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:


Lil Miquela is a fictional character, Instagram model and music artist created by the LA based transmedia studio known as Brud  Lil Miquela is a virtual art piece that uses Instagram as a medium. She reflects society back on itself in a hyperrealistic way while deliberately never leaving the uncanny valley.

Burd claims that their goal in creating Lil Miquela was to develop “story worlds that have the power to introduce marginalized ideas wrapped in the familiarity of entertainment.” Which I found to be very in line with my own interests

Because of Brud’s rather secretive nature, it is hard to say what specific software they used to create lil Miquela, but it would not be outside the realm of possibility that they used any of the usual culprits (Maya, Blender or Unity) to create or design her.

Similar projects such as Hatsune Miku, and the Gorillaz have existed in the past, from which Brud must have drawn inspiration, however, the interactive nature of the project, the deep realism of her posts and the fact that she exists mainly on the world’s fastest growing social media platform sets her apart and makes her the most interesting iteration of the art form yet.



L U N E by Cabbibo (Isaac Cohen) is a meditative, interactive VR piece involving cyclic envelopment within shimmering fabric enclosures and the arrangement of solid structures that support them.

Intended as a poem rather than a game, L U N E can evoke emotions from glee to melancholy as you partake in exploring the dynamics of the world he created. It is obviously influenced by experiences from the comfort of childhood pillow forts to mature recognition of cosmic insignificance.

I am drawn to L U N E’s almost-entropic forward progression, where the narrative-arrow-of-time is enforced by a series of one-way actions, while still remaining serene and preserving freedom at any step. Further, the shaders combined with the physical dynamics are innately enticing, and every action’s sonic element unifies the environment satisfyingly.

However, L U N E is quite short. The cycle conceivably “completable” within a minute, there are few elements to provide substance beyond the inherent curiosity of the user, though the singularity is perhaps intentionally haiku-like and needn’t overstay itself. 

Created in Unity, with much code open-sourced, the experience provides material support for any works inspired.



Looking Outwards # 1 – sheep

A touchstone for myself would be the Connected Worlds exhibit at the Hall of Science. A giant immersive animation confronts the viewers, who are mostly children visiting the museum.

To make Connected Worlds, NYSCI used Design I/o, who make immersive installations as their main practice. In addition to Design I/O, other collaborators included Zach Gage, Josh Goodrich,  Big Show Construction, Yale’s Cognitive science dept, Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information network, and NYU’s games for learning institute.

The project contains six different ecosystems, each one using OSC to send and receive sounds. The installation uses Kinect cameras to capture passerby’s movements as well. From what I see, a lot of it was programmed in C++.

I think a lot of the project was inspired by Disney’s theme parks. I think the sort of visual language, whimsy, and layout reminds me of a theme park approach. I also think they took inspiration from the interactive spaces of Teamlab.

I can see this project inspiring further large scale installations. I also think that projects like DynamicLand, that projection mapping real world coding workshop, may benefit from considering how kids can engage with their environments and how code can react.



Behind the scenes:


  • Please discuss the project. What do you admire about it, and why do you admire these aspects of it?

One of the interactive projects I remembered is Daniel Rozin’s PomPom Mirror. The project contains a mirror made of black and white fur, which reflects the audience’s silhouette by pushing the furs using many motors. The most fascinating aspect of the project is the material. The fur moves slowly yet smoothly, displaying interesting patterns when they’re switching between black and white. The delay creates an expectation. Furthermore, while most mirrors are hard and shiny, this mirror creates an unfamiliarity as well as a novel feeling by being organic and fluffy. Moreover it only display very rough silhouettes, giving audience space for imagination. I also enjoyed the idea of “pixels” taken out of the context of screens.

  • How many people were involved in making it, and how did they organize themselves to achieve it? (Any idea how long it took them to create it?)

1 people is credited, but I can not find information on whether the artist has helpers. I think it takes a long time to install all the motors.

  • How was the project created? What combination of custom software/scripts, or “off-the-shelf”  software, did the creators use? Did they develop the project with commercial software, or open-source tools, or some combination?

The project uses fur puffs, motors and Kinect. Kinect detects people and custom software translates the detection into motion of the motors, which then move the fur.

  • What prior works might the project’s creators have been inspired by?

I think mirrors and the idea of seeing one self has always been something fascinating to human beings, and people are writing and making things about them since ancient time. (e.g. Snow White, Perseus, etc). The artist himself also makes a lot of mirrors, and some of them are made before this one, such as Wood Mirror (1999) and Peg Mirror (2007).

  • To what opportunities or futures does the project point, if any?

Mirrors of other materials. Moving furs that interacts with audience differently.

  • Provide a link (if possible) to the artwork, and a full author and title reference.


Daniel Rozin
PomPom Mirror, 2015
928 faux fur pom poms, 464 motors, control electronics, xbox kinect motion sensor, mac-mini computer, custom software, wooden armature
48 × 48 × 18 in
121.9 × 121.9 × 45.7 cm
Edition 6/6 + 1AP
  • Embed an image and a YouTube/Vimeo video of the project (if available).



  • Create a brief animated GIF for the project, if a video is available. (For advice, information and resources about how to make an animated GIF, please see this page.) Keep your GIF around 640×480 pixels (absolutely no wider than 840 pixels), and under 5Mb.

conye – Looking Outwards 01

Ooblets is a unreleased game that’s roughly a hybrid of Pokemon, Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon (my three favorite games!).

above: Ooblets video trailer 1

above: Ooblets video tailer 2

Still from game









I really, truly admire this project because it’s being coded by one single, amazing woman named Rebecca. There’s a small team of artists who are making the assets, but that’s it! I love the concept of the game; I think it plays on childhood nostalgia for Nintendo games while also remixing these games in the best way. Specifically, sometimes people bring up the morality of Pokemon. Is it moral to be asking creatures that we capture to fight our battles for us? Ooblets solves this problem by having them be grown, using the Harvest Moon system, and by having them perform dance battles, rather than true fights.

I’m so excited for this game! It’s still in development, but it’s a shining example for me of art that is cute but tasteful and not overdone. Right now, they’re only releasing for Windows and Xbox, but I’m really hoping that someday I’ll be able to play it with my Mac.

Image result for ooblets gif


Sumo Wrestlers – Wooden Mechanical Toy

There’s a museum for pre-war mechanical toys in Nara that I spent a lot of time in when maybe I should have been looking at some famous temples. The staff there lay out a few dozen, very old toys on their tables and let you play with them for free. My favorite is a pair of sumo wrestlers, always locked in competition.

Here’s me, trying them out.

Many of these toys surprised me because they contained unanticipated motions, and asked me to approach them differently than how I remember my childhood toys, and entertained me so much when I expected them to be dull.

(This is a wind-up bell-ringer without any gears or springs; it resets with sand, like an hourglass.)

I’ve been trying a lot recently to make simpler work, and for me that involves considering artifacts like these sumo wrestlers as the bases for interactive projects. An object like this was probably the result of many iterations on the same concept; it’s unlikely that there’s a single creator to whom this toy idea can be attributed. Rather, it takes iteration, and a lot of real, physical play-testing to arrive at something that’s amusing even as it’s plain simple.




Through The Dark  by Hilltop Hoods is an interactive music video where the viewer can navigate through a 3d space by scrolling up and down, or using the accelerometer on a phone. I admire this project because it has nice transitions with a good story, and the interaction is simple yet satisfying. Being able to interact with the music video adds another layer to the story by creating two worlds: one light and one dark. I also like how the project is available on the web, since that makes it much more accessible.

The project was created in a collaboration with musician Dan Smith and Google Play Music. I found this project by looking through the three.js featured projects. The project description says that “new tools were developed to bridge traditional animation methods and WebGL,” but nothing more detailed than that. I think that experimentation with interactivity in music videos is really interesting, and I’ve seen a couple artists use things like 360 recording to make their work more interactive.


The Future

Created by Anonymous Ensemble

I had the pleasure of seeing this immersive, live theater performance just a few weeks ago, before I came back to school for the start of the semester. In this piece, you walk in and sit in a room full of the other members of the audience. What appears to be a human in a space-suit-like costume walks over to you and gestures that they would like to put headphones on you. When you consent, they place them over your ears and then you hear a voice call out, “what is your name?” You watch the performer gesticulate to the movements of the computerized voice; as you respond you hear yourself replying, and everyone else replying in turn. Behind this performer is a row of other performers operating various machines and  instruments who will speak to you soon. They then ask for an audience member to offer a breath for a breathing ritual. Another for the sound of a heartbeat. As folks volunteer, you hear the breath and heartbeat become the underlying track to a 1000-breath countdown image (appearing on small screens in the corner of your view) that will be denote the length of the performance.


All the audio is created between the computer-like people asking questions and the audience responding. Eventually they put you into dialogue (through them) with other members of the audience. This piece is at its most difficult when you start to question who these seemingly benevolent robot-people are, and it starts to feel confused and potentially dangerous. The piece is at its best when you learn the rules of the live audio system and share in moments of learned and earned interaction. These moments conclude at the end of segments such as ‘politics’ and ‘environment’ when you hear an audio collage-song generated from everyone’s responses played back as the computer people nod and drift their eye contact. A sensation of uploading and analyzing pleasantly washes over you.

I know this piece relied heavily on Max/MSP in order to interface with the live audio and video system in the space, as well as for setting up the audio i/o between all of the performers and audience members.


Info and pictures below:




Touched Echo by Markus Kison
One of the interactive artwork that inspires me over the years is Touched Echo by Markus Kison. It is a work that transmits audio samples of air bombing via bone conduction. Participants encounter the work as a small metal sign on a balustrade. The sign depicts a person with their elbow touching the balustrade and their hands cover their ears, a symbol for audio, and a date.
When participants follow the pose that is suggested by the sign, their forearms close the loop and make transmitting the vibration from the sound conductors that is mounted on the railing to their ears possible.
The thing I like most about the work is its simplicity. It transform the gesture of avoiding loud sound into a key to access the hidden audio sample of airplanes and bombs, twisting an intuitive gesture that is uncalled for into an echo chamber which you voluntarily walked in. Its approach to sound has the same kind of elegance that reminds me works of Janet Cardiff & George Miller. Their use of sound combining with minimal interaction create engaging experiences that blur the real space with imaginary space.