More selected projects

The Obscure: mourning the lost art

From this moment on, we lost it forever and never see it without heavily dusty fog.

produced by: Yanyi Lu



This project is especially for mourning the artwork lost forever in the long rive of history. People are always talking about certain famous paintings that are carefully hung in the museums. However, there are many lost artworks are actually as important as them or even more so if they can survive. By theft, unintentional or intentional destruction, war, or accidental misfortune, these artworks have vanished forever from human history. Even if we have photos or reproductions, the later generations can no longer clearly feel and see the real to some extent.


Concept and background research

The inspiration is from misty windows in winter. All the images are blurry when there is no audience watching or passing while these images will become more and more clear when audiences move their hands to wipe them. However, they will never completely erase it and see the images clearly. When people go away, the image become vague quickly.

I get motivation from Schneider's VR museum of lost artwork, called The Museum of Stolen Art (2014). The final objective is to set up a special area in gallery and put this series of interactive installations in. I hope I can attract people’s attention to these lost artworks and call for the protection of all cultural relics.

I selected four artworks as example used in my interactive instsallation.

1. Be stolen

Caravaggio, “Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence”, 1609, Oil on canvas, 268 cm x 197 cm, church of SAN lorenzo (theft), Palermo, Sicily.

The work is still missing and may have been destroyed. On October 18, 1969, a group of thieves with links to the Sicilian Mafia broke into the church of SAN lorenzo in Palermo and stole this huge painting which hung above the altar.

Vincent Willem van Gogh, "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen", 1884, Oil on paper on panel, 25cm × 57cm, Groningen museum (theft), Netherlands.

Dutch artist van Gogh’s painting "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen" was stolen in the early morning of March 30, 2020 which is the date of the 167th anniversary of van Gogh’s birth.

2. Ruined by war

Summer Palace Beijing, 1709, Architecture, fully destroyed by war

Founded in 1709, the old Summer Palace is a masterpiece of Chinese garden art, known in western countries as "the garden of ten thousand gardens" or "the palace of Versailles in the east". In 1860, it was looted and destroyed by troops in Second Opium War, then burned down and later destroyed by others. We might only see the initial appearance by some photos taken by war photographer Felice Beato before 1860.

3. Destroyed by fire

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, 1345, Architecture, partially destroyed by fire

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris was built from 1163 and completed in 1345. A fire broke out at around 18:50 local time on April 15, 2019. The fire caused its spire to collapse, destroying the wooden roof in the middle and rear but fortunately preserving most of its stone vaults.



Hardware: webcam, TV screen in wall

Software: openFrameworks

Addon: ofxBlur, ofxOpenCV

There are three layers in total. The bottom layer is original image. The middle layer is blur mask. The top layer is dynamic copied image from bottom layer. The working theory is based on the buffer differencing. Through calculating the difference of all pixels between buffers, the program can get the movement trail of audience. I create a color vector of all pixels for top layer and initialize all color to transparency. Only the pixel with differencing between buffer will be replaced with the color picked from the same location of original image. Then, the pixels will create a copied image which is draw in top layer.


Future development

Due to the restriction of room space and equipment, there is only one display screen for interaction with audience till now. I may develop this prototype to a series of interactive installations so there will be several display screens in the wall and there is a hidden camera beside each screen, making it more like a mini special theme exhibition.


Self evaluation

1.      Ps3eye camera still cannot work in my computer due to the problem of driver so I have to use webcam to capture motion. It is a big and disappointing issue. I am still working on solving this.

2.      The size of the working image has to be not too big. I used draw circle at the beginning, but it is very slow, so I accepted some suggestions and turned to use the way of copying pixel and drawing picture. Although the final effect was acceptable when I projected this size to a much bigger display screen, I will continue exploring the capability of my computer if I can optimize my code much better in the future.

3.      The change of image is a little boring now. All the images work same when audiences move. I am thinking about adding more interesting effect during the moving for artworks lost due to different reasons. For example, the transparency of pixel will change by time gradually not disappearing straightly like now, or there are some water dropping/particle breaking effect when audiences move fast enough.

Overall, I think I achieved the goal set in my proposal and made this kind of effect out, but there are still many interesting possibilities I can explore and go deeper in the future.



Schneider, Z., 2014. The Museum of Stolen Art.

Charney, N., 2018. The Museum of Lost Art. Phaidon Press. ISBN-10: 0714875848.

Papatheodorou, T. (2020). Workshops In Creative Coding 1. Computer vision workshop and example code.