We by artist trio Let’s is a colorful sculpture installation in which music and colorful light are created by people touching different parts of the installation. What I like about this project is that it’s very fun, and it’s the type of artwork that I’d enjoy seeing and playing around with at a museum. It’s accessible to anyone who sees it and encourages interaction with other people. From what I can tell, it seems like each part of the installation is associated with a set recorded sound/light effect? And I wonder if maybe that restricts the different kinds of experiences viewers can have a bit too much. We is very similar to previous pieces made by the group, although the visuals seem a bit more complex and involved than previously.


dadamachines by Johannes Lohbihler

The dadamachines automat toolkit by Johannes Lohbihler is an open source toolkit for creating instruments from arbitrary objects. A central controller connects a MIDI or other music controlling device to solenoids/motors that can interact with objects.

I like this project because it enables people to hack the physical world. I enjoy programming, but I would like to escape my 12 hours of daily screen time (My parents only let me have an hour a day as a child, so why is this suddenly OK?). Tools like this partially realize my dream for the future that goes something like this:  

I am doing things in the tangible world. I encounter a difficult situation. I flip open my computer, type up some code to help deal with it. Then, I go about my merry way.

This toolkit provides a way for the expressive power of programming to be accessible and useful in a lightweight manner in our day-to-day lives.

This project shows the influence of Dadaism through its encouragement of readymade objects in music. It updates this in the context of electronic music and maker culture by connecting readymades to MIDIs through Arduino.

If you buy the large package for $750, you have to wonder, “Is this just an Arduino with fancy packaging? All it does is control solenoids and motors.” However, I think this project is exactly what the creators of Arduino had in mind with their platform: prototype with Arduino, then create a robust, specialized version. The creator partnered with manufacturers, engineers, and software developers from Germany and China to realize a product funded by €150,548 from 488 backers on Kickstarter.

This project inspires me to make things that interact with nature through programming. Nature is complex and it is hard to imagine how solenoids and motors will deal with messy natural substances. Maybe a device closely connected to the person operating it could combine the accuracy and repeatability of machines with the situated knowledge of humans to overcome this hurdle.

Project: https://dadamachines.com/


Char Davies’ Ephémère (1998)


Ephémère is an immersive, interactive visual/aural experience of spatial poetry, a nature-inspired philosophical meditation of sorts expressed in light, space and sound. The ‘immersant,’ equipped with a virtual reality (VR) Head-Mounted Display (HMD) and a body vest for sensing breathing/balance, floats in the virtual three-dimensional space of Davies’ creation and navigates its many temporal-spatial layers through controlled breathing, like a scuba diver deep in sea. Described in her notes as an embodiment of “the garden in the machine,” the artwork strives to “create an existential vertigo – not narrative, but stripping away to an existential level of being – a spinning in slow motion [1].”

In Ephémère, we find Char Davies approaching the pinnacle of artistry and technical fluidity, experimenting with cutting-edge technologies at the time to explore new forms of expression and ways of experiencing imagery, and expanding our sense of space-time. Her innovative use of transparent texture maps, for instance, creates soft edges and spatial/perceptual ambiguity that achieves a strange dematerializing effect and ethereal quality [2], subverting visual conventions in computer graphics. The custom-made bodily interface allows us to encounter and experience the dynamically changing dreamscape and ephemeral imagery through our bodies. The way she brought together many disparate elements – technical feats, philosophical ideas, symbolic painterly forms – to work as a cohesive whole that speaks to us on so many levels is astonishing.


Char Davies never considers her artworks to be solely of her own creation [2]. She had a small, dedicated team working with her to implement her grand vision for this work, and she credits herself for concept, direction, and art direction;  George Mauro, computer graphics; John Harrison, custom VR software; Dorota Blaszczak, sonic architecture and programming; and Rick Bidlack, sound composition and programming [3]. The production was co-sponsored by Immersense and Softimage.

Ephémère alone took 2-3 years to create (’96-’98). The work naturally evolved from Osmose, her first immersive virtual artwork, which also took 2-3 years to produce (’93-’95) [2].



According to her notes, Char Davies found much inspiration in the later works of English painter J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851), whose landscape and maritime paintings were highly expressive and abstract in its representations of light, time and space [2]. Visual elements in her work are also reflective and evocative of ideas and imagery found in her favorite philosophers and poets such as Heidegger and Rilke. [2]




[1] Char Davies, Numina Notebook #1. 

[2] Laurie McRobert, Immersive Virtual Art and the Essence of Spatiality 

[3] Immersense website: http://www.immersence.com/ephemere/


Graffiti Nature – teamLab

Graffiti Nature is an exhibition in teamLab’s Borderless Museum. After coloring in either an animal or flower outline with crayons, your drawing will be scanned in and then projected onto the floor. Your creature comes alive and can walk around, but people can also step on it and eventually kill it.

teamLab is a Tokyo-based company of ~600 people (though the technical department is much smaller). One interactive team member takes on the bulk of the work per project (and coordinates with other departments). The projects are made predominantly in Unity, and are created over the course of a few months.

^ My creature!

^ Strangers, both adults and kids, intentionally stepped on my creature ;-;

I really enjoy how the project transforms the common coloring book experience, giving both kids and adults the chance to bring their drawings to life (with no shame to those bad at drawing). I was however quite surprised by the darker side of this project and a few other teamLab works (you can burn little people in another kids’ project, and the animals covered in flowers in the hallways will die if you remove all the flowers on them). Creating death complicates an otherwise utopic world and pushes it more towards reality, but part of me wishes there was more consequence to the virtual murder of my baby creature.

jaqaur – Looking Outwards 1

When I went to SF MoMa in 2017, my favorite floor was the one full of sound-based artworks (a temporary installation). I have always had a strong reaction to sounds (some positive, some negative), and so all of these were especially moving. However, one stands out in my memory as particularly interactive: Cloud by Christina Kubisch.

The artwork is a large tangle of red wires suspended in midair. Different prerecorded sounds play in different parts of the sculpture. These sounds are mostly recordings of electromagnetic fields from locations around the world, with some generated sounds mixed in. By wearing special headphones, guests can pick up the sounds and hear the magnetic fields themselves, creating their own soundscape as they move around the sculpture.

I really like how accessible this piece is. The visual of this massive net of wires fits perfectly with the audio experience it delivers: chaotic, dense with detailed but unintelligible information. It also really makes me feel the presence of all the data–public, mundane, or extremely intimate–that is being transmitted through the air.

Here is a video of Kubisch discussing the piece (note that Clouds is actually a series, and she is talking about a different but very similar Cloud from the one I experienced):



Algorithm by Dimitris Ladopoulos is series of images created an algorithm that makes a treemap-esque by recursively splitting. What I admire of this project is the processing he does using the results of the algorithm, with making 3d versions of his outputs with protruding rectangles and different materials and colors. Those are just gorgeous to look at.

I think the idea of the art is incredibly simple. The use of a recursive algorithm to generate fractal artwork is pretty basic and un-novel. The results are lovely and show great design choices, but I wonder what the process behind creating those is like. The artists describes very little beyond the algorithm that generates the treemap structures.

Ladopoulos has another similar project on his site. It’s called “Portraits”, and instead of randomly generated images, you input a painting and it’ll segment it into a treemap-looking thing based on where color transitions are. That project is a much less interesting one. Without the abstraction and art direction of “Algorithm”, “Portraits” is just a rather bland data visualization.