Graphic Designer Fengyi Liu Restores Forgotten Narratives with Arkive

An interactive system that unlocks lost stories

As an artist who consistently values cultural heritage and recognizes the importance of preserving and passing on these civilizational legacies, Fengyi Liu is continuously seeking a solution to restore the historical stories that now only exist in memories as complete as possible. After numerous adjustments made to his experiment, Liu is finally able to bring Arkive to the public eye.

Liu believes that memories are what make people alive and are thus proof of existence. Storing memories is the permanent way to live because being forgotten is more cruel than death. Seeing people successfully digitizing physicals through 3D technology made Liu realize what he wanted to do was not impractical.

“Preserving memories is something that I’ve always wanted to do. In fact, I have developed a memory preservation prototype in one of my previous projects,” Liu explained, “It is now the perfect time to finalize my idea, starting with the question of how I should present it.”

Screenshot 2023 05 29 at 4.18.26 PM

(Arkive, by Fengyi Liu)

Despite 3D scanning seeming like a go-to method when it comes to digital assets, Liu found out it was an unnecessary approach in this project since the carriers of memory are mainly pictures and words. Based on the characteristics of photography, Liu designed an interactive system where the textual information for different periods of a certain region can be presented through adjusting the timeline.

To prove the achievability of the device, Liu selected three communities of local Los Angeles and chose Church Avenue. The government had to remove the whole community for the construction of what is now known as Dodger Stadium. Every living trace of the original community had been erased, which is exactly what Liu hoped to restore.

The device consisted of two interfaces with supporting wooden racks on the back, and two projectors connected to my computers. This allowed the content Liu created on his computers using a software application called MadMapper to be projected. He also had a setup that included a knob-shaped sensor connected to an Arduino board, which was interfaced with Liu’s computer, all housed within an antique radio structure.

Screenshot 2023 05 29 at 4.18.31 PM

(Arkive, by Fengyi Liu)

Liu removed the internals of the radio but placed the chip into the sensor. When the sensor is rotated, people are able to see the changes in the timeline as well as the images and stories  from different old times in that region, manifesting the old times of the Church Avenue community.

“I named this project Arkive, which is drawn from the archive and the ark,” Liu further added, “It functions as an archive. But I replaced ‘ch’ with ‘k’ because it also serves like an ark that preserves and protects what’s about to disappear, which aligns with my whole design concept.”

Building up this deliverable wasn’t easy at all. In order to bring out the best outcome, Liu was obligated to have every question answered, from collecting and categorizing information to the storage methods. For Liu, what’s most important is to ensure that the memories preserved are accessible to the next generation.

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