Melody Chua, Master of Arts in Transdisciplinary Studies

Public Lecture Series
DECEMBER 7th, 17:15 -18:30 | Kino Toni, ZHdK | Live stream

The improvisation machine is an elusive figure. It has no universally agreed-upon form but is instead in a state of continuous fluidity of audiovisual representations. Throughout the performance, it shifts between being treated as a distinct musical agent to being regarded as an embodied posthuman extension to its human counterpart. It is always in tension between the attempt to recognize it as a distinctly encapsulated entity and at the same time as a synergy of independent entities, the fluctuations between which are shaped through immersive representations of itself and the performance environment.
The development of and performance with an improvisation machine can, with careful reflection, serve as a practical method upon which to be relinquished from our traditional understandings of embodiment. The form of the improvisation machine—fragmented through spatially separated electronic devices and mediums—is inherently discombobulated. Indeed, the fragmentation of the improvisation machine reflects a mindbody conceptualization offered by media artist and researcher Lisa Blackman: “We are never a singular body, but are multiple bodies that are brought into being and held together through complex practices of self-production.”
In this lecture, I reflect upon the facets of immersion and embodiment as they manifest in the field of improvised music performance between human and nonhuman agents, using my work black box fading as a case study. How do immersive representations of and experiences between such agents on both audio and visual levels instigate different considerations of what embodiment can be? How can these reflect our biases concerning control, (dis)orientation, and vulnerability in immersive environments?

Melody Chua is an interdisciplinary artist working with interactive technologies in improvisation settings as both vehicles of narrative expression and as opportunities to destabilize the normatives present in one’s relationship with such technologies. The aesthetics of her work gravitate towards immersive futuristic fictions with undertones of nostalgia and introspection, pulling audiences into intimate worlds. Awarded a Fulbright-Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for the development of a sensor-augmented flute (Chaosflöte), Melody has performed and guest-lectured internationally at festivals and institutions such as the Swiss Digital Day, Network Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival Future Music Lab, La Côte Flute Festival, Performing Media Festival, Montreal Contemporary Music Lab, New Interfaces for Music Expression (NIME) Conference, University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart, University of South Florida, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, among others.


Marie-France Rafael, Department of Fine Arts

Public Lecture Series
November 23rd, 17:15 -18:30 | Kino Toni, ZHdK | Live stream

What does it mean to think, to see, to act, to feel and to live through the post-digital? Since the 2010s the boundaries between public and private, online and offline have become increasingly blurred due to digitalization and social media. In contemporary art digitality has assumed a new kind of presence—no longer a mere virtual sphere of sociality, but increasingly as a technological interface that structures our most embodied experiences. Today, contemporary art cannot escape digital image production, circulation, and consumption, so what may it look like to engage it–thematize it even–in the work of art itself? A younger generation of artists is specifically focused on the mass circulation, connectivity, and constructedness of images. The production of artistic content, its circulation, and its reception are thus increasingly intertwined processes that are no longer distributed among different instances: Artistic practice has undergone a drastic transformation: it is shaped by the notion of the presence of the digital even beyond digital media and explores new forms of (post-)digital relationality as well as embodied experiences between on- and offline.

Marie-France Rafael is a Tenure Track professor in the Master program of the Department of Fine Arts at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) since 2019. She holds a PhD in Art History. She studied Art History and Film Studies in Berlin and Paris. From 2011 to 2015 she was a research associate at the Free University of Berlin and until 2019 at the Muthesius University Kiel, Department of Spatial Strategies/Curatorial Spaces. Her monograph «Reisen ins Imaginativ. Künstlerische Displays und Situationen» (Cologne: Walther König, 2017), examines artistic strategies of presentation in contemporary art. Other publications include «Brice Dellsperger. On Gender Performance» (Berlin: Floating Opera Press, 2020), «Ari Benjamin Meyers. Music on Display» (Cologne: Walther König, 2016), and «Pierre Huyghe. On Site» (Cologne: Walther König, 2013).

Lab Insights

During REFRESH #4, team members offered insights into the projects Shifting Realities (explorations within the intersection of reality and virtuality), Neural Volumetric Capture (experimental methods for capturing photorealistic 3D models), Digital Twins (development of animated digital avatars based on photogrammetry and Meta Humans) and cineDesk (a real-time collaborative simulation tool for the development of film scenes, VR experiences and games in 3D spaces). 

Lab Insights took place on Nov 11th and 10th 2021 at the Immersive Arts Space.

Emerging Talents: Stella Speziali & Chris Elvis Leisi

ZHdK Talent Talk in the context of Swiss Digital Days

Stella Speziali is research associate in the Immersive Arts Space and will talk about her research project on the topic of digital humans.

Thanks to technological advancements the creation of virtual characters is more accessible than ever. New time-saving platforms have been created, thus democratising the access to high-fidelity, real-time, fully-rigged, diverse, portable, 3D human characters.
With My Digital Twin, I wish to understand better the creation and deployment of digital humans with different critical approaches. Furthermore, I am ethically questioning their applications in entertainment, marketing, art, and beyond.

Chris Elvis Leisi, research associate in the Immersive Arts Space and a graduate of the ZHdK Game Design program, talks about his graduation project Virtual Real World.

In today’s VR games, the body often serves as the controller. However, when the player enters the virtual world, the connection to the physical environment is often lost. This master’s thesis deals with immersion mechanics in Virtual Reality and reveals the potentials that arise when one’s own home can be integrated into the virtual world as a play area.

The ZHdK talent talk took place on November 4th at the Kino Toni.
Speaker: Stella Speziali (en), Chris Elvis Leisi (de)
Host: Christian Iseli

Focal Field

Jordan Juras & Davide Luciani are Artists in Residence 2021 at the Immersive Arts Space and ICST.

Focal Field explores the spectrum of presence felt in augmented sonic reality – from the intimacy of closeness to the abstracted relation between disembodied voice, sound, and space. Perceptual relations between the real and virtual are tightened by situating augmented reality sound within synthetic reverberant architectures, and reinforcing localisation through light. The installation engages with our necessity to rationalise any aural manifestation. These fields of fragmentation – between the spectrums of connection and disconnection – have led the duo to draft a sound space where the voice, the Phonè, and its experience become the object and subject of aesthetic speculation.

The presentations took place on Thursday, October 22nd 2021.

Dreaming of Time and Space

Photo by Regula Bearth © ZHdK 2020

The installation and immersive performance took place between October 6th and 9th 20021

In the ongoing research project “The Umbrella Project” the use of 3D audio and projection mapping are explored in order to achieve a sense of immersion without isolating participants from the real world, essentially, enabling an imaginary fantasy world to come to life in our own. We employ multiple levels of 3D audio and projection mapping (both directly within and on the umbrella, as well as throughout the room itself) in order to transport the participant into this virtual world. 

As such, we can consider the umbrellas, and the overall system of which they are a part, to be an instrument of sorts, in that they literally allow us to compose and explore reactive sonic environments in 6 degrees of freedom (6 DoF). Additionally, the umbrellas can also function as a measurement instrument, much as a stethoscope does as a sonic instrument for medical examination; however, in this case, through the immersive experiences they purvey, the umbrellas enable us to examine the nature of our own perception of reality. 

The end goal of the project is to create a series of navigable compositions in the form of exploratory sonic worlds, as well as interactive experiences where the participants’ behaviors (relative to each other and the world) shape the sonic and visual environment. Furthermore, we are investigating sonic and visual paradigms where the umbrellas can function both as objects existing in and can interact with the virtual world, as well as being windows onto these other worlds.

Eric Larrieux
Stella Speziali
Mariana Vieira Grünig

ZFICTION.21 – Virtual Production

The first edition of the feature film conference ZFICTION took place in June 2021 and focused the versatile promises of the new tools for film production. Filmmakers and researchers explored the question of how virtual production will change the near future of fictional storytelling in film and what new challenges this will bring.

In the conference exhibition Immersive Arts Space hosted a virtual production shooting situation, offered hands-on experiences with the cineDesk and showcased the virtual production method that filmmaker in residence Andreas Dahn had applied for his animation film and VR experience Home in the Distance.

On the conference website www.zfiction.ch the talks, discussions and elements of the exhibtion can be revisited

Power and Presence

Diploma project, MA Game Design, by Oliver Sahli

Power and Presence explores meaningful and empowering interaction in virtual reality and how it can be implemented as game mechanics without breaking the feeling of being in another world.  A critical analysis of game design theories and how they need to be applied to VR is demonstrated through a game that uses phonetic interaction.

Oliver Sahli, research associate at the Immersive Arts Space and graduation student in Master in Game Design, showcased his project Power and Presend within the diploma exhibition of the ZHdK in June.

Virtual Real World

Diploma project, MA Game Design, by Chris Elivis Leisi

In today’s VR games, the body often serves as the controller. However, when the player enters the virtual world, the connection to the physical environment is often lost. This master’s thesis deals with immersion mechanics in VR and reveals the potentials that arise when one’s own home can be integrated into the virtual world as a play area.

Chris Elvis Leisi, research associate in the Immersive Arts Space and graduate student in Master in Game Design, exhibited his graduation project Virtual Real World within the diploma exhibition of the ZHdK in June.