Readings by MK luff

Week 11 - April 9, 2019

Heidegger Reframed

Sometimes I wonder why we spend all this time trying to redefine a word. If the general understanding of the word truth lies in this idea of correctness, and has historically been used as a tool of oppression to maintain the status quo and benefit the dominant groups - why try and redefine it? Why not work to create new language around your concept that isn’t as burdened by historical context. I think Heidegger makes a good point that art is not entirely about mimesis or correctness. There is something special that happens within certain art that brings about a new understanding and allows you to gain new perspectives - in his idea a “truth” - but again why discuss it as a truth when you could label it so many other things?


I find that I approach my own artistic practice similar to Kentridge. I struggle to sketch out ideas or write fully thought out concepts that I then wish to create art to embody. Instead I find inspiration in a material, or an object, or color and begin to create around it. It’s then within this process or making that any kind of true meaning emerges for me. Similar to what Heidegger discusses is that what makes art is not inherently in the artwork, but what happens in the process of creating that object. However instead of focusing on this experience as a “truth” I simply view it more as the importance of process. It resembles how we as humans often approach everything in life whether we realize it or not. We are constantly searching for greater meaning, but it’s often not in the big concepts where we find meaning. It’s in the small day to day actions, the places where we fail, try again, course-correct - that’s where we start to pull everything together and see some greater meaning in the work we are doing.

Week 5 - February 19, 2019

Sita Sings the Blues

I wound up watching all of Sita Sings the Blues. I found it charming, relatable, and funny. Knowing how long animation can take, it’s mind boggling that she animated that entire film by herself. I read a short interview with Paley where she was asked what the budget of the film was:

$200,000 in money (plus my time, which I'm valuing at $8 million, because I can). Mostly my own from freelance work, but also from a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship. Also donations from wonderful, wonderful people who read about it online.

This response is both encouraging and frustrating. It’s encouraging that we’re living in the time of crowdfunding, and that tons of people are willing to make small donations that add up to a substantial amount of money and help projects get made. But it’s frustrating to think about how limiting that can also be if you don’t have the right connections or aren’t lucky. My friend was working on a beautiful animation, but needed more money in order to finish it so she tried to crowdfund it, and now the film sits on a computer somewhere unfinished. It’s frustrating that there isn’t a better system in place to fund the arts considering how much joy it brings to peoples lives, and how valuable it is for exchanging culture.

Week 4 - February 12, 2019

Laws That Choke Creativity

In his TED talk I think one of the most important points Lawrence Lessig makes is that we can not stop technology. We have a choice to either criminalize it, categorizing those who rewrite material as copyright violators and pirates, or work with it. Advancements in technology have given everyone the ability to become a creator rather than a passive viewer. Future generations will only continue to build upon the content already placed in front of them to view. And I think he’s right that in order to create a better culture around this both artists and institutions need to be more open to freely sharing their content. It is a futile uphill battle to try and prevent all copyright infringement and I think the more freely we share the better chance we have of developing a proper system around the sharing and remixing of creative content. But I still wonder, where will the money come from? Ideologically this works, but how do we still make sure artists are supported for their creative work at every level and their work is not simple repurposed a thousand times over with them being entirely left out of the chain and potentially the profits?

Week 3 - February 5, 2019

What is a Rhizome?

Rhizomatic thinking is important for spreading ideas through interactions. By expanding outwards in multiple ways instead of simply moving in a single direction with our thinking, we can build a stronger and more connected understanding of the world around us. But like Deleuze says “the rhizome should not necessarily be celebrated as the answer to all problems”, for an imbalanced rhizome can grow like a weed: spreading out and taking over, losing the push and pull that creates balance. Interactive art has the potential to be rhizomatic. The interactions we create can be ambiguous, but they have the potential to create shifts within people, challenging them through interactions so that they the chance to form new ideas that have expanded outwards instead of simply upwards.

Sita Sings the Blues - Copyright

I have noticed that some of the happiest and most successful creators I’ve met are those who share everything without restriction. Their desire to share and create, far outweighs their desire for ultimate control over their intellectual property. They view their intellectual and creative property as something that only has power when it is shared. And it seems that the more they share without restriction the more they are rewarded. Working at an Open Source tech company I saw this first hand. Incredible and supportive communities evolve out of these spaces that openly share knowledge and creative work. So I think it’s important that we share our work freely. I don’t want to see art behind paywalls that prevent those without money from experiencing it. But that being said I struggle with the idea that artists should simply be relying on the kindness of strangers for their wellbeing. Art is something that deeply enriches our lives, and we are all better off when we experience it. But artists can not create and survive without support.

Week 2 - January 29, 2019

The Abuse of Beauty

At the time I did not much reflect on what it meant. But when I did, I came to the view that the Elegies— Motherwell painted over 170 of them by the time of his death— were artistically excellent not simply because they were beautiful but because their being beautiful was artistically right. By that I mean that when I grasped their thought, I understood that their aesthetic beauty was internal to their meaning.

While there are artworks that simply stop me in my tracks because I find them breathtaking, I often find the beauty that lingers is held up by a strong conceptual underpinning, or something that causes an emotional reaction within me. I have experienced this both in artwork and in everyday experiences that I deem “beautiful”. When I see a particularly stunning sunset it causes me to pause and reflect upon the moment. The beauty of the sunset becomes more intense because of the emotions and thoughts I suddenly start tying to it. While the colors draw me in, it is what they suddenly start to mean to me that holds my attention and instills that sense of beauty.

When discussing the Spanish Elegies Danto explains how “they are visual meditations on the death of a form of life”, and that is what makes them beautiful. I think that is a common theme in many of the things we define as beautiful. It is not simply the artistic structure of the piece (the technical ways in which it was made, the colors used, etc.), but rather the moods the pieces invoke within us, the way something makes us reflect upon a moment or a thought. Beautiful art makes us experience something outside the artwork itself, but in a way that is extremely personal. Beauty is an experience. I think attempting to define it by specific structures is a futile attempt to explain an unexplainable human phenomena. It is a concept our language will always dance around, because it is also something that is constantly changing. While it appears to be something that is universally experienced, the experience is never exactly the same between two people or even the same personally with each repeated viewing. A lot of beautiful art is something we feel we can insert ourselves into. There is something that feels inherently beautiful, that is then supported by concept, or by emotional attachment.

Week 1 - January 22, 2019

Notes On Beauty

Beauty is tension. It is the unexpected within something expected. Overwhelming the senses, making you simultaneously uncomfortable and at total ease. Beauty is a process of experiencing something seemingly for the first time, even when it’s been experienced over and over again. It pulls from inside of you a feeling of awe, and then allows you to rest comfortably within that.

I don’t know if I agree that modern technology has destroyed this connection between beauty and art. While modern technology can clutter our experiences of beauty and it seems extremely necessary to disengage from time to time, I think modern technology really just alters experiences of beauty. Beauty is always changing, just like technologies have always been changing.

Project Development by MK luff

New ideas/questions

-What if the chairs invited you to sit? When you got close they offered a place for you to relax, when you sat they were constantly and nervously checking to make sure you were okay, to see if you needed anything else.

-Incorporating ways in which we miscommunicate by adding another sculptural element that was like a speaker above the bean bag that people could speak in to and then whatever they said would be altered and re-shared elsewhere in the room (could be shared as audio, visually, etc.)

-People don’t view this as sexual, it tends to feel welcoming, comforting, and a lot of people related it to mothering and nurturing - How can I use this to my advantage and what does it allow me to say?

-What if the chairs moved? They could roll around and if they bumped into you apologizes or keep following you around apologizing

-What if they invited you to sit, but everytime someone sat they deflated a little more.

Thesis Concept

I think my final thesis project lies somewhere between the last two projects I discussed, but I’m still struggling with how it comes together as an actual installation. I’m interested in the idea of communication between genders, the ways in which women’s voices are often silenced or only believed when they receive support and validation from men.

The first thing that comes to mind is some kind of visual representation of the ways Yes and No can be manipulated. This relates to the ways in which women aren’t always believed or are constantly undermined. When men are taught that if a woman says no what she really means is maybe, or change my mind.

No - denial - noncommittal - ambiguous - mystifying - magical - marvelous - breathtaking - appealing - tempting

Using only synonyms it’s possible to go from No to Tempting in only 10 words. A direct command of No can be twisted and manipulated so far to a point where it turns the tables and instead of its original mean turns into a tempting and open call.

Similarly with the word Yes we can go from Yes to Unstable in only 10 words.

yes - Precisely - sure - persuaded - influenced - changed - reversed - opposite - inconsistent - unstable 

Language is so easily manipulated. I want to bring people into a situation that twists and manipulates their communication and blurs the lines of communication. Showing people that even the simplest statements can be read in multiple ways, sometimes to your benefit sometimes to your detriment.

Additional Notes

1.) Miscommunication

I’m starting to view this as a combination of the first two projects I wrote about. I’ve been working with found glass objects lately to start creating new sculptures and I think this would be an interesting medium for this project. Using found objects and manipulating them/repurposing them fits in with this theme manipulating memories and thoughts.

-First part of the sculpture would be where people input their own personal experience. I think this would be an audio to text interaction where peoples audio is converted into the text that is then processed through the rest of the sculpture and manipulated.

-Text is analyzed and the words are run through a thesaurus several times to start manipulating the meaning. Only 6 clicks through a thesaurus and I was able to go from happy to demon.

happy - upbeat - fond - addicted - fanatic - demon

-I could use the found glass to create almost speaker like sculptures where the new sentences (after being run through a thesaurus) are being read out.

-Have the program look for certain words that I could then relate to color. (ie. emotional words like “sad = blue”). These colors could be projected through certain parts of the sculpture and then change as the words themselves change. How would a color change from happy to demonic?

2.) Bodies

I’m testing out an idea for this for my interactive installations midterm. I’m creating a a simple bean bag chair but with a few modifications to make it resemble a breast. There will be a sign next to the chair encouraging people to “Please, make yourself comfortable”. When people sit on the chair it will let off a sigh.

I want to explore this concept of how women especially are expected to place another persons needs and comfort above their own needs. This happens in a range of situations that can be both sexual and non-sexual. Kind of like how a sigh can be something sexual or simply a sigh of relief.

I like working with the human form so for the moment using body parts that are traditionally associated with the female form makes sense. But as I expand on this idea I’m trying to figure out additional representation of female form and interactions that could be more inclusive. While women often put the comforts of others above their own the same thing happens within the female community, with female PoC, trans and non-binary folk having to put the comforts of white women above their own comforts and even safety. While I can not create artwork that speaks for those communities I can try to create something that talks about how women can both be the victim of and implicit in perpetuating these problems.


Project #1 - Miscommunication

Users are asked to input a brief memory or emotion of some sort. Those words are then taken and run through a process that pulls synonyms for each word in the sentence, reformulating the sentence multiple times until it is so distorted it bares no resemblance to the original sentence.

Sculptural component - each time a new sentence is generated it is displayed on a screen that is covered by some sort of glass sculpture. The glass sculpture further distorts the text image adding to the distortion of the memory/emotion. 

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Project #2

Drawing inspiration from Chris Ware’s graphic novel Building Stories and from sculpture artist Amber Cowan., I’d like to create a non-linear storytelling experience. The sculpture would be created from found materials. In order to experience different parts of the story you would have to interact with different parts of the sculpture very closely and intimately. It would not be possible to experience all of the sculpture/story at once and you would have to slowly gather information from each interaction.

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Project #3 Bodies

Multiple soft foam casts of feminine forms that people can touch, sit on, and physically interact with. Each one would produce different sounds ranging from calming ambient tones to cheerful laughter. The initial encounter would be crafted to be playful, sparking joy and putting people at ease, but with an underlying thought of how women are frequently relied upon as support even when it is to their discomfort or without their consent.

Exhibitions by MK luff

Andy Warhol & Programmed at the Whitney

I remember the first time I saw Andy Warhol’s art in person. I was thirteen and it was at the Albright Knox in Buffalo, NY. I didn’t get it. It all seemed so simple and recognizable, nothing that required real skill. At the time I would have taken an impressionist painting over a Warhol silkscreen any day. But over time my opinions of Warhol drastically changed. Warhol made art out of the everyday, and when I was young I took that for granted, but now I see how it influences so much of the art I love. He looked at the world around him, the mundane, the things we thought we knew without really thinking about them, and remixed them into wild and vibrant imagery. He used repetition as a tool to change the way we looked at the simple things around us.


Art is about the idea and not just the object. Just in the way we talked about how beauty is something we experience and it is not intrinsic to the object, the idea of what art is falls into the same thinking. Is this merely a set of words describing what you’re seeing, or is it art?

Regardless, I really can’t wait to learn how to work with neon. It’s such a great artistic medium. I was drawn to this in the same ways I was drawn to all of Bruce Nauman’s work in neon.

External Critiques by MK luff

Notes From External Faculty Critiques March 18th - March 22nd


  • Start with a linear pre-recording in my testing and then figure out the different branches the conversation could take. Several different branches to make it feel natural and comfortable, but always winding up somewhere near the ending. - Start it with the idea of more of a guided meditation?

  • Start by designing the different points of interface

    • How do people sit?

    • What prompts them to talk?

    • What prompts the different levels of talking? (how to make them comfortable and then guide them)

  • Sensing pauses in the conversation to utilizes as different branches of the voice recognition

  • Movies to consider as references - Her, Talk to Her (surrealist dream sequence man going into vagina - literally going back to the womb, comfort, etc.)

  • Use two and make it more like a proper chair (with a sitting space between them)

  • Way to encourage how people sit on it (flopping vs. sitting)

  • Adding sensor elements for how people are sitting - use external camera

  • Get as much info as possible to direct branches of conversation (what way are they looking> how are they sitting? Pose estimation?)

  • Maybe doesn’t need a secondary sculpture if the chair is talking - if it talks to you to ask you to sit, it would continue you to talk to you.

  • Voice assistant systems - google, alexa, Azure API’s- how to interface with them?

  • Really write out the branches of the voice interaction

  • Artist reference - - Chico

  • Adding addition physical responses from the chair

    • Hacking a commercial massage chair - take the parts out of it to create a more physical expressive potential

  • Deflation might be too subtle

  • Invoking empathy


  • Change temperature the longer you sit on it hot to cold

  • Heat sensitive fabrics

  • Do the voices change?

    • Different voices in different chairs - doing multiple chairs

    • The voice changes throughout the interaction - goes from a softer more feminine voice to a more aggressive masculine voice

  • Crawling into a womb (v positive reaction to this idea)

    • Like therapy, counseling, religious guidance, private intimate moment. Something we search for but maybe don’t want everyone to know about

  • Laying down you can almost wrap your arms around the nipple - like breastfeeding - or infantilizing? Bringing us back to childhood?

  • Create chambers but with 4 distinct boobs (1 per chamber)

  • Don’t all have to be large - create tons of small ones around it, larger ones with less interaction but that could lead up to the larger interaction

  • Compleat sculptor for bulk foam rubber that’s malleable and flexible


  • Lots of small ones around with speakers expressing concern

  • Walls of chamber breathing

    • The ways breasts change over a lifetime - through pregnancy, etc.

  • Matthew Barney - artist about reproductive system

  • Crawl into something and then it inflates

  • Ant Farm collective - 60’s/70’s collective about utopian spaces “Ant Farm”

  • Soft sculpture leads to feeling of ownership by viewer


  • What is around it in the world?

    • Prints on the wall

    • Video

    • Performative aspects

  • Guided meditation, performative guidance with the smaller sculptures leading to main interaction

  • Breast pump instructional video

  • Institutional videos about breasts and how you touch them (checking for lumps, etc.)

  • Doctors waiting room with videos before you get to interact

  • World building around the primary interaction as a way to guide people on how to interact with the primary installation (boob chamber)


  • Keeping it very utilitarian

  • Hydraulic chambers for inflating and deflating - so many begin to inflate that it hard to sit

  • Voice only?

  • Maybe the tone of the voice changes from female to male , very aggressive and assertive

  • Changing the content of the speech the longer the conversation goes on

  • - for machine learning (slack channel)

  • P5 - M5L machine learning for p5Js

  • Dancer flow

  • Customer service AI system

  • Working with a real voice

General Thoughts Post Critique

Overall the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive and I found that very encouraging for pushing this project forward. People responded positively to the idea of focusing on a singular installation that was enclosed vs. multiple chairs that people could sit on spread throughout a room. This would make the interaction far more intimate as people would be in an enclosed space and hopefully more comfortable sitting for longer periods of time. I also got a lot of feedback on additional interactions for the chair including hacking a massage chair to put inside of it and using fabrics that could generate heat. I think the next few weeks will be really focused on researching some of these potential interactions.

I think the most important next step is going to be diagramming out the interaction and the potential paths it could follow. While I want people to wind up with a similar outcome each time I think the path they take to get there could vary based upon how the people are interacting. Similarly diagramming out secondary interactions that could happen outside the chair chamber that would help guide people through the entire installation, and make them more comfortable interacting with everything.

Will Rahilly - February 19, 2019

Even though my thoughts around my thesis project were extremely jumbled this critique was helpful. I showed Will the sighing boob bean bag chair I was working on as part of my interactive installations class. For the most part people’s initial thoughts around the chair go to ideas of being welcomed, comforted, and ideas of motherhood. I was worried that something like this might wind up being overtly sexual, but talking to Will and other classmates i’ve seen how it more makes people think about being cared for by a mother, or how children are reliant upon their mothers.

Will and I talked about ways to incorporate my other concept about language and the manipulation of language into this project. Including setting the boob chairs up with a speaker you could talk into above the chair set up so when you reclined in the chair you would be able to easily speak in to it. As you relaxed back on the chair it would perhaps prompt you to say something. Whatever you said into the speaker would then be manipulated and output throughout other parts of the room. If there were multiple chair setups then this could create a cacophony of sound around the room with all sorts of altered stories and thoughts being played back.

Final Thesis Proposal by MK luff


In general I feel that my proposal was well received, and I’m excited to see where I can take this over the next year. While I have spent the past few months reworking what the physical form of this project might be and moved away from multiple sculptures in favor of a more singular piece inside an enclosed space, I think I might go back to my original idea of creating multiple forms that would be spread throughout a room. This would give me the flexibility to make each piece a little different and create even more meaning and interaction. I wouldn’t be limited to one form, which doesn’t properly represent all the things I’m interested in exploring through this piece.

I want to keep my main focus on these “chair” pieces for the next year, becuase I do not want to lose track of the main goal of this project by diluting it with too many things. Especially since I have a tendency to over extend myself. But, that being said, I also want to revisit a lot of the feedback I received from Sophia during my midterm critiques. Her and I talked extensively about additional supporting pieces I could create to round out the whole experience of the piece - everything from additional video content to smaller sculptures. So while I am viewing this as a secondary part of my overall project, it is something I want to have in the back of my mind as I move forward with the larger more central part of this project.

Final Proposal - April 30th, 2019

I guess we’re starting to get somewhere?

Thesis Proposal_v1