Paradoxes and Illusions Report


This is a mid-term design report from the group of Paradoxes and Illusions project, the group members are QIAN Xicheng, KURNIAWAN Anselmus Krisma Adi, YANG Bingxi, SUBIA VALDEZ Rafael, NIKOLAKOPOULOU Vasiliki and HU Yiang. To deal with the project, the group members have done a series of theoretic research about various types of paradoxes and illusions, which can been seen in our blog. This report contains results of our first stage research, which can be separated in 3 parts: Illusions’ information, motivation and design description.

Definition and Principles

Paradox & Illusion:

A paradox is a statement that contradicts and seems absurd or untrue, but with further research may prove its authenticity. An illusion, on the other hand, derives from the latin word illudere which means “to mock”, in english the word illude means “to trick”. In science and in the arts, paradox and illusions are studied to better understand the way the mind works when dealing with our perception and are used to provoke uncertainty towards the stimuli used [1].

Researched Illusion: 

Moiré Effect

The “Moiré effect” is caused when two regularly spaced sets of lines are superimposed. The result is a new set of lines (moiré pattern) on the points where the original lines cross with a small angle difference[2]. The reason why moiré pattern is caught by our eyes results from the way in which people interpret visual sense: “the perceptual magnification of small stimulus differences” [3]. A simple example is this video animation [4]

Although the moiré effect is produced by overlapping two patterns, it can be achieved in many forms more than just simply superimposing two flat images. Here are some example of artists’ which use the moiré effect: Kinetic sculpture by David C. Roy [5], Op Art and Moiré by Stiliana Alexieva [6], Uncertain Museum by Olafur Eliasson [7], New Animals Drawn with Moiré Patterns by Andrea Minini [8].

Fig. 1: Nautilus


Fig. 2: Op Art and Moiré


Fig. 3 New Animals Drawn with Moiré Patterns


Simultaneous contrast

The “Simultaneous Contrast” effect is of paramount importance to all who are concerned with color [9]. Simultaneous contrast identified by Michel Eugène Chevreul refers to the manner in which the colors of two different objects affect each other. From his research two types of contrast can be observed based on brightness [10] /luminance [11] and hue [10]. The effect is more noticeable when objects of complementary colors are involved [12].

We can find different examples in scientific experiments and in art. In our research, we point out some interesting ones: Edward H. Adelson experiments [11], in the book Sensation and Perception [13], in the book The Magical Effects [14], Cafe terrace on the place of Vincent van gogh [15], the project Light and Space of Azael Ferrer [16].

Fig. 4: Lightdark


Fig. 5: Simoultaneous color contrast


Fig. 6: Experiment: Simultaneous Color Contrast: PSE



 Sound Illusions:

Fig. 7: Clapping Music for two performers

Sound art and contemporary music have made use of the “Moiré Effect” in different ways. The superimposing of rhythmical patterns is the main process behind North American minimalist music. Steve Reich accomplished complex rhythmical patterns by joining simple ones in his piece “Clapping Music” (1972) [17]. The effect is also close to the rules of the GESTALT [18]. Dr. Albert Bregman has developed a series of experiments and theories that relate to the Gestalt Theory in his book [19] by using patterns of sounds that can be analogue to the ones in the Moiré Effect. These experiments [20] involve the superimposing of two sequences that at different speed are associated in the brain differently. The Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky used this principle in the violin lines of his “Waltz for Sleeping Beauty” [21]

Fig. 8: Waltz for Sleeping Beauty (with analysis)



Literature Retrieval: It is essential for our group to retrieve the archive about the background information of paradox and illusion as few of us have ever had a related experience on this issue. During this period, group members did literature research separated, and acquired and summarized the definition and scientific principles of the selected illusions.

Historical Research: To get deeper comprehension about the project, group members should do research on the history of selected illusions, which also includes typical artists with their artworks and aesthetic analysis.

Experimental Practice: The project will start to take form as the group begins the process of creating the installation. The visual effect will be programed in one of the software that the group wishes to experiment with. The project will also include the design aspects of visual figures and props and staging. The audio will be developed hand on hand with the visual effect and finally the group will setup the piece by selecting a place and installing all the necessary equipment.

Case Study: Through a wide range research, the project group decided to focus on 2 visual illusions and 1 sound illusion and do specific creative activities with the illusions.


This work illustrates the relationship between art and science. It also stimulates our project group to research on more possibilities based on the principles of Moire Effect and Simultaneous Effect through experience and research not only visual but also auditory. Besides, the work will calls for a deeper thinking about time, space and interaction.

Design Description

The group aims to create an interactive immersive installation in a room using the “Moiré” effect. It will involve video, audio and design “in situ”,  and will try to include a second illusion known as “Simultaneous Contrast” as a secondary effect to interact with.

Moire and Simultaneous Contrast will be combine into one illusion so audience can experience these two effect simultaneously not just each of them separately. We already created basic example using flash on how we can combine these two illusions.

To accomplish this, the group will further research software tools for design and creation like Adobe Suite, Processing, Openframeworks, Supercollider, max/MSP or Pure Data and apply the results in the installation thinking of space and image by using projectors, screens speakers and prop design.

Basic Role of Group Members

Interactive designers:

1.KURNIAWAN Anselmus Krisma Adi (Programming)


Graphic designers:

1.YANG Bingxi

2.HU Yiang

Sound designer:


Academic Support-Documentation:

QIAN Xicheng


[1]       “Paradox”,  “illude” & ‘illusion” [Online]. Available: . [Accessed: 13-Feb-2015].

[2]       “moire pattern | physics | Encyclopedia Britannica.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 10-Feb-2015].

[3]       L. Spillmann, “The perception of movement and depth in moiré patterns,” Perception, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 287–308, 1993.

[4]       “Amazing Animated Optical Illusions! #7.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 02-Feb-2015].

[5]      David C. Roy  [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 09-Feb-2015].

[6]       Stiliana Alexieva Artist  [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 09-Feb-2015].

[7]       “The uncertain museum • Artwork • Studio Olafur Eliasson.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 11-Feb-2015].

[8]       “New Animals Drawn with Moiré Patterns by Andrea Minini | Colossal.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 09-Feb-2015].

[9]       J. Itten and F. Birren, The elements of color: a treatise on the color system of Johannes Itten, based on his book The art of color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1970.

[10]       R. G. Kuehni, “Michel-Eugene Chevreul: From laws and principles to the production of colour plates,” Color Res. Appl., vol. 27, pp. 4–14, 2002.

[11]    E. H. Adelson, “Lightness Perception and Lightness Illusions,” New Cogn. Neurosci., vol. 3, pp. 339–351, 2000.

[12]    D. H. Alman, “Colour—Why the World Isn’t Grey, by Hazel Rossotti, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1985, 239 pp., paperbound. Price $9.95,” Color Res. Appl., vol. 14, no. 1, p. 44, Feb. 1989.

[13]    B. L. Schwartz and J. H. Krantz, Sensation and Perception, SAGE Publi. 2015, p. 480.

[14]    Joen Wolfrom, The Magic Effect of Color. 1992.

[15]    “Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night, The by Van Gogh – 53.” [Online]. Available:,-Arles,-at-Night,-The.html. [Accessed: 11-Feb-2015].

[16]    “ | LIGHT/SPACE.” [Online]. Available:!lightspace/cu34. [Accessed: 10-Feb-2015].

[17]    “Steve Reich – Clapping Music (Scrolling).” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 11-Feb-2015].

[18]    M. Tuck, Gestalt Principles Applied in Design. 2010.

[19]    A. S. Bregman, Auditory scene analysis : the perceptual organization of sound. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990.

[20]    “Al Bregman’s Website.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 11-Feb-2015].

[21]    W. F. Thompson, Ed., Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2014.

Image references:

Fig. 1: David C. Roy. (2014). Nautilus [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 February 15].

Fig. 2: Stiliana Alexieva. (2014). Op Art and Moiré [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 February 15].

Fig. 3: Andrea Minini(2014).New Animals Drawn with Moiré Patterns [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 February 15].

Fig. 4: John Paul Caponigro.(2011). lightdark [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 09 February 15].

Fig. 5: Wolfrom, J.Simultaneous Contrast. 1992. [Photograph]. At: Concord: C&T Publishing Inc.

Fig. 6: H. Krantz & Bennett L. Schwartz .(2015). Experiment: Simultaneous Color Contrast: PSE [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 09 February 15].

Fig. 7: Reich, S. Clapping Music for two performers. [Online]. (1972). Available at:

Fig. 8: Tchaikovsky, P. I. Waltz for Sleeping Beauty (with analysis) . Available at: W. F. Thompson, Ed., Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2014

Reference posts from our blog