When Canadian media artist Nicholas Hanna first moved to the Chinese city of Beijing, he was quite taken with the water calligraphy that he saw people creating in the parks. The art form consists of using a large brush to paint Chinese calligraphy on the road, in water, so the characters disappear as the water evaporates. Hanna decided to put his own spin on it, and rigged up a cargo tricycle with a computer-controlled dot matrix water release system, that squirts out passages of Chinese poetry on the road behind him as he rides.
Cargo trikes like Hanna's are ubiquitous in Beijing, so the vehicle itself is as much an ode to Chinese culture as the poetry that it prints.
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Mounted in the trike's rear cargo bed are two large plastic water jugs, which are connected through a complex arrangement of hoses and electronics to a line of 16 solenoid valves, located just inches above the surface of the road. Poems written in Chinese calligraphy are entered into a handlebar-mounted computer, which converts the characters into a dot matrix. That data is fed to the electronics system in the back, which selectively activates different solenoid valves as the tricycle moves forward, recreating the characters in droplets of water on the road.
Hanna pedaled his Water Calligraphy Device around Beijing's Dashilar district as part of Bejing Design Week, which took place from September 24th to October 3rd. "The reception at BJDW was extremely positive," he told us. "People were really intrigued and the local residents think it's wacky and hilarious."
You can see the device in action, in the video below.