Ian Cheng was feeling adrift. It was the start of 2013; he was nearly 30, with an art degree from Berkeley and another from Columbia, but he needed an idea, something to build a career on. Pondering the question one wintry afternoon in the balcony cafe at the Whole Foods Market on Houston Street, a place that promises people-watching and “you time,” he found himself gazing absently at the shoppers below.
He grew increasingly transfixed. The market was its own little ecosystem, with clear-cut rules but elements of chance thrown in. Somebody’s dog that wouldn’t behave. A guy sneaking food from the salad bar. People doubling back to get a plate. An idea began to form in Cheng’s head, an idea that drew on his other major at Berkeley, in cognitive science. His thoughts ran to complex systems. Emergent behavior. And what if a video game engine could …
Today, eight years later, Cheng is an internationally known artist who has used artificial intelligence and video game technology to explore such themes as the nature of human consciousness and a future in which we coexist with intelligent machines.
That future is precisely the subject of his latest work, a 48-minute “narrative animation” — please don’t call it a film — currently being shown at Luma Arles, the new art park in the south of France. On Sept. 10 it also goes on view at the Shed in New York. Somewhat cryptically titled “Life After BOB: The Chalice Study,” it is a commentary on the potential of A.I. to mess up your life.
Cheng followers will recognize BOB from earlier exhibitions at Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea and the Serpentine Galleries in London. That BOB was a virtual creature, an artificial intelligence whose name stands for “Bag of Beliefs” — a subtle dig, perhaps, at early A.I. researchers who thought they could program a computer with everything it needed to know. His new work is the story of a 10-year-old girl named Chalice and her father, Dr. Wong, who invented BOB and implanted it in her nervous system at birth to guide her as she grows up.
Like the rest of Cheng’s work, “Life After BOB” is brainy, tech-focused and informed by cognitive psychology, neuroscience, machine learning and A.I. — concepts like deep learning and artificial neural networks, which underlie the advances that have given us Siri and Alexa and facial recognition software. “He’s one of the most radical artists working with digital technology today,” said Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic…
Continue reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/27/arts/design/ian-cheng-shed-life-after-bob.html