Ian Cheng (b. 1984) was born in Los Angeles and lives and works in New York. He graduated from Berkeley University in 2006 having studied Cognitive Science and then developed his artistic practice at Columbia University, where he graduated in 2009 with a MFA in Visual Arts. Cheng’s professional artistic presence began in 2011 and has mainly been focused in North America. He has also recently been exhibited in a variety of solo shows in Europe.
The romance between science and art can be traced back centuries; Ian Cheng maintains this relationship by marrying innovative technology and visual objects in a dynamic and interactive manner. Cheng uses a combination of cognitive behaviour recognition patterns and computer stimulations to create an evolving and dynamic aesthetic experience. The artist’s body of work is in a constant state of metamorphosis, never repeating itself. The simulations consist of a group of heterogeneous virtual objects, taken from a number of sources. By bestowing behaviours to the virtual images, Cheng explores a complex nonlinear notion that relates to the neurological and psychosocial shifts happening within the human mind.
Curator Filipa Ramos describes Cheng as being interested by the conditions of mutation and nuances of the human mind. Indeed, the artist tinkers with many of our senses and explores their potential for interactions. The unpredictable processes of Cheng’s works invite viewers to reconsider their own ideas of limits and possibilities. Visitors are invited to observe the works individually or experience them as different disruptive organisms within a single emergent body. Cartoons are used as models to express these mental modes. Cheng’s background in cognitive science serves to stimulate these animated figures and elements with an energy that is concurrently primal and conceptual.
The artist’s method was optimised whilst working on a music video for the band Liars wherein Cheng used motion capture data to animate dancers' movements by feeding the data into a simulation engine. The engine reconfigured each dancer’s choreography by making them crash into each other. By using an algorithmic design, Cheng is able to control and manipulate the behaviour of his chosen objects. He brings a fascinating and progressive range of skills that coalesce into ground-breaking installations and videos. In an interview for Frieze magazine Cheng commented, “I feel like I’m pushing in a new direction, and I think that should be valued just like all these paintings and sculptures here at Frieze”.