Ian Cheng’s work explores the nature of mutation and the capacity of humans to relate to change. Drawing on principles of video game design, improvisation, and cognitive science, Cheng has developed “live simulations”, living virtual ecosystems that begin with basic programmed properties, but are left to self-evolve without authorial intent or end. His simulations model the dynamics of often imaginative organisms and objects, but do so with the unforgiving causality found in nature itself. What results is a cascade of emergent behaviors that the artist can manage but never truly control. Cheng describes his simulations as akin to a “neurological gym”: a format for viewers to deliberately exercise feelings of confusion, anxiety, and cognitive dissonance that accompany the experience of unrelenting change. Through simulations, Cheng wonders if it’s possible to love these difficult feelings and refactor our relationship to indeterminacy as a feature of being alive today, not a bug.
Recent solo exhibitions include: Ian Cheng Emissaries, Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin (2018); Ian Cheng, Serpentine Gallery, London (2018); Emissaries, MoMA PS1, New York (2017); Forking at Perfection, Migros Museum, Zurich, curated by Raphael Gygax (2016); Emissary Forks At Perfection, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London (2015); Emissary in the Squat of Gods, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2015); Real Humans, with Wu Tsang, Jordan Wolfson, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf (2015); Ian Cheng, La Triennale di Milano, Milan (2014); Baby feat. Bali, Standard (Oslo), Oslo (2013); Entropy Wrangler, Off Vendome, Düsseldorf (2013); Too Humans All Too Humans, Vanity, Los Angeles (2013); and This Papaya Tastes Perfect, Formalist Sidewalk Poetry Club, Miami Beach (2011).
Recent group exhibitions include: Seeds of Time (curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Yongwoo Lee), Shanghai Himalayas Museum, Shanghai (2017); After Us, K11 Art Foundation in Partnership with New Museum New York (curated by Lauren Cornell), Shanghai (2017); Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, Whitney Museum, New York (2016); Liverpool Biennial (2016); WELT AM DRAHT, Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin (2016); Stranger, MOCA, Cleveland (2016); Suspended Animation, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington (2016); Co-Workers, Musee d’Moderne Paris (2015); Co-Workers: Beyond Disaster, Bétonsalon, Paris (2015); Works on Paper, Greene Naftali, New York (2015); Taipei Biennial – The Great Acceleration, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei (2014); Phantom Limbs, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London (2014); chatbots, tongues, denial, and various other abstractions, Bortolami Gallery, New York (2014); Season Eight: Pierre Huyghe, The Artist’s Institute, New York (2014); 12th Lyon Biennial – Meanwhile, suddenly, and then, Le Sucriere, Lyon (2013); Freak Out, Greene Naftali Gallery, New York (2013); ProBio, Expo1, MoMA PS1, New York (2013); and A Disagreeable Object, Sculpture Center, New York (2012).