Ian Cheng

ewCloud (Fatima & Zahra), 2013

live simulation, infinite duration, sound, VR headsets

Dimensions Variable


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Artwork
Description

This live simulation by the American artist is powered by a series of constantly changing algorithms. Cheng throws together an assortment of seemingly random elements: an office chair, a dolphin, a potted plant and a dinosaur are all tossed into the sequence. The elements collide and spin apart, dance and skitter at random whilst dummy-like bodies fluctuate and change colour. The resul is a turbulent flurry of movement and form.

Cheng creates chaotic simulations that do not attempt to mirror reality in the ways that CGI does. In 1970 the Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori invented the term ‘Bukami No Tani’, ‘The Uncanny Valley’ in English, to describe the strange feeling of discomfort we experience when looking at a robot that seems almost human. Cheng uses motion capture data of real humans that triggers this Uncanny Valley effect, and then transports these bodies into bizarre alternate universes where they bounce and judder like faulty machines.

The artist himself worked in a visual effects department firm developing CGI for films and found himself frustrated and jaded by the pressure to mirror the real as closely as possible. As CGI technology becomes ever more advanced and the uncanny valley grows ever narrower, Cheng’s simulations are deliberately strange, unnatural sequences that resist the exact reproduction of real life and instead disconcert and compel the viewer to question the nature of digital reality.

Cheng is interested in the random occurrences that ensue when the algorithms are left to their own devices. The resulting chaos destabilises our perceived notions of control over technology. Cheng’s simulations show technology without order: a panicked confusion that threatens to disturb the normal hierarchy of man and his machines. The artist shows us the limits of human control over the technology we design and the digital chaos that reigns when the algorithms are set free.

About
the artist

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”.


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.

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”.


Ian Cheng
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition