From 9 September to 6 November 2022, LAS will be showing Ian Cheng – Life After BOB at the Halle am Berghain. The exhibition imagines a future in which humans and AI merge. At the centre is a 50-minute animation co-commissioned by LAS, which Cheng is translating into an installation format for the first time on this occasion. In this way, he creates a tangible environment in which the world and psychological themes of his latest work Life After BOB can be experienced by visitors.
image above: Ian Cheng, Life After BOB: The Chalice Study, 2021, Live Animation, Farbe, Sound, 48 Min.
Life After BOB is an anime series set in the age of the “great anomic crisis”: a future world where AI beings co-inhabit the human mind. In the first episode, The Chalice Study, neuro-engineer Dr Wong inserts an experimental AI called BOB (“Bag of Beliefs”) into his daughter Chalice’s nervous system. BOB, designed to manoeuvre Chalice through the challenges of growing up in an ever-changing world, quickly begins to resolve all conflicts for 10-year-old Chalice. As a result, Dr. Wong begins to favour his daughter’s BOB side more and more, while she herself increasingly loses touch with reality. When BOB begins to live Chalice’s life supposedly better than she does, she jealously wonders what she has left as a human being.
Created in the Unity game engine, Life After BOB is presented in real time at the Halle am Berghain. Such a detailed and complex film streamed live from a game engine is unprecedented, and Cheng’s work, at 50 minutes, is the longest film conceived in this way to date. Following the film screening, an interactive “World Watching” allows the audience to pause the film and explore the details of individual scenes at their own pace. In this way, visitors can immerse themselves individually in the multi-layered world built by the artist and take a closer look at its details.
Cheng studied cognitive science before developing his artistic practice. Inspired by video game design, improvisation and cognitive science, his recent work has created computer simulations that explore how actors navigate a continuously changing environment. Life After BOB: The Chalice Study is the first episode of a planned eight-part mini-series on mental health in the 21st century.
For the first time, Cheng is developing an experiential environment that brings different atmospheres of Life After BOB to life in the 1,435 square metre hall at Berghain. “Fiction becomes a film, a video game, toys, spin-offs, an amusement park, a world that thrives and perpetuates itself,” is how Ian Cheng describes it.
For the first time, Ian Cheng designed an individual NFT experience, TRUE NAME, especially for Life After BOB, which accompanies visitors through the exhibition. At the end of the exhibition visit, the personalised NFTs, which are stored on the Tezos blockchain, can be purchased for free using a QR code. The souvenir collection designed by LAS in close collaboration with the artist and produced in limited edition is also available in the store.
Bettina Kames, Director of LAS: “LAS works with artists who are pushing the boundaries of how we see the future. Cheng is one of the most innovative artists in animation. He uses the Unity game engine to develop the building blocks of an entire cinematic universe.
Life After BOB is extraordinary in its technical realisation, and therefore meets our approach of promoting innovation in art, technology and science. I look forward to seeing how it transforms the Halle am Berghain, helping us to challenge perceptions of our present with projects that are ahead of their time and accessible to all.”
Amira Gad, Director of Programmes LAS and curator of the exhibition: “We are very excited to be showing Ian Cheng’s Life After BOB at Halle am Berghain this autumn. In a specially designed physical environment for LAS – a first for the artist – visitors:inside can immerse themselves in the sweeping world of Life After BOB. Cheng’s disturbing vision of the future of AI challenges us to examine how deeply technologies have already inscribed themselves into our lives, not only in our everyday lives, but also in the formation of our identities.
Ian Cheng’s Life After BOB: The Chalice Study (2021) was jointly commissioned by LAS, the Luma Foundation and The Shed. The interactive mobile application was supported by the Leeum Museum of Art (Seoul).
About Ian Cheng
Ian Cheng was born in Los Angeles in 1984 and lives and works as an artist in New York. His work has been exhibited worldwide, including solo shows at MoMA PS1, New York, the Serpentine Galleries in London and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. He has also been part of group presentations at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, as well as at the Venice Biennale 2019, the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., the Tate Modern, London, the Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen, and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.
Since 2012, Cheng has been producing simulations that explore how different actors deal with a constantly changing environment. The highlight of this series was the “Emissaries” trilogy, in which protagonists whose goal is to tell a story come into conflict with the chaos of the open world of a simulation. Most recently, he developed BOB (“Bag of Beliefs”), an AI entity whose personality, appearance and life story evolve over exhibitions, which Cheng calls “art with a nervous system”. In 2015, Cheng founded Metis Suns, a production company dedicated to world education and world building skills.
LAS is a Berlin-based art platform at the intersection of art, technology and science. With experimental projects in unconventional locations, both in digital and physical space, LAS continues to explore innovative forms of exhibition practice. In its reflections on the future, LAS follows its leitmotif of light – a symbol that stands for cross-border thinking, new knowledge and innovation. To this end, LAS works closely with artists to realise site-specific installations and interventions that enable a broad public to experience the senses in an expansive way. The interdisciplinary approach is intended to broaden the view – both of the present and the future. Before opening its own permanent spaces, LAS realises pilot projects at selected locations in Berlin and worldwide.
About The Shed
The Shed is a new kind of cultural institution for the 21st century. By promoting and presenting innovative interdisciplinary art, it actively contributes to a shared understanding of our rapidly changing world and to creating a more equitable society. In a dynamic and adaptable building on Manhattan’s West Side, The Shed brings together established and emerging artists. New work is created in fields ranging from pop to classical music, painting to digital media, theatre to literature, and sculpture to dance. The Shed collaborates with a variety of cultural institutions and practitioners, community organisations and like-minded partners, but also offers unique spaces for private events. As an independent non-profit organisation that values ingenuity, equity and generosity, The Shed is committed to promoting diverse art forms, addressing the most pressing issues of our time and making its relevant work impactful and sustainable. For the local community, the cultural sector, the city of New York and far beyond.
About the Luma Foundation
The Luma Foundation was founded in 2004 by Maja Hoffman in Switzerland. Luma addresses the relationship between art, culture, human rights, the environment, education and research.
The foundation creates a place where different disciplines can meet, exchange and inspire each other. Its vision is realised in the experimental campus Luma Arles, a cultural venue in the south of France (open since 2021) that explores forward-looking ideas and the changing nature of contemporary cultural production. Luma Arles aims to address current issues around culture, nature, scientific experimentation and ecology, and to create new structures for innovation and positive change. The campus in the Parc des Ateliers in Arles has a growing social impact on the local community and has been widely recognised for its diverse projects and artistic programmes in recent years.
Am Wriezener Bahnhof, 10243 Berlin-Friedrichshain.
Friday, 9 September until Sunday, 6 November 2022