Proximation Annotations:


Proximation Annotations records two artists’ physical and cognitive exploration of each other using words. This piece is a reflection of the factual and subjective embodiment of existence.

During the exploration, both artists are blindfolded and have to use sonic and haptic feedbacks in addition to personal imagination to perceive each other. Body movements are captured as positional and rotational data. While technically, the data is processed to measure how frequently the two artists touch and move around each other; subjectively, it measures their comfort level to navigate around another person.

The two artists then individually provide an index of 40 words, composing the Intimacy Scalar, in which each word represents one state in interpersonal relationships. Finally, Proximation Annotations is visually sequenced and designed by integrating the measure of comfort level (variance in movement frequency) with Intimacy Scalar.

Proximation Annotations encompasses the growing dynamics between two artists throughout time as beating poems with varied transparency across pages.

Snow/Ann - front view

Snow/Ann - front view

Ann/Snow - front view

Ann/Snow - front view

Ann/Snow - side view

Ann/Snow - side view

Ann/Snow - overlook

Ann/Snow - overlook

Snow/Ann - side view

Snow/Ann - side view

Installation of  Proximation Annotations @ Data Viz Collaborative Exhibition

Installation of Proximation Annotations @ Data Viz Collaborative Exhibition


Proximation Annotations is a collaborative project between Ann Yu (Northwestern University, BA, Philosophy and Computer Science), and Snow Xu (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, BFA, Art and Technology Studies). 

Process Overview:


Intimacy Scalar

To signify two artists' subjective perception of interpersonal relationship and meaning of "intimacy" (possibly affected by their different life experiences and personalities, etc.), each one of them provided an index of approximately 40 words, embodying the Intimacy Scalar. While the first word (e.g. 'Curious" in Ann's Intimacy Scalar, shown below) designates the stranger state, the Intimacy Scale increases as you proceeds down the column, which leads the last word (e.g. 'Sympathy' in Ann's Intimacy Scalar) to represents the stage of ultimate intimacy between two human beings. 

Shown below is the original 2 Intimacy Scalar provided by Ann and Snow: 


  1. Encounter

  2. Approach

  3. Lens

  4. Zoom

  5. Ripples

  6. Compatibility

  7. Dip

  8. Encapsulate

  9. Mirror

  10. Offset

  11. Clasp

  12. Fuel

  13. Touch

  14. Scent

  15. Tickle

  16. Mold

  17. Yawn

  18. Stream

  19. Skeptical

  20. Reflection

  21. Satisfaction

  22. Boom

  23. Threshold

  24. Obliterate

  25. Reform

  26. Net

  27. Liquid

  28. Coagulation

  29. Injection

  30. Oblivion

  31. Fold

  32. Breath

  33. Exhale

  34. Firework

  35. Embrace

  36. Encompass

  37. Distant

  38. Evaporation

  39. Remembrance

  40. Embody


1. Curious
2. Scared
3. Assume
4. Confuse
5. Judging
6. Predict
7. Tagging
8. Uniqueness
9. Indifference
10. Silence
11. Chill
12. Exhale
13. Reflection
14. Multiples
15. Texture
16. Piercing
17. Whimsical
18. Cold
19. Eccentric
20. Folded
21. Space
22. Stigma
23. Knock knock
24. Walk
25. Flow
26. Vulnerable
27. Sweat
28. Concise
29. Headless
30. Family
31. Expectation
32. Familiarity
33. Entanglement
34. Sympathy



In this project, the ASCII sign "/" is adopted to symbolize the touch, interaction, mutual penetration and interpretation, active collision and liquid fusion of personal boundaries during two person's interaction.

In mathematics and contemporary computer semiotics, "/" can be understood as "divided by", which is the division of the number before "/" by the number after "/". Thus, by extending the definition of "/" to encompass the hardly quantifiable parameters of interpersonal interaction and ever-changing identities, the artists attempt to explore the subjective reception, digestion, abstraction, distortion, and dissolution of one individual by the other, directed by evolving relationships between the two. 

Essentially, Snow/Ann and Ann/Snow can be decrypted as:

Ann/Snow = Ann divided by Snow

= Ann dissolved by Snow

= Snow's Intimacy Scalar applied to Snow's interaction w/ Ann

Snow/Ann = Snow divided by Ann

= Snow dissolved by Ann

= Ann's Intimacy Scalar applied to Ann's interaction w/ Snow


Motion Capture Data: Before & After

The raw data received from motion capture contains positional and rotational coordinates of the tracked person's head, elbows and hands. Here is a brief segments of tracked head position and rotation of Snow/Ann during the first 22 frames:

Head positional data

Head positional data

Head rotational data

Head rotational data


In order to quantify the level of comfort, standard deviation of the tracked person's movement every 5 seconds, aka the frequency of changes in movement every 5 seconds, is designated as a numerical measurement of willingness to express and explore around another person. The data is processed with programming in Mat Lab.

Finally, the charts shown below are generated:

The 1st column shows the Intimacy Scalar in its original order. The 2nd column displays the final sequence of Proximation Annotations generated by Mat Lab algorithm, ordered based on value of variance (frequency of changes in movement) adjacent in 3rd column. 



= Snow divided by Ann = Snow dissolved by Ann = Ann's Intimacy Scalar applied to Ann's interaction w/ Snow

Ann&Snow Proj 1_Page_1.jpg


= Ann divided by Snow = Ann dissolved by Snow = Snow's intimacy scalar applied to Snow's interaction w/ Ann

Ann&Snow Proj 1_Page_2.jpg
Ann&Snow Proj 1_Page_3.jpg

Visual Presentation: Variance in Transparency

During final design of Proximation Annotations, it is considered important to showcase the original order of 2 Intimacy Scalar. In an effort to preserve the simple and concise format of visual poem with black text on white paper, a deicision is made to appropriate increasing opacity for words further down the Intimacy Scalar. E.g. In the previous demo of Ann's Intimacy Scalar, "Curious" will be the most transparent and "Sympathy" will be the most opaque.

The variation in transparency successfully alludes to the ambiguity of one's perception and understanding of another person with its visual vitality. While strangers are almost transparent to each other, progressing interaction and growing understanding transform one into solid and tangible characters.

Segment from Snow/Ann

Segment from Snow/Ann

Segment from Ann/Snow

Segment from Ann/Snow


Cover Design

Additionally, objective facts about the two artists are incorporated as the front covers of Proximation Annotations. In contrast to the subject-ified cognition of one by others, factual information on the covers becomes both birth certificate and death certificate of the individual at that very moment of data generation.  

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 8.35.23 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 8.35.37 PM.png

Proximation Annotations is exhibited at Data Viz Collaborative Exhibition at SAIC's Neiman Center in December, 2017. 

December 2017