Navigating 'Phase': Generative universes with Seph Li

Home | Podcast | Navigating 'Phase': Generative universes with Seph Li
Exploring Zephyr with Harvey Moon from Spectra Studios


Subscribe using your favourite podcast player or RSS

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts   |  Spotify   |  Amazon Music  |   Android   |   Instagram   |   RSS


  • (0:02:14) Experience of the interactive piece "Phase'" and its abstractness
  • (0:04:13) The tension between providing instructions and allowing discovery in interactive installations
  • (0:07:41) The collapse of the universe in the piece and its significance
  • (0:09:44) The conceptual idea behind the piece and its connection to Daoism
  • (0:12:29) The use of ink painting in the artwork 
  • (0:14:01) The importance of preserving poetic qualities in digital renderings
  • (0:17:02) Robin asks about the influence of computer science on Seph’s art
  • (0:20:30) Seph prefers working with bespoke code rather than tools like TouchDesigner
  • (0:23:03) Robin asks about the process of making the artwork "Phase"
  • (0:26:28) Seph discusses the challenges of fabricating the physical controller
  • (0:28:16) Seph shares his current project involving artificial life and ink painting
  • (0:30:43) Seph envisions an intimate gallery experience for his new piece

About Seph Li

Seph Li, originally from Beijing and now based in London, has a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Entertainment Design from Tsinghua University, and an M.F.A. from UCLA. His work has gained international recognition, with exhibitions across Japan, the U.S., Spain, Brazil, and more. He has worked with Tokyo's renowned teamLab and received commissions from global brands such as Google. His achievements include a Jury Selection in the Entertainment Division at the Japan Media Arts Festival 2012, and a nomination for the prestigious 2023 3D/Interactive Award.  

Key takeaways

Description of ''Phase''

''Phase'' is a generative art piece by Seph Li. This installation uses rule sets from the Wolfram Physics Project to generate clusters of universes, visually split into Chinese ink painting strokes. The artwork is projected onto frosted glass, creating an illusion of floating images. Participants engage with this universe through a custom control device, their interactions expanding the painting area and leading to the eventual collapse of the universe system.


“There are basically two fundamental ways for people to interact with something digital. One is the installation picking up passively, the participants, say their locations, or their movement and installation directly reacts to it. Another one is to ask the participants to actively interact with a piece.”

The role of the viewer

"Interactive or digital pieces should have their own identity instead of just reacting to people’s interactions."

Participants in ‘'Phase'' play a unique role. While they can influence it, they cannot change its intrinsic structure, highlighting the predetermined nature of the universe.

Why Seph works with code-based approaches

"For personal artwork, I feel like it's important for me to keep the freedom or not get limited by the tools."

Embracing experimentation and failure

"Try and fail, accumulate as much experience as you can, because you never know when it will come into effect."

Links from the podcast