Mid-quarter Critique

Amidst the political chaos in Venezuela and developments of my next thesis demo, I’ve turned to an iconic topographical landscape for the design of my wunderkammer sculpture. Known as el Avila, this mountain range sits to the north of Caracas, and serves a way-finding point for many Venezuelans. It sits between the country’s largest city and the northern coastal range that opens up to the Caribbean ocean. My father has told me many stories of his adventures running through the mountain’s forests, and spending day-trips at the beach just across the mountain.

With El Avila serving as a grounding force amidst these unstable times, I began research on how I could adapt it to serve as the sculptural projection surface at the center of my installation. After some quick searches for 3D models of El Avila, I came across an article by Irene Alvarado on “Printing Mountains: 3D printing from elevation data.” They had already done some prep work to create a heightmap of El Avila. Using a TouchDesigner tutorial by Matthew Ragan, I was able to displace the pixels in the heightmap to create a 3D model of the mountain.



TouchDesigner screengrabs of Avila grayscale being blurred and a custom resolution 8 x 3 to make the sculpture prototype.

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Paper Prototyping



This prototype included lighting, audio, projection, leap motion sensors, bowls and crystallized objects.


Along with the topographical projection of el Avila, each side of the sculpture was projected with photographs from my grandfather’s archive, and instances of my style transfer experiments.

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  • Someone commented that it looked like a, “matrix in a digital space”

  • Folks thought that the sculpture needed to be taller, which I definitely plan on addressing in my next demo

  • There was an interesting tension between the formalism of the sculpture, and the organic quality of the crystallized objects


  • The projection mapping was crisp, matching the formalism of the individual pillars of the sculpture

  • The instructions could have been in multiple locations and appeared more frequently (in projection, on the pedestals, etc.)

  • There wasn’t a clear enough connection between the projection on the sculpture and the objects that were placed on top


  • The use of two light sources created multiple colored shadows, which were playful and created a dreamlike atmosphere. This reminded me of an experiment of additive color I saw last spring at the Exploratorium (image to the right).

  • Someone else commented that they felt the lighting was more clinical than dreamlike


  • The soundscape seemed to make the experience more contemplative (folks tended to stay quiet and not converse with each other)

  • Had an "otherworldly” quality that added to the dreamlike atmosphere


  • The initial tutorial (using the sensor to control the height of the Avila’s displacement) was successful

  • There were some functional issues with the second sensor (Leap doesn’t support multiple sensors on one machine), and it occasionally dropped connection. This occurred because I forgot to hardwire the second computer to the network, and there were inconsistencies sending the sensor’s OSC data.


  • The space sparked curiosity, and there was a “depth of play” to the sensor, objects & projection

  • A couple folks commented that it sparked a bittersweet sadness with the inability to hold onto a memory / photos, the mountain that was erected between the participants at the pedestals, the touristic imagery, etc.

  • The space felt magical, and evoked a dreamlike space that evoked childhood memories because of the use of crystals and sea-shells that referenced a mermaid aesthetic.



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Zoe Sandovalmfa, demo, installation