Ian Cheng: Emissaries

Serpentine Gallery

24 Apr 2018 to 28 May 2018

Ian Cheng: Emissaries

Admission Free

View Ian Cheng - BOB live online

Ian Cheng's trilogy of simulations Emissaries (2015-17) came to the Serpentine in the second half of his two-part exhibition.

Read more

The Gallery hosted Cheng's Emissaries trilogy (2015-17), recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Described by Cheng as a 'habitat for stories' or 'video game that plays itself', each Emissaries episode is a computer-generated simulation featuring a cast of flora and fauna that interact, intervene and recombine in open-ended narratives. Like BOB, these plot lines and protagonists utilise complex logic systems, principles of emergence, and multiple models of artificial intelligence sutured together.

Cheng’s work explores mutation, the history of human consciousness and our capacity as a species to relate to change. Drawing on principles of video game design, improvisation and cognitive science, Cheng develops live simulations – virtual ecosystems of infinite duration, populated with agents who are programmed with behavioral drives but left to self-evolve without authorial intent, following the unforgiving causality found in nature. 

His influences include an education in cognitive science, a stint at George Lucas’s special effects house Industrial Light & Magic, and a fascination with the dynamics of unpredictable systems. While modelled on imaginative organisms, his simulations create behaviours the artist can initiate but never truly control. Cheng likens them to a ‘neurological gym’: a format for viewers to exercise feelings of confusion, anxiety and cognitive dissonance that often accompany the experience of change in our lives.

In 2015, Cheng created the Serpentine Galleries’ second digital commission, Bad Corgi, a mindfulness mobile app that invited its users to assume control of a demon pup tasked with benignly herding sheep and avoiding distraction in a world of chaos. Cheng also participated in the 2017 Serpentine Marathon, Guest, Ghost, Host: Machine! in conversation with DeepMind research scientist Richard Evans at London’s City Hall.

This exhibition was accompanied by a new publication, Emissaries Guide to Worlding. Drawing on the three year production journey of the Emissaries trilogy of simulations, Cheng narrates this rich visual ‘how-to’ guide for navigating the unnatural art of Worlding. Cheng writes: ‘This book is for anyone interested in bridging the complexity of Worlding with the finitude of human psychology.’ Featuring contributions by Nora Khan, Ben Vickers and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the publication is co-produced by the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, which commissioned and presented the first episode in the trilogy, Emissary in the Squat of Gods, in Turin, Italy in 2015.

Close

Related Events / Exhibitions

Live

ZSL London Zoo, NW1 4RY

Symposium: The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish, Part 1: Language

28 May 2018 - 6:30 PM

Artists, dancers, writers and scientists gather at the London Zoo to consider animal, human and artificial consciousness, language, and interspecies communication. See below for participants. Participants include writer Ted Chiang, artist Michela de Mattei; dancer Claire Filmon (performing Simone Forti); artist Rasmus Nielsen; dolphin cognition researcher Diana Reiss, as well as a remote participation by Internet pioneer Vint Cerf and a screening of The Great Silence by Allora & Calzadilla (in collaboration with Ted Chiang). Click 'Read More' for a full programme. Part of the Serpentine's General Ecology project.

View Event

Exhibition

Ian Cheng: BOB

6 Mar 2018 to 22 Apr 2018

Ian Cheng populated the Serpentine with artificial life in a two-part exhibition, starting with BOB, until 22 April and continuing with Emissaries from 24 April. 

View Exhibition

Online

Ian Cheng Digital Commission

24 Sep 2015

In the Serpentine Galleries' second Digital Commission artist Ian Cheng invites you to enter the world of Bad Corgi: a shadowy mindfulness app for contemplating chaos.

View Exhibition

Live

Serpentine Gallery

Saturday Talks: Rebecca Lewin on Ian Cheng

5 May 2018 - 3:00 PM

Curator Rebecca Lewin leads a tour of the Ian Cheng exhibition.

View Event

Shop

Ian Cheng: EMISSARIES GUIDE TO WORLDING

Publication

£35.00

Ian Cheng: BOB drawings

Limited Edition

£84.00

Ian Cheng T-shirts: Original Human Matter

Exhibition Product

£20.00

Back to Top

Ian Cheng: BOB, Emissaries

Thursday, 12th April 2018

Ian Cheng in conversation with Nora Khan and Ben Vickers.

Friday, 9th March 2018
IC Emissaries web 2

IC Emissaries web 2

IC Emissaries web 4

IC Emissaries web 4

IC Emissaries web 3

IC Emissaries web 3

2018
IC Emissaries web 5

IC Emissaries web 5

Ian Cheng - Emissary Sunsets The Self image 2

Ian Cheng - Emissary Sunsets The Self image 2

Ian Cheng, Emissary Sunsets The Self live simulation and story, infinite duration, sound 2017

Courtesy of the artist, Pilar Corrias London, Gladstone Gallery, Standard (Oslo)

Ian Cheng - Emissary Sunsets The Self

Ian Cheng - Emissary Sunsets The Self

Ian Cheng, Emissary Sunsets The Self live simulation and story, infinite duration, sound 2017

Courtesy of the artist, Pilar Corrias London, Gladstone Gallery, Standard (Oslo)

Ian Cheng - Emissary Forks At Perfection 2015-2016

Ian Cheng - Emissary Forks At Perfection 2015-2016

Ian Cheng, Emissary Forks At Perfection 2015-2016 live simulation and story, infinite duration, sound, dimensions variable

Courtesy the artist, Pilar Corrias London, Gladstone Gallery, Standard (Oslo)