a momentary stay

Snap shots of a person’s transient, solitary body in her quarantine home. 

This work lives on this webpage.

In these snap shots, my body is keyed out to create windows, where two videos of the same view in different time scales are overlaid.


During the first a month and a half of quarantine, I stayed in a friend’s apartment. I was originally living in a dorm, stuck in a small, half-basement room with a terrible kitchen. It was miserable so I asked to stay at my friend’s empty apartment while she was with her family in another city.

My friend’s home was full of her personality. When I first arrived, it was as if she just left — there were dishes drying on the rack, clothes in the hamper, and snacks in the fridge. I lived carefully, knowing that in a few weeks, I would leave, and hopefully I would not leave many traces behind. There was a sense of friction between the space and my body, because I was a guest here without the host. I wanted my presence to be brief and light, but as time went by, I blended with the space and felt more and more at home. It really was a cozy apartment! The friction became more of a warm touch.

In this project, I lean into the distance between my body and my temporary home. In the snap shots, my keyed-out body creates windows that allow for juxtaposition between the same space in two different time scales.

  • Taking videos of myself in green suit doing mundane things
  • Overlay videos in After Effect
  • Convert video to gifs using
  • Create basic webpage to present the gifs (plain html+CSS+javascript; Link to Github repo)


In Search of Lost Time, novel by Marcel Proust
“The Figure A Poem Makes” by Robert Frost
4/51 Dolna St and Headache by Aneta Grzeszykowska

Three Transitions (1973) by Peter Campus

Next steps:
  • gif compression using ffmpeg



A house ghost trying to pass time.


  • What should be the format of presentation?
    • A video essay, or video poem? Spoken words and ambient sound accompanying the videos?
    • An interactive web game?

End-of-semester plan

The main project I plan to work on for the rest of the semester is a video portrait of passing chaotic time in my current apartment.

It will be an extension of the person-in-time assignment. My initial idea was to create a portrait of my friend through capturing her apartment. In the last two weeks, I have realized however how much me and my things are engrossed in this space. It begins to seem difficult to pick out what’s mine and what’s hers. So instead I decided to accept the hybridity of this apartment right now and capture it all together. I guess the goal now is not to portray an individual, but a transient space and chaotic time, a temporary home for people who are about to graduate from this town in a few weeks.

I have been playing around with green screening — me doing various mundane things in a green suit, passing time. I want to interpose videos of different time scale on top of each other to create a sense of disorientation.

To try to stay disciplined, I set three deliverable deadlines: Thu 4/16, Tue 4/21, Tue 4/27.

On the side, I also want to do some small green screening experiments, perhaps something with puppetry, collages, and stop-motion animation. I have been really into Terry Gilliam animations, so I might want to play around with creating small animations with interesting objects I found in the apartment.


poor image

Started with an unintentional selfie found on laptop — “GrabberRaster_0005.jpg”–I took a photo with my phone of this selfie shown on my laptop screen, then took another photo using my laptop of my phone screen, and then took a photo of laptop screen using my phone again……I did it 10 times in total. After circulating my personal machines many times around, the selfie no longer looked like the original thing, but a blob of halos.

It is an homage to Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting In A Room.”


Person in Time – ideas

1) Micro-expressions in televised public confessions and apologies

Televised confessions or apologies is a very common phenomenon in authoritarian states, where public figures whose have said or done things that deviate away from the state’s mainstream ideologies are forced to apologize on TV or issue a statement for the internet. Activists from China and abroad have been asked to do this. A government official of Hong Kong and corporate leaders as well. This is the state’s way to publicly assert their version of right and wrong.

I have always been interested in the imagery of public apologies—their extreme awkwardness, and the outer and inner transformations that might be occurring through this performative act.

2) A much slower pace of life

Last spring, I went to a Japanese restaurant. I was alone so I sat at the bar, and a sushi chef was working right in front  of me. It was late so he was preparing some rolls for the next day. I watched him for two hours. He would lay down seaweed on twelve mats, and put rice on them, then the fillings and toppings, and then roll each of them. And then twelve more. Perhaps tomorrow night he would do the same thing. There is a meditative quality to it. This sushi chef’s movements make me realize that some people in this world have such routines and repetitions in their lives and are content with that, whereas I feel this urge to make every day unique and different. In this project, I might try to get to know someone whose pace is life is drastically different from mine. I am also reading The Stranger by Albert Camus. The repetitiveness and banality of the life of the main character brings out a type of existential dread. I wonder if a similar type of existential dread would come out of my capture of a differently paced life.

  • accelerometer on my body. self-discipline to go slower (?)

3) Imprisoned activists

On Tuesday, student activist 岳昕 who was a leading figure in China’s #metoo movement and labor rights movement was released from the state and came home after more a year of disappearance.

On Thursday, I went to Lebanese Jalal Toufic’s lecture. He mentioned a something that a historian wrote in his notebook. An activist was imprisoned at age 40 to age 50, now he is 65, but deducting the 10 years in prison, he really is 55 years old.

Thinking about the time that an activist spends in prison, I don’t know if I think of this time as ‘lost’ time. Time in prison in itself is a political act, a dedication to a cause. This time of absence from the public eye is in some way dedicated to the public, and it is also often the time where the public becomes catalyzed, turning time ‘lost’ to one individual into time of action and togetherness for the rest.

I want to explore change in the public over the duration of an activist’s imprisonment.

Jú – 局 – Gathering

Digital portraits of meal gatherings–or 局 in Mandarin–where Chinese international students forge a temporary home while living in a foreign place.

Eating is a cultural biological process. For people who live far away from home, food-oriented, communal rituals can serve the purpose of identity affirmation and cultural preservation. In any culture, food is a big deal. In my culture, which is Chinese culture, having meals with friends and families is a quintessential part of social part. When young Chinese people find themselves living abroad for an extended period of time, food gatherings become even more important, since it is our way of creating a sense of home for each other while being so far away.

The word 局 means “gatherings” in general. 饭局, for example, are food gatherings, whereas 牌局 means gatherings where we play cards together.

Image result for 局 汉字



In my life, we use this word a lot, almost every day when we ask each other to get food together again. It highlights a communal feeling, and emphasizes that food is always about coming together–“family-style,” using the American term here, is the only style. We rarely split portions before we eat. Even strangers would reach into the same dish with their chopsticks. Perhaps it is because this type of etiquette and implied trust that I reply so much on these food gathering to find a sense of safety and comfort.

I want to explore ways to capture these feelings of togetherness and comfort in these food gatherings.


I want to experiment with photogrammetry because I was drawn to the idea of digital sculptures–freezing a 3-dimensional moment in life, perhaps imperfectly. There was a lot of other open questions that I didn’t know how to approach as I started the process, however. How would I present these sculptures? How should I find/articulate the narrative behind this typology? Would my Chinese peers agree with my appreciation and analysis of our food culture? I carried these questions into the process.

My machine/procedure:

  • on-site capture
    • I asked many different groups of friends whether I can take 5 minutes during their meals to take a series of photos. Everybody, even acquaintances whom I didn’t know so well said yes!
    • During the meals, I asked them to maintain a “candid” pose for me for 2 minutes as I went around to take their photos.
    • (I also recorded 3d sound but didn’t have time to put it in)
  • build 3D models in Metashape

  • Cinema 4D
    • After I built the models,  I experimented with the cinematic approach to present them. I put them into cinema 4D and created a short fly-threw for each sculpture.
    • I recorded ambient, environmental sounds from the restaurants where I captured the scenes
Media Objects

  • On the choice of photogrammetry
    • The sculptures look frozen, messy, and fragmented. I see bodies, colors, suspense, a kind of expressionist quality (?). What I don’t see are details, motion, faces, identity.
      • Embrace it or go for more details?
    • I need to be more careful with technical details. A lot of details are lost when transferring from MetaShape to cinema 4D.

  • On presentation
    • Am I achieving the goal of capturing the communal feeling?
    • What if I add in sound?
    • The choice of making this cinematic? Interactive?
  • On more pointed subject matters
    • What if I capture special occasions, like festivals, not just casual, mundane meals?


Typology Machine project proposal

How do you hold your pen?

In this project, I want to capture the different ways people hold their pens, and present them as a series of digital sculptures.

Writing is fun! Especially when a physical pen is involved. A pen with a nice, weighty, smooth feel is a magical object. It channels the fire from our brain and our heart, through our hand, onto a piece of paper (or equivalent).

We all hold our pens quite differently.  There are some patterns though. For example, the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found these four most popular grips. (I am a Lateral Tripod by the way.)


Design Agency Scriberia illustrated a few more.

Scriberia Weird Pen Grips Drawing CreativityScriberia Weird Pen Grips Drawing Creativity

This is how Taylor Swift holds her pen, in this Diet Coke ad at least.


A photogrammetry process — 1) people come to a station and model for a few minutes holding a pen as I take photos of them, 2) photos get turned into 3d models digitally.

Media object:

An example

Non-human photography reading response

I find the term ‘nonhuman photography’ misleading in that it seems to suggest that photography before computation is somehow ‘more human’ and has more human involvement that after. Perhaps it is true that photography has been “reconceptualized in algorithmic and computational terms”, but it has always been a practice that requires a collaborative relationship between human and machine, and the history of photography has always been a narrative of human and machine mutually shaping each other’s identity and potential. I believe that the reconceptualization is happening to the extent that there is a shift in terms of labor: computers are now smarter and can do much more, and the individual human photographer becomes a team of “engineers, photographers, pilots, coders, archaeologists, data scientists” — a “human-nonhuman assemblage,” borrowing Zylinska’s words. I do think that photography based on algorithms, computers, and networks intensifies and expands the condition of inventive-ness and nonhuman-ness that have always been there for the medium, but I don’t think the change is from ‘human’ to ‘non-human.’
This is not really an example of “nonhuman” photography” but I skimmed through some course materials from the Computational Photography course offered at CMU. The slides for the first lecture, for example, give a quite comprehensive overview of the types of technologies that are making photography a more computational, algorithmic practice, sometimes with networking properties.