Ian Cheng: A Portal to Infinity
When reading the book ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’ (1976) by Julian Jaynes, Cheng was fascinated by its theory that people in ancient times didn’t make conscious, reflected decisions, and that it wasn’t until recently that we got what Cheng refers to as “the app of consciousness.” This inspired Cheng to make the Emissary works: “I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s certainly weird, and it definitely captured my imagination for making these works called ‘Emissaries’.” “Technology is maybe the one underlying force that forces us as human beings to consider what the container of a human being really is and how much it can stretch or where it will break.” Cheng has always been very interested in artificial intelligence, and the live simulations were his opportunity to create his own model of the composition of the mind. The look of ‘Emissaries’ is inspired by the Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki, where everything in the background, such as nature, is unique: “I wanted to fuse the disciplines of procedural generation with traditional 3D animation to make unique motion capture, to make unique 3D models, to make unique rocks, plants and animals as a way of replicating this sort of cartoonish nature.” Ian Cheng (b. 1984) is an American artist known for his live simulations, which explore the nature of mutation and human behaviour. His simulations, commonly understood as “virtual ecosystems”, are less about the wonders of new technologies than about the potential for these tools to realize ways of relating to a chaotic existence. Ian Cheng was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at his studio in New York City in September 2017. The Emissary works was filmed at MoMA PS1.