Reflexivity in Representation of Snakes

Discourse Publication
of Snakes
in Art & Culture
A Cultural Conservation &
Design Thinking Theory Project


By Melvin Tan

ImageWe see similar characteristic traits of the way snakes are perceived as powerful or to be feared. But how different are they from one place to another? In this research, we discuss the possibility of instinct through a cross-cultural visual assessment to eventually use these findings to reassess our approaches and reflexivity in cultural conservation.

Reflexivity in Representation is an investigation into the human interpretation of snakes. This is a three part inquiry addressing how our perception of these reptiles are not very different from one culture to another, proving a certain instinctive collective unconscious. This project believes in the creative role our understanding plays in sustaining culture, art and designs all over the world.


Pt • 1
Flexa Mandala
Hexagon Flexagon

ImageThe different parts of the Flexa Mandala

~ImageThe texture of the Flexa Mandala reflects the Snake Skin in it’s truest form. It holds the manifestations of different serpentine intepretations of mandalas. 

~ImageEvery Mandala has a different number to describe the uniqueness of what each contains.

~ImageUnfurling the Flexa Mandala is approached from the centre, it blooms like a lotus flower.

~ImageThe instructions would clearly describe the workings and process of this special mandala piece

~ImageThe wrapper is made from hand folded glassine paper that produces the idea of a snake shedding it’s skin it is wrapped with, to unveil a renewed form which in this case, is the Flexa Mandala.

~ImageThe Flexa Mandala collapses into a triangle and opens again at the top in an infinite algorithm that alludes to the Mandala’s central conception as a cultural symbol.

~ImageWe will observe the many ‘flexes’ of Mandala Applicaitions from Chinese, Grecco, Mesopotian, Celtic, Jewish and Indian decent.


Pt • 2

Snake Zeitgeist
Online Database Catalog

ImageOnline Visitors of the Site will stumble upon an exhaustive catalog of Snakes applied in cultures all over the world, curated by the agency but sourced from the online crowd source.


ImageThe first scroll down will bring in the infographical web chain from the bottom to the top of the site.


The website will mirror the publication however with an interactive crowd sourcing feature where we collect snake images submitted by visitors to continue and develop the snake zeitgeist beyond the course. A continuous approach to all projects of today is new media, this is a website where people can submit snake images to assemble a pictorial zeitgeist of snakes across all cultures, art and design. 

ImageThe fence texture is taken from the Nagapanchami Festival in India where snakes are presented interlocking like a contemporary wire fence.

~ImageThis becomes an interactive platform. Users send in their snakes to add to the collection. The writings are also available for download on the site.


Pt • 3
The Discourse
A Three Tier Publication

ImageThe three tiers of the booklet resemble the three coils below the Cambodian Buddha on the naga.


A discourse publication is the backbone of the project where we intellectually reassess our approach and appreciation of snakes in cultures. This will determine whether there is a difference in our perception of these from one culture to another, proving a certain instinctive collective unconscious.

ImageThe Discourse publication in its three parts is held together by two loops on the largest booklet that pierces through the 2 smaller ones.

~ImageThe publication can be seperated into it’s three sections: (1) Discovery, (2) Discourse & (3) Discussion.



The textures of the different sections represent the serpentine characteristic qualities.


In this publication, we:

[1] Consider difference, diversity and per perception.
[2] Challenge the fallacy of mentioned practices which is not grounded in theory.
[3] Changing the angles to view the situation in different perspectives from experts.
[4] Step back and put distance between us and the situation through case studies.

ImageExamples: Comparing between the different cultures across the world to discern whether there is a collective instinct.

~ImageThe texts overlaps slightly to mirror the tiered format character of the publication.

~ImageA thin glassine paper overlay a weave that resemble the nagapanchami snake interlocking patterns. This application also reflects the interconnectedness of the information presented in the publication.

~ImageThe sudden burst of color is inspired by the golden dragon roofs from Thailand. 

~ImageHere you see the snake tongue as a way finder feature and the wiggled edge that mimic the snake slither.

~ImageAnother instance of glyphs and wayfinders that reflect the slither of a snake.

~ImageThe format gets the viewer very involved. The publication makes you turn the book horizontally or vertically to access certain information.

~ImageThe page number is applied inside to give the reader a unique experience.

~ImageThe pencil snakes its way into the loops to hold the publication together.



Culture and tradition are often practiced without consciousness of its own cultural resonance or significance. Instead it is always being involved in a practice adapted, changed or originated. Conservation in a modern social context is often removed from the chain of human behavior of cultural development.

Sustainability becomes a superfluous concern when sustainability is breaking even. Reflexive conservation is potential. This publication eventually leads to position and collect the final points and summary of the publication and set the tone of Snakes, instict and reflxivity for the future.


ImageThe two loops resemble fangs of the snake a symbol of power and ferocity.


Special thanks, Nanci Takeyama


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