Trip to Arteria Lab in Évora

My name is SiMing Zhang, and I was born in 1989 in Xi’an, the ancient capital of China. Growing up in a city with so much culture and history is something that has left a mark on me, and I can recognize that every object has a story. When I was 7 years old, I moved to Toronto, Canada with my parents to start a new life.
Toronto is a great contrast to China, as it is a very modern city, where everything is from the last two centuries. Just an infant compared to the thousands of years of history embedded in China. Despite this, Toronto has a distinct identity that embraced our global identity. There, I scratched my curiosity and completed a B.Sc. in Physics,
Astrophysics, and Math.

In 2017, I moved to Barcelona to do a M.Sc. in Intelligent Interactive Systems, and explore the richness of Spain and Europe. I felt immediately at home given the depth of history, culture, and identity that was so akin to my homeland.

Since I can remember, I have been inspired by art and creativity. It has been a consistent channel for personal expression, energy exchange, and at times a gratifying challenge. It offered me an opportunity to explore myself and my place
in the world. I appreciate the universality of a creative practise, and how it is a metaphor and container to any other challenges in the human experience. My creative practise is multifaceted and I don’t have one specific medium. Each medium is a unique language for expression and can engage different senses
and draw up various emotions. I try to do what feels intuitive in the moment. Some forms of expression that I practise are painting and drawing, ceramics,
writing (freeform and poetry), movement, permaculture design, and now after my experience at Arteria Lab – 3D object design. I find inspiration everywhere I go,
and in particular I like to visit galleries and support up-and-coming artists.

My home hub is Pau, in the vibrant and captivating city of Barcelona. Pau is located in the heart of the city and it is a home for designers, creatives,
entrepreneurs, and engineers. Inspiration can be found in every corner. My day job is in the space of data, machine learning, and technology. I have an interest in
combining cutting-edge modern methods with ancient wisdoms to solve age-old problems. To me, this is also a creative practise – reimagining solutions for big,
open problems with novel approaches, and finding ways to communicate the result. I don’t see technology as an enemy. I see it as a liberator that will free us
from industrial shackles and return us to our natural creative selves. Some areas I currently work in are brain-machine interfaces, bioelectronic medicine, health and wellness, underground navigation, and recently soil science. My efforts are focused on enlivening our existence through preserving and
regenerating and our planet’s ecosystems, and learning from the elegant wisdoms of nature.

I have always had a fondness for Portugal and visited numerous places along its wild coast. Yet I have never been inland. When I saw Èvora on the list of hubs to visit, I was immediately intrigued. I then looked more into Arteria Lab and loved its mission. I saw it as an opportunity to explore my creative relationship to physical space, within a socially conscious context. I also had no experience working with 3D creations, and it was a medium that I was curious to explore. After speaking with Marius and Natália and they told me about the availability and opportunity to collaborate with another visiting artist from ECHN, I immediately accepted.

When I arrived in Évora, I was surprised to learn that various cultures have dominated the city throughout its lifetime, and each have left their mark. You can find
Neolithic, Roman, Moorish, and Medieval influences all within the city. The result is a charming and eclectic mosaic city with a distinct energy that is unlike anywhere I’ve visited in Portugal, yet undeniably Portuguese. It was like walking through a living, breathing museum. The ancient city is surrounded by tranquil fields and lush farmlands, vineyards, and cork oak forests. I also discovered that there are numerous cromlech sand dolmens in nearby areas. I love the ancient mysticism, sheer ingenuity, and homage to the natural world that these sites represent. Marius was nice enough to drive us to the Almendres Cromlech on my first day! It was a great source of inspiration for the rest of the week.
A bonus is that Évora is small and easy to explore within a week! I arrived in midst of a summer music festival so the city was buzzing with energy.

When I arrived at Arteria Lab, Marius welcomed me and gave me a tour and a run down of what we can work on during the week. I was very impressed with
Marius’ depths of knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm. He was attentive the entire week and showed us all to use all the equipment we can use for our creation, which gave me a lot of inspiration. The lab had numerous machinery for creating any object, bringing your ideas that once only dwelled in your imagination into the real world. I enjoyed the creative use to recycled materials, such as plastic from various daily sources, discarded materials, and
naturally occurring objects. In particular, I learned that the laser cutter was a powerful tool that can bring infinite creations into reality, with a variety of
materials. Other tools such as the 3D scanner and object etcher can support whatever modality your ideas arised from, and ways to bring it to the world.

After being introduced to Arteria Lab, and given a tour of the university and the surrounding land, I was brimming with inspiration. It was a challenge to decide on what project to bring to life in the short week that I had. Within this 4-day week, I had to conceive of the project, plan it, prototype it, and hopefully ultimately bring it to life.

Luckily, inspiration and and intuition collided and I woke up the second day with a clear vision to make an ocean drum. An ocean drum is a large hollow wheel, shaped like a drum, and filled with fine objects. When you agitate it, it created a sound similar to the waves crashing in the ocean. This idea came to me because I was inspired by the sites. and energy of Évora, and the trip in Greece that I had just came from. I wanted to create an object that can support creative intuitions, and have soothing properties. I was also inspired by the objects that I found in Arteria Lab. I decided to fill the drum with recycled multi-coloured plastic beads, and make the drumhead using a giant sheet of fresnel lens. The fresnel lens refracted light beautifully, and added a mystical quality to the drum.

On one side of the drum, I wanted to pay homage to experiences I’ve had during my summer travels by etching some drawings I made onto the surface of the drum, along with
the monthly lunar phases. Some images I included are the cromlechs, rooftop of a church in Évora, a cycladic figure from an island I visited in Greece, and other ancient symbols representing growth and protection. On the other side of the drum, I decided to etch in the zodiac signs in constellation form, centred around the beaming sun, in honour of the astronomical intention of the Almendres Cromlech, and the reverence for our planet.

Marius helped me every step of the way with patience and wisdom. He taught me how to use the design software for the laser cutter, how to use the laser cutter, helped troubleshoot and solve challenges I had in putting everything together, and showed me all the materials I can use for my work.