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Artist Sougwen Chung showcases artistic side of robots

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, October 28, 2018 | 08:03 pm
Artist Sougwen Chung showcases artistic side of robots

Sougwen Chung draws lines with D.O.U.G._1 (left) and D.O.U.G._2 on Saturday at the Wave of Tomorrow 2018 arts festival at The Tribrata in South Jakarta. It was her debut performance in Indonesia. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

As robots in everyday life are taking over certain human tasks, New York-based artist-technologist Sougwen Chung has a different perspective – she is collaborating with robots to create art.

Entitled Drawing Operations, her art is being displayed at the first installment of the Wave of Tomorrow 2018 arts festival, which is currently being held at The Tribrata in South Jakarta.

Performing live in front of visitors on Saturday, Chung drew lines with her robots, D.O.U.G._1 and D.O.U.G._2, for 15 minutes.

D.O.U.G._1 focuses on mimicry, meaning that it is able to track Chung’s movement through camera and computer software. D.O.U.G._2 is more advanced as it is able to memorize all the drawings that Chung has created.

Although robots have always been associated with perfection, Chung's artwork embraces imperfection.Although robots have always been associated with perfection, Chung's artwork embraces imperfection. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

Chung said she hoped that the audience noticed that the communication and collaboration between human and machines could be very expressive and humane. Her performance is also a testament to how technology influences our lives.

Chung, a former researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, explained that working with robots changed how she viewed the world and had inspired her creativity. She began to collaborate with robots after realizing that they were often used in factories. “That’s really depressing, it’s like a weird type of slavery and I wanted to change that, make it something that was my own,” Chung said after her performance. “It came together in 2014. I had my first performance in 2015 at a museum in New York and everything just took off from there.”

Read also: Wave of Tomorrow arts festival to launch Oct. 19

She opted for drawing because she considered it to be a simple and easy understandable activity. “Technology can be so complicated and it becomes very difficult to understand what’s going on,” Chung said. “But I think something as simple as lines allow us to have a deeper understanding about the systems and the world around us.”

Chung’s works have been exhibited internationally, including at the National Art Center in Japan, Museum of Contemporary Art in Switzerland and Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Visitors pose among the artificial clouds and strings at Sembilan Matahari's 'Constellation Neverland'.Visitors pose among the artificial clouds and strings at Sembilan Matahari's 'Constellation Neverland'. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

Despite the collaboration between human and robots, Chung admitted she was worried that someday robots would take over the world. “But being scared doesn’t help create the future and, I think, in order to create that future we want to see, we have to process this anxiety but also move forward,” said Chung. “And I think that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Other art installations at the Wave of Tomorrow festival are Sembilan Matahari’s Constellation Neverland, which consists of floating artificial clouds and strings that simulate the weather, Maika’s Maika’s Tribe that consists of three phases and Ageless Galaxy. Tickets can be purchased online, starting from Rp 100,000 (US$6). (wng)

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