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There’s a lot of room on the internet for men who use technology to push creative boundaries. We know, for example, that the world’s greatest “deepfake" artist - who works with hyper-realistic AI-generated video and images - is a man named Hao Li. We also know that Drew Skillman and Patrick Hackett accidentally invented Google Tilt Brush - a groundbreaking Virtual Reality painting tool - while trying to develop a VR chess application. What most of us don’t know, however, are the names and stories of the women innovators and artists who are at the cutting edge of developments in art and technology. It’s time to change that! So here are three women who are trailblazing at the intersection of art and technology.
Born and raised in Kenya, Jepchumba is a digital artist, technology activist, thought leader, and, most importantly, founder of African Digital Art (ADA), a groundbreaking online platform for all things digital art in Africa. ADA is the place to go to discover tech-savvy artistic talent on the continent, and prides itself on profiling artists who are, in Jepchumba’s words, “changing the face of global culture”. Founded in 2011, ADA was the first platform of its kind and is still the only major online resource for digital art from Africa.
As far back as 2012, Jepchumba was already listed by Forbes as one of the “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa,” and as one of The Guardian Africa’s “Top 25 Women Achievers.” Since then she has used her profile to advocate for more recognition for African digital creatives, growing ADA into the leading international platform for cutting edge creativity from Africa.
Another pioneer on the African continent, Dr Tegan Bristow co-founded and is Director of the Fak’ugesi Digital Innovation Festival, an annual celebration of the sharpest minds and most daring projects in the field of digital technology in Africa. The festival takes place in Johannesburg, in the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein and will this year exist as an online-only experience. You can find more information about the festival here.
In addition to running Fak’ugesi, Bristow is a senior lecturer in Interactive Digital Media at the Wits School of Digital Art, and has mentored countless young digital creatives
Can robots be artists? Chinese-born Canadian artist Sougwen Chung thinks so. This former MIT Media Lab Research Fellow collaborates with a small fleet of drawing robots to produce evocative abstract drawings and paintings that explore the thresholds of creativity. Chung’s robots are each equipped with a drawing arm and an optical unit, and are programmed to learn from her drawing gestures in real time. Collectively named D.O.U.G. (Drawing Operations Unit Generation_X) these robots “think” by drawing on a memory bank made up of previous drawings as well as examples of works by historic artists.
Chung’s accomplishments are beginning to gain recognition. In 2019 she was awarded the Still Image Award in the prestigious Lumen Art Prize for an iteration of her ongoing work Drawing Operations (2018-ongoing). But there is still a long way to go in terms of wider acknowledgement of the breakthroughs this young artist is making at the intersection of art and technology.
We hope the stories of these three women inspire you to uncover more female artists merging the world of art and technology.