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Ian Cheng Emissaries

Ian Cheng: Emissaries
April 9–September 25, 2017

MoMA PS1

MoMA PS1 presents Ian Cheng’s (b. 1984) first US museum solo presentation, featuring the artist’s complete Emissary trilogy (2015–17), a series of three live simulations dedicated to the history of cognitive evolution. Using an engine for developing video games, Emissary is made up of open-ended animations with no fixed outcome or narrative—a format Cheng calls „live simulation.“ These works ask us to imagine technology not as a subordinate reflection of our own minds, but as a tool to model a non-anthropomorphic vision of history and consciousness.

The trilogy was recently acquired by The Museum of Modern Art.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the artist will joins us for a Modern Mondays event at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, April 24.

Ian Cheng Emissaries


EMISSARY FORKS AT PERFECTION, live simulation and story, 2015-2016

Volcano to crater lake: what was once a geological disaster zone has grown into a fertile darwinian playground. 3,000 years following Emissary in the Squat of Gods (2015), an artificial intelligence called Talus Twenty Nine manages the landscape, compulsively gambling on the creation and survival of new forks in the evolutionary tree. After whimsically excavating and resurrecting the body of an ancient 21st century celebrity, Talus sends Shiba Emissary, its prized canine super-pet, to greet the undead human and introduce him to their hell.

Emissary Forks At Perfection is composed of two contradictory forms: a simulation of a darwinian playground disturbed by an atavistic human; and a deterministic story of an emissary’s emerging consciousness. Pushed together to occupy the same landscape, each form threatens to destabilize and mutate the other. Here, a story may escape its classical fixity and indefinitely procrastinate its conclusion. A simulation may find itself sculpted by narrative needs into sequences of controlled chaos. A sudden pattern of feelings may grow inside you, with or without you.

Ian Cheng Live Simulations
„What is a simulation? It is a private game we devise when the aliveness of a situation is too complex to really know. It is drafting reality through an ocean of forking behaviors to find an optimal end. What is a live simulation? It is playing this game in public and not letting it end when the game gets good. Darwin said the greatest live simulation is nature herself, who incessantly tries and fails aloud, never stopping at perfection. But nature is often too fast, too slow, too big, too small, for us. We desire a live simulation at scale with human spacetime, but unending in its variety and blind to our barometers of quality. A live simulation that we can feel, but does not give a fig for us.“