Exhibition Next – Final Project Documentation – Matthew Couch

Museum/Exhibition Title: Museum of Cigs (香烟一点都不香)

The English name needs some work. The Chinese name is supposed to be a little more creative, with 香 being a character in the word that means cigarette while also meaning “fragrant” (smells nice).

Mission Statement

The Museum of Cigs is designed to discourage nonsmokers from starting smoking and encourage current smokers to quit by displaying relatable exhibits (with a twist) that are hard-hitting, causing the viewer to really consider either their future or current goals with regards to smoking cigarettes. It was inspired by my own struggle to quit smoking, which I have tried to do many, many times to no long-term success. I view the museum as particularly important in China, where the smoking culture is very prevalent, and many people seemingly don’t even know about the health problems that come with smoking. One reason for my struggle to quit is the fact that many of my Chinese friends also smoke; I hope this museum can have an impact on them and anybody else it can.



The museum will be a temporary popup, changing locations around China

First Location: Vacancy Gallery (乌鲁木齐中路19弄2号)

Architecture: 3 story apartment building converted into an open space

Ticket: normal ticket

Featured Exhibits

Man in Coffin

A life-sized coffin with a mannequin inside, buried in cigarettes

Interactivity: current smokers are encouraged to place one of their own cigarettes into the coffin


Actual creation + process:

I wanted to create this project using as little money as possible. I used cardboard boxes from purchases I had made on 淘宝, scissors, double-sided tape, a mannequin I had at home for drawing purposes, and three boxes of the cheapest cigarettes that were available at the store (total cost of this part was like 20RMB). If I had put more money into it, it could have been much more realistic; I could have used thin pieces of wood and nice glue that would not be visible like the tape is. This is just a proof of concept piece. Next to the coffin I placed a piece of paper with the following text:

“Everyone dies. Cigarettes, however, only speed up the process.

If you currently smoke, place a cigarette in the casket.”

Cigarette Shop

A cigarette shop inspired by the ones I have seen in Shanghai

Purchasable cigarette packs, however the price is not in RMB; it is in time (in relations to the health impact smoking cigarettes has)

The cigarette pack itself is real. Inside are facts about cigarette smoking that are rolled into the shape of a cigarette

­Example: Smoking causes 1 in every 5 deaths in the U.S. every year.

Scannable QR code to “pay” via WeChat that redirects to a website about quitting smoking

Inspiration: Lawson cigarette sales counter

Actual creation + process:

Like before, I wanted to spend as little as possible. I used a large piece of cardboard from another 淘宝 box to be the thing that all the cigarette boxes would be placed on. I asked my friends (almost all of them smoke various cigarettes) to not throw away any cigarette boxes after they had finished smoking. I ended up with around 11 different types of cigarette boxes (with some duplicates to put into the coffin) that I priced according to the tar/nicotine levels. The higher the amount, the more “expensive” (time wise) that each pack was. I tried to mimic the font of the design in Lawson.

Dark room: music

There is a dark room where headsets are available to listen to “Nikki” by Logic.

A screen is on the wall with a number counting the people who have died from smoking related diseases.


Actual creation + process:

No pictures of this; the headphones can be seen in the final project picture below. My friend let me borrow his wireless headphones, which I placed on the table and instructed people to listen to the song. Being wireless meant a cleaner exhibit, although in an actual situation the battery would become a problem.

Final pics


After hearing the critique, I know that this museum/exhibit’s core ideas would have to be altered for it to work. They made a good point: why would current smokers go to this exhibit? They wouldn’t. I should make it a more general cigarette museum, including both the positives and negatives as well as the history and any other information about cigarettes. Let the museum be open for debate/conversation, rather than pushing my narrative onto everyone forcefully. The facts/exhibits should do the talking for themselves. Overall it was a very fun project and it has even encouraged me to work with my good friend to slowly quit smoking ourselves.

Week 5 – Assignment 2 – Reading Response – Matthew Couch

  1. “Here, communication lies at the heart of exhibitions, whereby the communicative medium is not a neutral transmission of information but something that contributes to the positioning and controlling of the spectator in a space of display.”
    • This quote is very relate-able to another class I am also taking at the moment: Organizational Communication. The class discusses communication within an organization, but a museum/exhibit can also be considered an organization, and some of the ideas shared in the class can be applied when creating an exhibition.
  2. “‘Professionalisation and differentiation within the art world have turned ‘curating’ into a hierarchically structured job description covering a wide range of activities.'”
    • This quote is interesting due to another previous quote where it is said that the hierarchy is always changing. Before reading this I only knew of a curator as the person introducing the exhibits.
  3. “… instead hr or she is seen to be responsible for extracting art from its position or circulation, opening up a space where individual works of art gather new meanings and values by virtue of their regrouping for public consumption.”
  4. “Watkins draws on Oscar Wilde’s idea that objects are transformed into art by the critic writing about them, in which it is the eye of the beholder that produces the work of art.”
    • This quote is very interesting to me. Someone might create something and believe it to be art, but somebody else seeing it might view it as trash. But should a little more respect be involved? Is everything not actually art in some form or fashion?
  5. “Rather than texts waiting to be read, exhibitions have the potential to activate discursive processes that enable dialogical spaces of negotiation between curators, artists, and their publics.”

As a whole, these chapters from the book really open my eyes to the current exhibition world. My previous understanding was very basic and limited, similar to how exhibitions and curators used to be. Reading this also inspires me a bit for my final project — how can I, as the curator, be involved and enrich the experience? Having an interactive exhibit by itself is nice, but this article has made it clear to me that I myself can also be a “part” of the exhibit as well. I can be a piece of the art.

Week 5 – Assignment 1 – Final Project Proposal – Matthew Couch

“The Museum of Cigs”

General info:

The Museum of Cigs is all about cigarettes, but one of its main aims is to highlight the health risks and hopefully draw more awareness (especially since the smoking culture in China is so different from my home, America). I decided to do this after realizing that most of my Chinese friends that smoke don’t even seem to know about the health risks, or, if they do know, they don’t think they are that serious, leading them to not care. I have started smoking and quit many many times, even with all of the disgusting images that are put on boxes of cigarettes now to try to get people to quit. I hope this will not only help other smokers, but help myself to finally quit for good.

Ticket idea:

cigarette box (also serves as a souvenir).

Content idea:

There will hopefully be a few little parts that make up the museum itself. The first is my diorama project (that will be expanded on if possible). This is one of the interactive pieces. People can watch the video of the cigarette slowly burning out in a dark room. My intention is for them to be captivated by it; just spend 10 minutes (might be sped up) watching the cigarette slowly fade to nothing. It acts as a sort of metaphor for life itself.

Another section I would like to include is a video or some interactive website that can be used (touch screen) showing the effects cigarettes have on the lungs. While it might be graphic and uncomfortable for some, it is something hard-hitting like this that can help easily get my point across.

I would also like to include a bit of history, whether it be old cigarette boxes, old advertisements, or anything else. This will lead into a vision for the future — one where cigarette smoking doesn’t decline, and one where it does (specifically in China, maybe only Shanghai as well).

Overall, the museum will be mildly unsettling, but this is what is needed as the topic is very serious. I might try to include some actual cigarette smoke interactivity, but I’m not sure on the details right now (also there’s smoke alarms).

Week 2: Historical Site – Apartment – Matthew Couch

This museum takes into the world of an American student studying in Shanghai, China. Pictured below is the original, clean room that he lived in from August 28, 2018 until May 28, 2019 during his senior year at NYU Shanghai. The current state of the room is the same as how he left it when he returned to America — dirtier than before, possibly even causing a deduction in his returned security deposit. This bedroom isn’t the only one, however. It is the largest of three bedrooms in what used to be a 自如 apartment. The other two rooms constantly had people moving in and out, and none of the roommates ever met each other or said anything. When entering Matthew’s room in the museum, occasionally one might hear recordings of his Chinese roommates talking to a friend. Apart from this, the museum is relatively silent. The kitchen serves guests of the museum the exact same food that Matthew had made plenty of times: two eggs, one piece of bacon, and two sausages for breakfast, and a bowl of 火鸡面 Korean ramen noodles with added pieces of chicken breast. The building itself is what is considered a 老房子, the only one of its kind left in 2115. What was once a gas station next door has been turned into an electric car charging station. The ticket to get in to the museum is a blue magnetic key, the same that was used by Matthew in 2018 (keys now are on a chip inside of one’s body, so the key also acts as a souvenir in a way). There is then a password to get into Matthew’s room specifically, which guests can only obtain by reading about the life of Matthew in Shanghai that is located in the public living area. It might come as a shock to guests that people actually had to learn more than just their native language in the past to communicate, seeing as 2115 has automatic real time translators available. The museum itself is very small, but it is meant to serve as a time capsule of some sorts; a direct snapshot of a normal person’s living arrangements one hundred years ago.


Week 1: Exhibition Research Topic – Museum of Ink – Matthew Couch

Name Matthew Couch

Instructor Chang Liu



In the title “Museum of Ink”, “Ink” refers to everything tattoo. A few of these exist in the world already, however I have been to none of them and have no idea what they are like. I have been interested in tattoos for a few years and have always followed artists. I think the museum could include information about all forms of tattooing – ranging from the blind artists in the mountains of south Asia to the everyday artists you’ll find in Shanghai and everywhere else. I recently got a tattoo myself at one of the studios in Shanghai, and know many artists that should be willing to loan equipment or whatever else is needed. One thing I really wish I could do (but it’s at school, so it’s a no-go) is actually have a tattoo artist at the “exhibition” that can give quick little tattoos or even just let someone experience the feeling without ink in the machine.

Overall, tattooing is a huge industry with a large history that I think could make a cool little exhibit with many different things to interact with. I think I have a lot of videos of when I got my tattoo as well, and I would like to have videos constantly playing of different tattoos as part of the exhibit. Some of the specifics I haven’t really flushed out, and it depends on what all I can get my hands on.

Inflatables Final Project [Matthew Couch]

Author: Matthew Couch

Date: 2018-05-15


Here was the original proposal I had made for my final project for the class.

I went to the fabric market and asked for TPU. I guess I went to the wrong one, because nobody that I asked knew what I was talking about. In the end I showed a Taobao page of some TPU and an old vendor claimed that the plastic he was selling was similar, so I ended up buying like 200 plastic paper holders. What type of plastic it is I don’t know if I’ll ever know. Luckily it seemed to somewhat inflate and hold its shape relatively well.

After purchasing the plastic, I went to a music shop to buy reeds. To my surprise they were much more expensive than I expected (150 for a box) and in the end proved useless, because I was unable to figure out the science behind them. This is where I decided to change up my choice of final project using what I already had made out of the plastic. At this point, I had created this (used some strong tape because no place I looked had the glue I wanted and apparently people on the streets don’t have a random heat sealer laying around).

After making the base “box” of the proposed instrument, I started experimenting with the reeds to see how to get them to produce sound. Having no musical experience apart from a semester-long class of piano, I went to Wikipedia and YouTube to try and figure out how reeds were used to produce sound. After multiple days of testing with different tubes, plastic pipes, etc., I couldn’t get the reeds to produce sound. At all. So I had to come up with a different idea. While blowing up the inflatable box with nothing more than a straw and my breath, I noticed something that would lead me to the idea for the final project.

After blowing it up for a while I noticed that the plastic kept appearing very dirty. This triggered a memory back to the proposed idea in class of a lung that would have the aim of displaying the health hazards with smoking. As a current (and wanting to quit) smoker myself, the box started to look like a box of 10-pack cigarettes that you would usually buy at the duty-free areas at the airport. With the inside getting dirty, my new idea of putting finished cigarettes in came up. I want the box to represent both a lung after smoking as well as the cause of it, a box of tons of cigarettes. Being an inflatable, I had further ideas that work best in a presentation. Blowing cigarette smoke into the inflatable would not only cause it to inflate, but also leave smoke in it that would slowly seep out of the place of inflation. While the smoke may be leaving the body, the effects are still done: the lungs are dirtier, and they slowly deflate to nothing. Smoking doesn’t have an immediate impact on the lungs, but rather a slow and (at least in the beginning) unknown one. It also occurred to me to poor a little water into the inflatable to better display the slow dirtying of it. After the fact I realized this idea was horrible and the smell was unbearable, so in the future there could be a healthier way to depict this idea.

After doing this project I realized that being too ambitious can easily cause problems. First off, I have no knowledge of music. Second, my knowledge of inflatables is also not the greatest. Had I put more thought into it originally I could definitely come out with a better overall final project (rather than somewhat improvising after figuring out my original plan wasn’t going to work).

Inflatables | Lab 4: Arduino Lab [Matthew Couch]

Lab: #4 Arduino Lab

Date: 2018-04-24

Group: Christopher, Abubakar



In this lab we wanted to use the Arduino to power a pump and control a valve in order to inflate and deflate a small inflatable. We also used a pressure and temperature sensor.


  • Arduino
  • Air pump
  • Power supply (tuned to 6V)
  • Valve
  • Diode
  • Pressure/temperature sensor


We were given a diagram of what the end circuit should look like. The main problem that I have always experienced with Arduino is the fact that the direction you put each component into the breadboard can either make or break the circuit completely, and I never know which way is right.

First, in order to check if we had wired the circuit properly, we used a power supply plugged into one of the outlets that gave us 6V of power. The pump initially worked but we wired part of the valve incorrectly due to misunderstanding the circuit diagram, thinking D6 meant the dialog 6 port on the Arduino.

In this video you can see the valve clicking.

And here you can see the pump blowing air constantly:

The only problem is with the current setup, we have no code controlling the valve, and we also don’t even have the pump hooked up to the valve. This leads to the pump constantly blowing air, which is no good for our inflatable.

Now we needed to attach the on-board power supply and tune it to 6V, because that is what the pump and valve want. We ended up getting it to around 6.03V by turning the little screw and constantly checking the voltage reading.






Once we had it tuned, we had to setup the valve and pump again according to the diagram. The important part here was paying attention to which wire went to IN and which wire went to OUT. After getting it properly setup like before, with the valve opening and closing, and the pump constantly pushing out air, we used the code from the class website to control the opening and closing of the valve on a timer. This would allow us to inflate and deflate the inflatable.




We still had one thing left to do, which was connect the pump to the valve and then connect the inflatable to the valve. When the valve is closed, air is not allowed into the inflatable, causing it to deflate. On the other hand, when the valve is opened, air is pumped in and it inflates. Here is a video of how it worked in the end:

The last part of the lab was to add a pressure and temperature sensor to the Arduino and, again, use code from the class website that would print out the pressure and temperature to the Serial output. Here is a picture of the completed circuit:

Somehow we managed to wire it correctly the first time (the diagram was drawn really well) and the code worked. Here is a picture of the output:

Inflatables | Lab 3 – Making a Dome [Matthew Couch]

Date: 2018-04-17

Lab name: Making a Dome

Teammates: Matthew Couch, Maya Wang, Tyler Roman


In this lab we created an inflatable “dome” (dome-like object, anyways) using heat-sealed plastic.


  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Marker
  • Plastic (from the first lab)
  • Tracing paper
  • Heat sealer
  • Cardboard
  • Meter stick




First, we had to decide both the size of the dome and the number of gores it would have. To get the correct measurements, we used the Excel program provided in the PowerPoint.

We decided on a 50cm diameter and 8 gores (the lab required a minimum of 6). The measurements that the Excel program provided us are shown in the picture to the left.





After we had the measurements, we had to create a gore-template using the cardboard (as it would provide a sturdier surface to trace around compared to say, paper). Here is both the drawing and cutting of the cardboard gore-template. First, the height was drawn down the middle of the cardboard. Next, each width (there were 5 intervals between the bottom and the top point) was divided by two in order to center the interval. For example, if the width at interval 1 of height 1.9cm was 3cm, then from the middle line we would go each way 1.5cm (3cm/2).

The next step was to trace the gore-template onto the plastic eight times (the number of gores we would use) and cut them out. The market outline would prove useful later on when heat sealing the gores together.

Now, we had to heat seal all of the gores together. It was important not to hold the heat sealer on one part for too long, otherwise it might cause tears in the plastic, leading air to leak out when the product was inflated.

With the top of the dome completed, we lacked a base and a way to get air into the dome and inflate it. Knowing the diameter of the dome, we could use a compass with a 25cm measurement (the radius of our dome) to create the base. To account for the sealing that would be done, we created a base a little larger than what was actually needed and cut off some of the excess at the end. After cutting the base out, we heat sealed the base of each gore to the outer edge of the circle, leaving only a small piece not sealed in order to 1) flip the piece inside-out (so that the seams would be inside, leading to a more “aesthetic” dome) and 2) allow for us to attach the piece that would let us blow air in.

Now all we had to do was create a piece that would allow us to blow air into the dome. To do this, we simply heat sealed a rectangular piece of plastic and then flipped it inside out. Due to time constraints (and not wanting to deal with the stress of heat sealing it to an open hole, something that seems overly difficult), we taped it to the opening in the dome.





Here is a few pictures and a final video displaying the completed dome (actually worked out pretty well except for the pointed top).

Here is the video of Maya blowing the dome up:

Overall the project went really well and I think it should help me a bit when it comes to my final project.



Inflatables | Assignment 6 [Matthew Couch]

Date: 2018-04-17


I don’t only find this project interesting, but it will also be very useful for my final project. My instrument will require Arduino to use as sensors to know when to play sounds (at least for part of it, some of it might also just use air and reeds or something similar). I know how to use Arduino and know how to program, but this is very helpful for learning how to use an Arduino in conjunction with inflatables, specifically the parts/components necessary.

This page is actually more beneficial: https://softroboticstoolkit.com/low-cost-ep-circuit/board-implementation because it shows the actual Arduino setup. The thing that concerns me after this is whether or not one Arduino is enough for the project. I will have to put some serious thought into the size of the instrument.

Inflatables | April 12 Assignment [Matthew Couch]

Assignment date: April 12


I think this design is very well done and could potentially help a lot of people. The way he made it cause even pressure is something I probably couldn’t come up with (at least at this point in the class). Mental health is a very important issue (as someone who has personally struggled with it, I know), but I honestly wonder how much help a “hug” like this would be. I wonder if there’s any studies around the idea of hugging a real person vs. hugging stuffed animals, especially at different ages. I know I, as a college student, probably wouldn’t relieve much stress by hugging a stuffed bear that pops out of the vest I am wearing. I also think it would be helpful if you had another way to inflate it besides blowing into it — the thought of blowing something up already makes me lightheaded and might even add to my stress or anxiety. I’m also curious if the vest is supposed to be worn at all times, and just pop out the bear when you want to hug something? Would that make it bulky or heavy? Speaking from our class standpoint, the design of the inflatables is very well done, but I don’t know how feasible the product actually is.



Picture of RE-Inflatable Vest

This product idea is actually incredible. I personally suffer from lots of back and neck problems as a result of using the computer so much with bad posture. Inflatables also seem to be the perfect solution for this — they can inflate at a certain time and be deflated with pressure. In the post it says every 20 minutes, but this could be changed in relation to the severity of each user’s problem. The parts are also very cheap, and the fact that it is an instructables that tells you everything you need to do to create makes it all the better. The video displaying the bubble test shows how simple yet effective the use of inflatables is in such a project.



This product is also amazing. The use of inflatables allows it to not be clunky and the materials used provide the same (if not better) protection as typical helmets. This, however, also protects the neck. One thing that might not seem so important, but in reality is, is the appearance of the deflated product. It doesn’t look bad, which is something that I honestly have found to be rare in the inflatable products that we have looked at so far. They don’t seem to go into too much detail about the materials used other than it being waterproof and functional, but the airbag itself would definitely be made of a safer material. The cost is a little high, but I have heard that quality biking helmets can be expensive regardless.