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Experimental Design

Yiqi Zhou

Yiqi Zhou is a multimedia artist and designer who draws inspiration from ancient myths and abstract storytelling as a tool to suggest hidden dimensions.

After graduating from the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, she took her practice further, exploring experience design and research at the Royal College of Art.

She is interested in exploring unseen layers of stories with mixed reality installations. 

'What time is it?'

During the lockdown, the sameness of each day combined with a loss of routine and social activities changed my previous perception of time. I found this feeling of being unable to track time quite similar to a description related to time perception in Chinese ancient mythology. By researching the ancient Chinese understanding of time, I expanded this idea into several scenes, to suggest the process of gaining and losing track of time.

'What time is it?' contains a series of timekeeping wax sculptures that evoke multiple layers of time, to influence and interact with participants' perception of time.

The work will be exhibited at the IED 'Beep Beep' event, 23rd-25th July, Menier Gallery

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A virtual shrine of time
project video

We are living in the age of information overload, where smart devices are helping us access, consume and interpret information and data. With these technologies, we can easily keep track of time wherever we are in the world. We tend to check time often, as it’s important to orient ourselves.

But what if timekeeping devices are wrong? What happens if the experience of time is actually uneven?

This project brings the audience to a fictional Shrine of Time. Audiences are guided by screen-based interaction to complete acts of worship towards the timekeeping object.

The physical installation contains a wax sculpture on a metal stand. This is inspired by the candle clock, by which time is marked differently, as each candle degrades differently and thus has its own rules of timing. Metal parts embedded in the wax each fall from the candle as it degrades, generating a unique rhythm and sonic experiences of time's progress.

The virtual experience takes place using a smart-screen device, whereby a user scans the space to enter into an AR narrative surrounding the timekeeping, in which the candle is a centrepiece.


Wax, metal, screen


Design of the main scene
one page from my project journal
map of experiments — This map shows how the research inspired me to make these candles that explore the evenness and unevenness of time, direction of time, etc.
Burning and moulding
candle making
user testing kit

The Chinese character of ‘Time’ could be separated into three words each means day or sun, regulation, and unit of measurement. In the first chapter of textual research of time writes sunrise and sunset(light and darkness) are understood as the first mark of time. And the story of the candle dragon reflects people’s confusion about the uncertainty in the timing system. Candles in the story work both as light sources and timekeeping objects.