It commemorates Cheng’s progressive practice in new digital art and honours his receipt of the 2017 “Award for the Filmic Oeuvre“, presented by Louis Vuitton in association with KINO DER KUNST. Conceived and produced under the artistic direction of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the exhibition showcases key works by Cheng in the framework of the Fondation’s “Hors-les-Murs“ program, destined to introduce previously unseen artworks from its permanent collection to audiences of the Espaces Culturels Louis Vuitton in Munich, Venice, Beijing, and Tokyo, thus realizing its mission to curate ambitious international art projects and share its collection with a broader public.
Cheng is an artist dissolving the boundaries between art and artificial intelligence. Drawing on the principles of video game design, cognitive science and improvisation, he develops “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. The artist describes his simulations as a form of “neurological gym“: a format to exercise the feelings of confusion, anxiety and cognitive dissonance that accompany the perpetual state of change, a defining characteristic of our times.
The lower gallery showcases two recent works from Cheng’s Emissary Trilogy (2015-17), whose narrative begins in the distant past and ends in the far future. Emissary Forks At Perfection (2015-2016) is a live simulation middle chapter. Displayed as a panoramic projection, it simulates a fertile Darwinian playground managed by an AI. During its post-mortem analysis on humankind, the AI resurrects the remains of a 21st century human into this unrecognizable world, and sends Shiba Emissary, a canine super-pet, to extract one final impression of man under stress.
Emissary Forks For You (2016) evolves from Emissary Forks At Perfection by developing a direct relationship between the human viewer and the Shiba Emissary character. It is an augmented-reality simulation for the Google Tango tablet, a new platform that allows a mobile device to identify its exact position in relation to its surroundings without using GPS or other external signals. The virtual setting of this artwork is the Espace itself, and visitors are invited to use the tablet as a portal to physically follow and interact with Shiba Emissary.
Visitors can wander to the neighbouring Maison Louis Vuitton, rendering the social reality of the store into a new kind of nature space. As Shiba Emissary verbally commands the viewer to follow her throughout the exhibition with promise of reward, the viewer assumes a new role: Shiba’s pet.
On the upper gallery level, Cheng’s earlier simulation Thousand Islands Thousand Laws (2013) is presented for the first time as a room-sized LED screen. A video-game gunman, a flock of herons, and an island of plants endlessly mix and mutate – not only in shape and behaviour but also in status: as protagonists, as extras, as props. The camera moves through the simulation like a nature documentarian, uncertain as to what in the frame is truly of interest, hedging on every emergent story. The agents and ecology in Thousand Islands Thousand Laws served as prototypes of the algorithms, systems, and AI models that govern Emissary Forks At Perfection.
Ian Cheng is the recipient of the 2017 “Award for the Filmic Oeuvre“, the third edition of the prize dedicated to an outstanding contemporary artist working at the intersection of visual arts and moving image. It is awarded by Louis Vuitton in the framework of KINO DER KUNST, Munich’s biennial festival of contemporary art and film, which in 2017 is based on the theme Fiction & Reality. The jury of this year’s award comprises: Jean-Paul Claverie (Advisor to the Chairman, Fondation Louis Vuitton), Ingvild Goetz (Founder, Goetz Collection), Hans Ulrich Obrist (Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries), Suzanne Pagé (Artistic Director, Fondation Louis Vuitton), and Heinz-Peter Schwerfel (Artistic Director, KINO DER KUNST). Cheng’s solo show is in recognition of this partnership and his work’s recent accession to the permanent collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Previous recipients of the award include Cory Arcangel (2015) and Wael Shawky (2013).
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