To Inspire. To Be Inspired. – 30 Stories on HKUST Faculty, Alumni and Students

A pioneer in the field of human–machine collaboration, Sougwen Chung does not shy away from the big questions. Bridging the worlds of art, science, and imagination, she explores the awe-inspiring intersection of humankind and machines. Dressed in black, pacing the red carpet of the iconic TED Talk stage, Sougwen Chung asks a captivated audience, “If machines are starting to be able to do the work traditionally done by humans, what will become of the human hand? How does our desire for perfection, precision, and automation affect our ability to be creative?” They are big questions — and exactly the type Chinese–Canadian artist and researcher Sougwen is excited to explore. In her work, she examines marks made by hand and marks made by machine to decipher the relationship dynamics of humans, computers, and the environment. It is a unique approach spanning installation, robotics, sculpture, drawing, and performance. Sougwen’s research explores the potential of human creativity and emerging technologies, disregarding the false binaries between human and machine, natural and artificial intelligence. For Sougwen, collaboration is the key to creating space for both AI and humans in the future, and she has pioneered a novel canvas for exploring this relationship: painting alongside robots. She calls her work “embodied AI.” Bent over 33 a canvas, brush in hand, alongside robots armed with their own brushes, she responds to their movements as they respond to hers. Human and machine become partners in a fluid, poetic process. Sougwen’s desire to bring physical gesture and creative agency into her work with computers harks back to the gestural instincts she first developed drawing and playing the violin. The child of an opera singer and a computer programmer, Sougwen embodies the processes and innovations of both art and technology. When using software to create art, Sougwen has found a release in the medium of performance — she views robots as kinetic sculptures. Interdisciplinary to her core, she sees the interplay of technology and creativity as part of an important philosophical discussion about what constitutes art.