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This Design Student Built A Gun That Weaponizes Tears

Yi-Fei Chen turned her frustrations into a literal weapon.

This Design Student Built A Gun That Weaponizes Tears

Ask any parent, any spouse, or any histrionic teenager, and they’ll tell you: Tears can be used as weapons. Until now, though, those weapons were figurative, wounding the heart of onlookers without actually damaging the flesh.

Fuck that noise, said Taiwanese-born designer Yi-Fei Chen. Having a predilection for crying herself, the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate decided to weaponize her tears into a fearfully literal weapon. It’s called the Tear Gun.

Recently on display at Dutch Design Week, which ran through October, the steampunky amalgam of brass and plastic works by collecting tears in a pouch worn with affixative tape beneath the eye. It then siphons these tears into the gun by tube, where they are individually frozen and turned into projectiles (that don’t actually do any harm). These, in turn, can be fired at the person who made the Tear Gun’s owner cry in the first place . . . if not an eye for an eye, than at least, a tear for a tear. Get two Tear Guns together, and you’ve got the makings of the world’s first emo Super Soaker fight.

What inspired such a bizarre weapon? Speaking to Dezeen, Chen says she began work on the Tear Gun after her studies abroad became too much for her. “The difficulties living as a foreigner in another country lead to high pressures in the study environment,” she told Dezeen‘s Alice Morby. The expectations heaped upon her at the Design Academy Eindhoven soon found her at the pointy end of several unachievable deadlines. Later, the Dean told her she was underprepared. A fellow student, angry on Chen’s behalf, spoke up, defending her from the accusations.

Chen was so grateful, she immediately burst into tears. Yet even while crying with relief, Chen was ashamed of her reaction. The following weeks, which Chen spent wrestling with these conflicting feelings, were ultimately what made the Tear Gun a reality.

Best of all? After graduating, Chen apparently got to fire the Tear Gun at the head of the department head, Jan Boelen, who initially made her cry. Dezeen reports she took it well; it was like being hit with a small piece of hail. It didn’t hurt much.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.



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