors from diverse background could enjoy the exhibits while interacting with the students from Tokyo Tech. The communication went beyond the simple explanation of their works, and reached a phase of re-questioning of various concepts and thoughts. Among the most notable impressions from the visitors, some pointed out how the concept from each exhibit managed to be conveyed in an easy-to-understand manner compared with the usual art exhibitions. This was probably made possible due to integration of science and art as basis for the show.

This event is the first student-centered project conducted as part of the Satellite Lab STADHI of Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), which aims to integrate science/technology with art/design and is organized by Nohara laboratory led by Prof. Kayoko Nohara. Among the supporters, Prof. Masahiko Hara and Dr. Giorgio Salani from Tokyo Tech acted as technical advisors, with Dr. Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University Arts London, as honorary advisor.

The artists and organisers of the exhibition (Photo credit: G. Salani)

Written by Farah Fauzia

「ON the borderLINE」は、先の見えない混沌とした現代における「境界:Border」を見つめ直すことに基づく展覧会でした。境界は物事を二分します。これはサイエンス、これはサイエンスではない/これはアート、これはアートではない。しかし境界線上はどうでしょうか。きっと、多くのあいまいさからどっちつかずの混沌とした世界が広がっています。東京工業大学の融合理工学系の学生たちは、このコンセプトを調査して展示に変換し、観客たちをさまざまな境界線上で世界を見ることに誘いました。