Graduate, Alumni

Convocation Feature: Suk Kyoung Choi

October 03, 2022

Dr. Suk Kyoung Choi graduates this week with a PhD in Interactive Arts and Technology. As a researcher, she studies human creativity, embodied action in the artistic creative process, the act and art of creative interaction, and metaphors of cognitive translation in creative process and action.

Her PhD thesis explores art in the age of artificial intelligence using an arts-based research process she terms neural painting. In her research she ties the historical practice of painting to emerging AI technologies. One question posed in her thesis is whether AI technologies “support” or “replace” human creativity. The thesis was given the impressive 'Exceptional' designation by the reviewing committee.

Q&A with Suk Kyoung Choi

About Suk Kyoung

I’m an artist so my interests and passions are wide and at the same time extremely focused on the current object of interest. I paint, draw, make animations, video and sound works, or collaborate with others to create multi-sensorial experiential spaces.

Currently I am interested in the psychology and phenomenology of the phenomenon of visual synthesis. This is an emerging technology in artificial intelligence that proposes to visualize people's imagination. I think this is a radically interesting and concerning development.

Choi involved in an eye-tracking experiment that captured eye movement and pen dynamics to explore the relation between embodiment and creative expression.

Suk Kyoung's research

My research has evolved from the tactile dimensions of traditional (hand-made) art practices toward the transformed abstracted sense of touch-as-metaphor that is ubiquitously and relentlessly distributed through electronic media.

At SIAT, I’ve been involved with an exploration of the social and design implications of opaque technologies of mediation, sometimes called “artificial intelligence,” which as Kate Crawford has pointed out are neither artificial nor intelligent. I want to understand the projected implications of that distributed social mediation, so I study its phenomenology through art-as-research.

My PhD work has always been a study of embodiment, how the metaphors we use to communicate knowledge are fundamentally formed by our physical movement in the perceived optic array of a fixed gravity field. My research is therefore about our mediated environment and the irreducibility of imagination to mechanics. I conduct qualitative analysis through deconstruction of the manner of appearance of technological artefacts to attempt to understand what possible worlds the future holds.

Artwork by Suk Kyoung Choi, "The Drowned World" triptych, 2022. The image on the left is an AI generated text-to-image and image-to-image synthesized version of the human-made painting shown to the right. "The Drowned World" project employs text-driven image synthesis to explore the ambiguous distinction the media introduces between imagination and virtuality.

Why did you choose SIAT for your studies?

I came from an art background with interests in philosophy and psychology. I believe that art can (and must) change the world. Today, art and technology are so deeply “co-involved,” as the phenomenologists say, that they create each other’s appearance. I realized SIAT was one of the few institutions that is centred around the notion of creative co-evolution of human and technology. That is a good place to keep your finger on the pulse of change.

How did your studies in SIAT fit into your future goals and what is next for you?

SIAT gave me the research support, time, space, and feedback that allowed me to develop a much deeper appreciation of the role of technology in our daily lives. Much technological influence has been already entirely absorbed in culture, embodied in our being, and is contributing to the increasingly cybernetic body we all co-inhabit. I’d like to continue research on the social, scientific, philosophical, and creative implications of this co-entanglement of creator and created, perhaps building ties to neuroscientific research into the iterative dimensions of neural processes over time. I want to question how subjectivity, expressed through embodied metaphor, can be affectively translated by machines, the 'other' beings we will have to live with in future. We have to consider what it means to talk about empathy and ethics in this relationship.

It is my central concern and interest as an artist and researcher who has been working with this technology, observing its rapid social adoption in a world of increasingly fuzzy lines, to ask about the emergence of an aesthetic where we have to deal with this 'other being' as 'being part' of us.

What was the highlight of your graduate career?

I don’t have a momentary experience to describe but I’d like to say that the “aura” if that is the right word—the sense of embodied reflection—that the accumulation of many creative shared thoughts while talking with my graduate supervisor Dr. Steve DiPaola, has left me with a learning experience to savour over the rest of my life. I’m very grateful to have met such an open minded and supportive senior supervisor. My research could not have taken the direction it has in any other environment.

Do you have any advice for students considering a graduate degree in SIAT?

You must be absolutely certain that knowledge, curiosity, and responsibility are your critical motivations if you want to fully realize what SIAT has to offer you. You need to adopt a responsibility toward work and life, nothing else will do in these times if we are not to fail the coming generations. At the same time, art reminds us that if we aren’t enjoying learning from what we’re doing, then we’re doing something wrong.

The artist in the research environment. Suk Kyoung and her colleagues used a wireless remote eye-tracker so that the artist would not feel like 'things were attached' to promote a more natural interaction environment for the artist.