Max Willis MFA, PhD

interaction design futures

cv - contact:max[at]maxwillis[dot]net - design research portfolio


Performances and Installations

Fragments of Privacy Oct 08, 2016 to Jan 28, 2017 Budapest
Installation with Masha Starec,
at Bartók exhibition, Ludwigs Museum


Shortly before her death, Masha Starek and I began this collaboration for the Bartok exhibition at the Ludwigsmuesum in Budapest. Masha's family in Belgrade had inherited Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist Bella Bartok's furniture, which still resides in her childhood home. We stripped the innards of a radio box, and using Arduino we reprogrammed the dials and buttons as audio and video mixer. Masha edited short clips of home videos from the various epochs of her life, and shot new video of Bartok's furniture at home, for example the family dog lounging and grandmother smoking on the settee. Masha Starek passed away while the exhibition was underway, and the real meaning of this interactive installation became clear later. Fragments of Privacy remains in the Ludwigsmuseum permanent collection.

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Listening to the Walkable City 2016, Trento
A soundscape installation, created in May 2016 in Trento, Italy, part of COOP2016 Interactive Experiences track.
This work introduced my PhD work on Experience Probes and examined the real environment and the virtual wthin an immersive soundscape installation.

experienceprobe installation

Read more about this design research project in my Interaction Design Portfolio here

Embodiment - Dance in the Interactive Multimedia Environment, 2014 Hong Kong

This workshop and performance series took place in early summer of 2014, when I had opportunity to work with Kiwi Chan, local Hong Kong dancer, and her performance group HerStory Polygon. Over ten days we experimented with motion tracking, camera interaction, semiautonomous lighting to create a dance performance in an Ambisonics 3d surround sound field. This video shares one element of this performance, in which camera input to MAX/MSP directs the playback of audio within the 3d soundspace, and a motor lamp wanders the field, also triggering sounds with it’s movement. At the end, audience members were invited to participate in and investigate the dynamic sound field.


Another experiment with embodiment, Brain wave EEG device used to control motor lamp (meditation level mapped to lamp rotation speed) with dancer Ero.

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Brain Computer Interface -> Max/MSP -> Arduino DMX -> Motorized LED Lamp Fixture


Participants also toyed with the necomimi, an original Japanese cosplay accessory, cat ears move depending on EEG input.

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My Poor Marat
July 2013, Penghao Theatre Beijing


This was my first stage design for theatre, for Russian playwright Aleksei Nikolaevitch Arbuzov's 1965 realist play, "My Poor Marat" . The concept was to use a soma game cube as set pieces. Simple, playful, the soma game cube abstractifies the set. What better counterpoint to realism than cubism? But we add a few objects and textiles to accent the imaginary. The actors will not always move the cube pieces themselves, stagehands rearrange the set periodically.


Journey Festival, 2012 Beijing

Video projection and audio mix for the opening performance, I monitored the audio and recorded lectures and discussions for this week-long series, and I baked cake!

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Journey Between Worlds 2010, Beijing

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Journey Between Worlds is a futurist monologue performance which blends oral storytelling, digital soundscape and live ink paintinginto a richcrossmedia theatre event.

Max Willis relates a journey from the Sonora Desert of Arizona in the United States to the jungles of Yucatan, Mexico, passing beyond the scientific world, through ancient shamanic practices, weaving a path between psycho-spiritual dimensions. On this journey the audience follows a cosmic map which marks the links between a family history, an anarchist subculture, the modern world of the traveler and the spiritual world of his ancient ancestors, investigating the voyage of mankind, on the earth and beneath the sky.

This monologue has multifaceted technological underpinnings, however, the central element is oral storytelling, an individual relating, in person, ideas and events. Sound-scapes, field recordings, minimal electronic music and digital effects provide emotional immersion to the narrative, and live ink painting relayed by video offers a visual perspective. 'Journey Between Worlds' is presented in ambisonics surround sound and the artist creates a virtual environment using digital and analogue audio, interaction programming and computer-human interface elements.



True Jade Lounge, 2010-2013 Beijing
This regular event was a feature at Penghao Theatre between Autumn of 2010 and Summer of 2013. I initiated this alternative form of script- and poetry reading, spoken word performance to break with the formal speaker-listener paradigm. I mixed electronic music, ambient noise, field recordings and experimental music together with microphone technik to create a live, dynamic soundscape. Audience members were encouraged to read, write and share poetry and prose in the cafe space, a less formal and more comfortable arena to exercise ones voice. Using the different cafe areas' DMX RGB lighting and controlling the sound environment, each event was unique, the tone and direction set largely by the audience.

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Untitled 2008, 2008 Hong Kong
computational cinema performance

Untitled 2008 is a two-screen video work, with live mixing of immersive surround sound which tries to break the screen-lecture relationship of contemporary cinema. The figure in the video walks from space to space, and as she moves, the two screens switch content. The audience follows the movement and watches first one then the other screen. In the audio track, a flute solo and the video soundtrack are placed in opposition, circling the room roaming 360 degrees. Secondary sounds, the flush of the toilet, water running in the bathroom, washing hands are played across the soundspace, left and right. Controlled by the performer/operator and an ambisonics application in max/msp, the soundspace and the trading of videoscreens immerse the audience in an experience, heightened by the mood and tone of the flute and video.


I am, 2008 Hong Kong
Live ambisonics sound-space and spoken word performance, with video. It's got everything, an is an example of the direction which my performance art took during my MFA study.

Self-reflexive documentary, ambisonics surround sound, field recordings, videography, and experience design for oral storytelling.
This work also follows back to my traditional arts, ink on paper. My best media works have never really escape the life of hands-on art.

digitalink ink_recording

Cat and Walk, 2007 Hong Kong
Live video mixing performance at Shanghai Street Art Space, Wan Chai


Random Specific, 2007 Hong Kong
Live video mixing performance at Videotage, To Kwa Wan