MICA'20 Thesis Project

Liminal Beings

speculative design, soft robotics

Tools Used

Casting/Molding, Rhino, Arduino, Circuitry


Point of Speculation: If the face value of animacy is breathing, can a breathing object be considered animate?

Gizem Oktay Soft Robotics

The conceptual background of this project has come a long way. Through readings of animism, object-oriented ontology, new materialism and speculative realism, I gathered an intersectional base for formal inspiration.

The questions I asked myself revolved around the possibility of creating something that could not either be undermined to an inanimate object or overmined to an animate being. Could I make something that swayed in-between, something that had liminality in its essence?

Liminality according to 20th-century anthropologist Victor Turner is a state of betwixt and in-between. Connecting the concept of irreducibility with something that had flexibility and animate-like qualities seemed like a good way to visualize a liminal being to me.

One thing that does not stand on either of two edges, is in the middle of everything. It is liminal. Liminality considers anthropomorphic mythical creatures liminal, just as it considers a graduation ceremony to be a liminal experience. At the middle of a rite of passage, something at a neither/nor state.

Design Process

Gizem Oktay - Soft Robotics

Designing the mold on Rhino

Gizem Oktay - Soft Robotics

3D-printed mold

Gizem Oktay - Soft Robotics

Casting silicone from mold

electro-pneumatic system

Electro-pneumatic system

arduino code

Arduino code

liminal beings

Visualization and animation

soft robotics

If liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, a breathing object would be liminal in the sense that it stands between animate and inanimate.

Something that is either human or non-human, but something that "breaths". Something that is on that rite of passage of ontology, swaying between human and non-human.

Writings further conceptualizing liminality and its relation to philosophy and design: Medium | The McHarg Center