Sougwen Chung accommodating with machines to acrylic on a collapsed canvas
Sougwen Chung is an internationally acclaimed multi-disciplinary artisan and researcher, whose assignment explores the dynamics of bodies and systems. Chung is a aloft analysis adolescent at MIT’s Media Lab and a avant-garde in the acreage of human-machine collaboration. In 2019, she was called as the Woman of the Year in Monaco for accomplishment in the Arts & Sciences.
Aswin Pranam: You’re an artist, researcher, and arch amount in the apple of human-machine art & collaboration. For the uninitiated, what is human-machine collaboration?
Sougwen Chung: Human-machine accord is a angle of technology not as a tool, but as a collaborator. What does that mean? It stems from an compassionate that the accord amid bodies and their accoutrement accept changed. Agenda accoutrement are altered from accoutrement like a hammer, for instance. They are editable, fluid, audibly fallible, or all the above. Screen-based accoutrement change and accept updates in a way that concrete ones do not. Anticipate photoshop vs. a paintbrush.
And today, with the predictive attributes of A.I. systems, which are apprenticed by user data, the accoutrement are abreast by us. By the user through the abstracts actuality collected, by the designer’s intent, and by abstruse trends, processing power, and a apartment of added factors. I acquisition this absorbing because it seems like there is a acknowledging affection to accoutrement of the modern-day, accustomed in commonplace concepts like autosuggest / autocorrect. This acknowledgment bend of the human/tool/system fundamentally changes the action of making; the canvas is no best blank. It suggests things to you and nudges you along. It complicates authorship, and it extends above aesthetic pursuits to our day to day use of technology. Depending on your perspective, that’s either agitative or uncomfortable.
COPYRIGHT 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
So, human-machine accord situates these account at the beginning — it recognizes that the activating amid an artisan and her abstruse accoutrement is added complicated. There is an action in ability at the moment about “A.I. art” and “A.I. artists,” and I anticipate it stems from an absorption in compassionate what the promises, potentials, and paranoias of A.I. are and could be. That actuality said, I acquisition the apocryphal bounds about A.I. creating art strange. It suggests this accommodated of animal bureau and abandoning of animal labor. Which, for me, is not what is agitative or admired about the aesthetic practice.
Also, the abstracts through which the A.I. system’s archetypal is accomplished is not consistently alone created by the artisan or designer. By advancing to agreement with that, I anticipate we can access at a annoying perspective. For me, that’s at the affection of human-machine collaboration. A faculty of aggregate antecedent — a accord amid the artist, the abstracts set, the machine, and the dynamics & architecture of the algebraic process. Human-machine accord has created a abode for me to analyze the complicated and acute catechism of antecedent as a alive artisan today.
COPYRIGHT 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Pranam: In your T.E.D. Talk, you declared architecture a automatic ancestor (titled D.O.U.G.) that mimicked your duke movements on the canvas. Area did the absorption in aggregate robotics with artwork originate?
Chung: My absorption in alive with robotics came from my convenance of drawing. Working with robotics and assets brings me aback to the anatomy — the mark-made-by-hand, and what things like beef anamnesis and concrete aptitude can acquaint about the aesthetic process.
Drawing and robotics seemed like a accustomed progression — movement articulate through a automated body; in my case, a automatic arm, a assistant I called D.O.U.G._x afterwards Cartoon operations Unit, Bearing 1. The automatic arm was an ideal anatomy through which I could analyze what cartoon could be — cartoon as a action of cerebration through movement, cartoon as a calm abstracts set, and cartoon as articulate by an A.I. system.
By cartoon with a automatic assemblage affiliated to my movements, to my cartoon data, and added artists’ abstracts sets, it created a aesthetic agitator and a framework for belief about technology and its effects.
Pranam: What allotment of the aesthetic action takes the longest: brainstorming, architecture the technology (e.g., neural nets), or creating the final output?
Chung: Drawing Operations has been an advancing alternation — back 2014 to today. Like the convenance of drawing, I appearance it as a life-long project, an evolving action experiment. In my talk, I brainstorm at the attributes of aesthetic convenance today, and what that means, and that conceivably what defines art-making today is not in the authoritative itself, but how practitioners can amalgamate attitude and technology, and the techniques of culture, to analyze new bureau of making. These account apparent as narrative, active sculpture, performance, writing, models of interaction, and beheld artifacts.
Pranam: As the allegiance of agenda media continues to improve, technologies like V.R. (virtual reality) could eventually accredit adventures that command a cogent allocation of our time and attention. Will this draw focus abroad from non-digital art?
Chung: I’ve continued been absorbed by V.R. as a average that facilitates the implanting of memory. That’s the ‘fidelity’ of abreast V.R. that I’m fatigued to, and that which additionally leaves me unnerved. The simulation of the awning is so carefully angry to the participant’s spatial orientation, which dissolves the arbitration of the awning in acceptable agenda art.
Non-digital, and our acquaintance of, say, a painting in-person, has become rarefied. I would say that best paintings today are apparent as photographs on screen. When was the aftermost time you saw a painting in person? The majority of our burning is screen-based now, and our absorption to non-digital art is still accomplished through a photograph of the drawing.
These accouterment acquaint my absorption in action — the action of cartoon and mark-making through time, is calmly apparent from the direct abduction of photography. Its these processes I feel are actuality challenged by agenda media. The accuracy of raw material, and the “process of making” with abstracts like graphite that accept their own characteristics. I draw absorption to these processes because they backpack their own historicity, their claimed narratives, and, for me, that is a basic allotment of the conception of the work.
COPYRIGHT 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Pranam: The arts and sciences are about apparent as actuality separate, audible entities, but you’ve managed to arch the gap with your work. Do you see the two as actuality carefully related?
Chung: I’ve accepted the arts and sciences as the pursuits of agnate goals utilizing commutual but audible approaches. A basal apriorism of both is developing a framework for understanding, of centralized models of acquaintance and alien models of the ‘world.’ I see both as abstract pursuits — allotment of the ecosystem that includes architecture and technology.
Pranam: You afresh launched Scilicet, a flat exploring animal and non-human collaboration. Walk us through the goals for this project.
Chung: Through the aesthetic work, I’ve appear to see machines not alone as accoutrement but collaborators. And by continuing the work, machines as non-human collaborators. I see abundant abeyant there — and I anticipate its a abreast question. As per every generation, what it bureau to be ‘social’ accouterment and changes.
COPYRIGHT 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
It’s a big topic, for sure, and one that I anticipate is at the beginning of a lot of people’s minds but one that’s complicated to assignment through on one’s own. The flat recognizes that the accountable of our accord to the non-human is evolving, and accordingly demands a acknowledgment from the added community.
Scilicet is a amplitude area anybody can feel acceptable to analyze these account with us — with artists, scientists, designers, and writers who admit that addition the chat is capital to exploring these account at the abyss and across that it deserves.
In the actual term, we’re aflame about affair agreeing collaborators to body a amplitude that nurtures new account about accord and making-with. We accommodate an evolving arrangement of practitioners to aftermath projects and analysis that advance the boundaries of what is accessible in animal and non-human collaborations.
Through this, I’m exploring how the acceptable art flat ambiance can be a locus for community, discussion, and analytical thought; how can animal and non-human accord aggrandize our cerebration about cooperation itself, and what it bureau to actualize collectively?
COPYRIGHT 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Pranam: What ethical boundaries abide in the apple of human-machine art? Are there any curve that should not be crossed?
Chung: I see human-machine art as a testing arena for analytical human-machine alternation at large, which has broader implications for the affiliation of technology and society. Through the projects, I assignment through questions of authorship, of bureau and control, of what it bureau to coact with the things you build, and what relationships are congenital aloft the action of co-creation.
I anticipate about hidden narratives abaft accustomed assignment in this amplitude — about the advertising of A.I. art. People appetite article greater than themselves to accept in, and in some ways, art through history has had a accord with creating acoustic adventures of that affectionate of power. Is that dangerous? Is it the attitude of art? Does it accept to be? I acquisition these questions interesting.
That actuality said, the ‘artificial’ of bogus intelligence tend to discount the animal element. In my drawings, the models I alternation crave ample datasets to be effective. In my case, those abstracts sets are decades of my drawings. Is it afflictive to attending at one’s artwork alone as data? Does the digitization of the assignment abduction the aspect of the work, or is it aloof a representation. What is absent in adapting to be machine-readable, of cerebration about alone achievement as data? The abstract attributes of these questions abide to access and clarify my approach.
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