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40 Under 40 Art and Tech

Ian Cheng

20 September 2021

New York

Since 2012 Ian Cheng has created a series of computer-generated simulations using video-game engines, exploring what he describes as ‘an agent’s capacity to deal with an ever-changing environment’. Perhaps the best-known of these is the trilogy Emissaries (2015–17), a live simulation of which was acquired by MoMA in New York in 2019; the works draw on video-game and AI technologies to predict behaviours among a wide cast of characters and wildlife, reimagining technological development as a kind of storytelling, while also folding in references to pop-culture cornerstones such as The Sims. Like Cheng’s other projects – including BOB, an AI creature whose story has evolved across multiple exhibitions – Emissaries can be explored online through mobile apps and other digital platforms, and in physical space via installations of digital projections. Cheng has exhibited widely, with solo shows at MoMA PS1, the Serpentine in London and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Raubedengo in Turin. His latest project Life After BOB, which sees BOB installed in a young girl’s body, premiered at the Luma Foundation in Arles this summer and is now on view at the Shed in New York and Luma in Westbau (it will travel to Light Art Space in Berlin next year).

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