by Esther Zhang2022

AM, PM is a light and sound installation which creates a safe space for people who suffer from timezone differences under pandemic to connect, heal and reconstruct, by delivering an intimate story of two lovers in a public intermediary.

video editing credits to @Echo


12, is how New York and Shanghai share their time difference, a motif we experience and accommodate everyday as a Go Local student under pandemic. This mulled into AM, PM. In AM, PM, audiences are able to enter, stay, sit, lie down and meditate in a cozy living room space and to interact with breathing lights to fill up space with an audio story. The dual-track audio clip mumbles white noises from daily routines, with the breathing lights giving out clues of time-shifting and differences. We expect that amid speculating the storyline, of two lovers separated in different timezones, intertwined feelings of bittersweet, and twisted comfort can be revealed to our audience. We made a bold try to push the boundary of exposing private emotions, feelings, and trivial life bits to relatively public space but not too much compromise comforts of participants. We expect our audiences are not only observers outside but participants in this private world and feel empathetic to some extent. We sincerely invite you into this couple's world and imprint your trace, as “this is not defeating an impossible nor pushing limits, but assuring capabilities within us and being able to continue.”

Time lags, but love doesn't.


@Echo and I decided to play around more with former project that we have already built, as the time is limited but we want to polish it towards profession and maturity. But while doing the brainstorm part we tried to put aside technology part and focus on the theme and emotion that we wanted to convey.

Time, jet lags, time zones, 12h time lags that we now here in Shanghai are facing with New York, stories within them. These are the first hunches we had. We tried to picture a story-based, intimate, time-themed interactive project amid sound and light.

This is not defeating an impossible nor pushing limits, but assuring capabilities within us and being able to continue.

Research and inspiration

@Echo and I decided to extend our former project (Snow rhythm) further to refine it to a more professional extent. This part is quite time-consuming since our ideas were doing shuttle runs between too complicated and too trivial.

In the last project, we interacted with projector, light, and space. The meditative ambiance we created eventually provoked a sense of emotional resonance amongst the audience. Those emotions were the private assets belonging to each independent, but to some degree, they echoed similarly to the scene. That resonance was quite intriguing to me and inspired me to probe the content and theme purely without restrains of technical concerns. Finally we settle down our initial idea focusing on time difference. Our first sketch depicted a sound and light interactive space, based on the narration of two separated lovers in NY & SH.

Within the time and time difference theme, we want to interact with the light and sound to tell a story about long-distance lovers.

The girl is in a long-distance relationship with the boy in a significant time zone difference – one is in Shanghai and the other is in New York. Every day, when the girl goes to bed and says “good night” to the boy, the boy is about to get up and greet with “good morning”. (This is just a small piece of the story.)

We want our audiences to experience these “a-synchronous” moments audibly through their whispers. We also want our audiences to feel the time difference and time flows visually through the transiting colors from orange (day) to blue (night). As the person moving from one end to the other end, the person will hear different whispers on different points in between and the color of the light will also change accordingly.

We got the light effects inspiration from my own travel experiences and James Turrell.

James Turrell light project
James Turrell light project

Based on the color pallete and the ambience that the artist Hames Turrell applied in his work, we eventually created our dynamic colors as the following.

dynamic color transformation

We also inspired by the project Uber5 created by Elise Co about how to associate the invisible time flow with visual elements.

Uber5 project

Design sketch

In the first version of implementation sketch, we want to apply gradient light transition on a LED light strip which will be covered with diffusing materials. In the second version, we want to use several independent LED lights which will be covered with diffusing materials and connect them in series to apply gradient light transition effect.

1st vesrsion of sketch: single light strip
2nd version of sketch: several independent lights

Implementaion and development


  • Arduino Uno board x3

    A microcontroller board based on the ATmega328P

    Arduino Uno board
  • IR Distance Interrupter x6

    A high-sensitivity ITR9909 photo-reflector

    IR Distance Interrupter
  • RGB LED module x6

    An effective LED Lighting system (red/green/blue) which is compatible with Arduino systems

    RGB LED module

With some sensor testings, we finally selected the distance IR sensors to process people's motion signals. We designed it to light up the LED and play the according audio as it detects the people's distance is wihtin the threshold.

sensor testing


To make enhance the ambience of intimacy, we spent a couple days of soace searching and eventually we landed on one dark media room in IMA Shanghai. After testing the lighting, we began to decorate the room to add more flavor of life. The living room set up was for creating an inviting atmosphere for the audience, also to convey our theme more clearly.

Space setup


We connected six IR distance interrupters with six RGB LEDs separately to allow each sensor to control a single LED. All the components connected to three Arduino UNO (one master and two slaves) and Arduino communicate with p5 for audio play. We attached fluffy cotton around the LEDs to diffuse light and create some artistic effect. We put up the warm and cozy living room setup with common furniture and minimalistic decorations: sofa, plant, clock, and dim light, which help eliminate the boundary between audiences and the story itself.

The most difficult part of this project was definitely the wiring and extension. As we are having a set up, we had to make sure every cable is long enough.

Wire rolls

Here is a demo video we made to test all installation.

demo video


We were concerned about whether we can deliver the story clearly to audiences at the beginning. But after we had our genuine audiences into our space, interpretations are layering up and intertwining in a convoluted but positive way. That helped us to trace back our original idea that we were trapped by the 12-hour time zone difference in our ITP journey. Love is intrinsic——besides the lovers in the audio story, we are also sharing this relationship with our possible selves in NYC, imaginary doppelgänger, and all the things we planned to do but didn’t get a chance to do in 2020. There are moments of fear, depression and disappointment amidst the sound and genuine love. But it’s that love——more durable and permanent than concrete——that’ll get us through every trial.

That is probably what we're capable of and how we’re able to keep forward. Time lags, but love doesn’t.


  • Red string of fate

  • According to the Japanese legend, this thread emanating from the heart doesn’t end at the tip of the finger. It continues in the form of an invisible red string, which ”flows” out of your pinkie and goes on to intertwine with the red strings of other people —— connecting your heart with theirs.
    Japanese red string of fate