Interaction Design School of Design

Xinye Shen (Id/Ego/Superego)

Xinye’s project revolves around war, refugees, and peace. He uses traditional Chinese shadow puppetry as a blueprint, integrating modern multimedia technology into this classic art to create unique visual effects.

The practice of this project encompasses everything from real-time dynamic capture technology to perceptual touch interaction, from virtualized random visual effects to the concrete re-creation of traditional styles.

He has a particular focus on the installation’s interactivity and the story’s immersion. The art form of shadow puppetry provides him with a platform to convey his thoughts on war and his longing for peace.

Personal Blog
Shadow Arts
Shadow Puppetry

Shadow Arts

“What you are, you do not see; what you see is your shadow.” -RobīndronathṬhākur。


Incredibly, nearly 40 years after the end of the Cold War, we still have to face the aggressive war that broke out between Russia and Ukraine. It seems as if the Red Horseman has never left us.

In this absurd war, the displacement of civilians is my primary concern because it symbolizes the complete loss of control of the situation. Civilians devastated by war have no strength to escape from this dimension of despair.

This randomly generated human silhouette created by digital media is used to map the brutal reality that displaced civilians constantly face — despair and a sense of being lost. It seems intangible, but at the same time, it is highly similar to oneself, like our own shadow.

Simulating the effect of a CRT display losing signal is one of the methods I use to reflect thoughts on war. This environment is filled with simulations of the impact when a CRT display loses signal. This is one of the methods I use to reflect my thoughts on war.

Kinect will recognize the audience’s silhouette and then transform into chaotic and unsettling glitch particle clusters through the program. The movements made by the audience in front of Kinect will be recognized, thereby creating more glitch particles that radiate outward. I use the visual effects of glitch art to express the sense of disorientation and powerlessness in war. This unsettling sense of chaos is directed towards the audience.

Shadow Puppetry

Civilians are suffering from the devastation of war, but they are powerless to change their reality, just like the puppets in the shadow puppet show. On this basis, the performers who manipulate the puppets naturally become the nations and social groups manoeuvring on the battlefield. People ravaged by war cannot escape their dimension, and their lives will be forcibly distorted.

This work has been further developed in Shadow Arts, which provides a more concrete story background to describe the inner struggle of a soldier returning from the battlefield.

The storytelling form is similar to the ancient shadow puppet show. However, innovating traditional techniques with modern technology is the primary purpose.

The way of performing with sticks and ropes no longer exists. Instead, a capacitive sensing device implemented with a microcontroller controls the puppets’ movement and the story’s direction. Modern multimedia art forms replace puppets and decorative panels made of paper, animal skin, and other materials. The construction of the scene refers to the scene layout of Western musicals, and the parallax effect is integrated into the background to enhance the audience’s immersion significantly.

Inspired by ancient poetry, I wrote a complete linear story for this project. This story is a carrier of thought and encompasses multiple directions of thinking, which is presented to the audience through multimedia art.

All these efforts aim to narrate the story to the audience better, thereby more intuitively expressing my thoughts on war.

The storyboard in text form


I made a giant projection screen for the entire narrative. This is the only traditional element retained for reflecting the shadow puppet show. I used back projection to project media visual effects onto this screen to achieve imaging.