What is the role of the human being in an age of rapid technological innovation?
For this major exhibition, Cheng will bring his animation into the physical plane for the first time, creating a mesmerising new environment that will allow visitors to materially inhabit the psychological thematics, lore and world of Life After BOB.
Set in “a great anomic era,” Life After BOB is an episodic anime series that imagines a future world in which AI entities co-inhabit human minds.
In the first episode, The Chalice Study, neural engineer Dr. Wong has installed an experimental AI named BOB (“Bag of Beliefs”) into the nervous system of his 10-year-old daughter Chalice. Designed to guide Chalice through the challenges of growing up in a chaotic world, BOB negotiates more and more of life’s conflicts on Chalice’s behalf, while Chalice atrophies in her own fantasies.
As Dr. Wong begins to favour the BOB side of his daughter, and as BOB threatens to do the job of living Chalice’s life better than her, Chalice jealously wonders what is left for her classic human self
Life After BOB was built in the Unity game engine and will be presented live in real-time at Halle am Berghain.
A film of this detail and complexity is unprecedented within a game engine, and Cheng’s is the longest film to have been constructed in this way to date.
In parallel with a cinematic presentation, screens offering interactive “Worldwatching” versions of the real-time film will allow visitors to pause and explore each scene at their own pace, providing an opportunity to dive into the intricate details and lore of the world constructed by the artist.
Cheng studied cognitive science before developing his art practice. In recent work he has drawn on the principles of video game design, improvisation and cognitive science to create computer simulations that explore an agent’s capacity to deal with an ever-changing environment.
Life After BOB: The Chalice Study is the first episode of a planned eight-part miniseries about mental health and existential fitness in the 21st century.
For the first time, Cheng is also developing an experience enhancing environment that will bring different atmospheres of Life After BOB to life inside Halle am Berghain’s 1,435-sqm space.
As the artist says:
“The fiction becomes the movie, becomes the video game, becomes the toys, spinoffs, theme park, becomes a world that flourishes and perpetuates itself.” The exhibition will also include a merchandise offering, specially designed and produced for this show, including apparel and cherishables.”
Amira Gad, Head of Programmes at LAS and curator of the exhibition, said:
“We are hugely excited to present Ian Cheng’s work at Halle am Berghain this autumn. Within a specially-constructed physical environment – a first for the artist – audiences will be transported into
Life After BOB’s thematically chilling universe. His disquieting vision of the development of AI asks us to confront the ways in which technology is already deeply entrenched in contemporary experience,
not just in daily life, but in our navigation of selfhood.”
- Writer & Director: Ian Cheng
- Producer: Veronica So
- Animation Producer: Nick Sung
- Technical Producer: Ivaylo Getov
- Director of Photography: Eric Yue
- Editor: Jess Fulton
- Animation Supervisor: Valerie Scheiber
- Sound Design: Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr
- Music: Brian Reitzel
- Curated by Amira Gad
- Assisted by Liz Stumpf
- Produced by Flinder Zuyderhoff-Gray
- Ian Cheng’s Life After BOB: The Chalice Study (2021) is co-commissioned by LAS, Luma Foundation and The Shed.
- The interactive mobile application is supported by the Leeum Museum of Art (Seoul).
About Ian Cheng
Ian Cheng (born Los Angeles, 1984) is an artist living and working in New York. He has exhibited widely including solo presentations at MoMA PS1, New York; Serpentine Galleries, London; and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh and group presentations at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art; New York; the 2019 Venice Biennale; Hirshhorn Museum; Washington, D.C.; Tate Modern, London; Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen; and Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.
Since 2012, Cheng has produced a series of simulations exploring an agent’s capacity to deal with an ever-changing environment. These works culminated in the “Emissaries” trilogy, which introduced a narrative agent whose motivation to enact a story was set into conflict with the open-ended chaos of the simulation. Most recently, he has developed BOB (Bag of Beliefs), an AI creature whose personality, body, and life story evolve across exhibitions, what Cheng calls “art with a nervous system.” In 2015, Cheng founded Metis Suns, a production company dedicated to worlding and worlding literacy.
LAS is a Berlin-based art foundation that brings together art, technology and science. Committed to new ways of presenting art, LAS commissions experimental projects, both physical and digital, in unconventional spaces. LAS is dedicated to future thinking and light is the foundation’s guiding principle – a symbol of imagination, discovery and innovation. Art should be accessible to all. With this in mind, LAS is committed to commissioning and presenting engaging experiences that are relevant to our communities and our times. Light is a leitmotif for the programme that features contemporary, pioneering and emerging artists involved in a variety of events, exhibitions, publications and digital projects. The open and interdisciplinary platform fosters a future-led approach that challenges our perception of the present and stimulates future imaginaries. As the foundation grows, LAS looks to build a new institutional model that plays a role in shaping our future and which will be grounded in a permanent home in Berlin.
About The Shed
The Shed (New York) is a new cultural institution of and for the 21st century, producing and elcoming innovative art and ideas, across all forms of creativity, to build a shared understanding of our rapidly changing world and a more equitable society. In a highly adaptable building on Manhattan’s west side, The Shed brings together established and emerging artists to create new work in fields ranging from pop to classical music, painting to digital media, theatre to literature, and sculpture to dance. As an independent nonprofit that values invention, equity, and generosity, The Shed committed to advancing art forms, addressing the urgent issues of our time, and making our work impactful, sustainable, and relevant to the local community, the cultural sector, New York City, and beyond.
About Luma Foundation
Maja Hoffmann is the founder of the Luma Foundation, which was established in 2004 in Switzerland. Luma has been focusing on the direct relationships between art, culture, human rights, environmental topics, education and research. The Foundation is committed to creating a space where different disciplines meet, interact and impact each other. Its vision is actualised in the experimental campus Luma Arles, a cultural space in the South of France (open since June 2021)
whose focus is on forward-thinking ideas and the changing nature of contemporary cultural production. The aim of Luma Arles is to address urgent issues around culture, natur, scientific experimentation and ecology while promoting new structures for innovation and positive change. Located at the Parc des Ateliers in Arles, Luma has a growing social impact on the local community and has gained extensive recognition over the years through its diverse projects and artistic