From 24 May to 25 November 2018, in the framework the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s “Hors-les-murs” program, American artist Ian Cheng’s “Emissary Forks At Perfection” (2015-2016) is on display at the Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia. This large, immersive, infinite duration, audio-visual installation is the second chapter of the Emissaries trilogy created by Cheng between 2015 and 2017 (with: “Emissary in the Squat of Gods” and “Emissary Sunsets The Self”). Described by the artist as “a video game that plays itself” the trilogy is comprised of computer-generated simulations like those used in predictive technologies for complex scenarios such as climate change or elections. Populated by a cast of characters and wildlife that interact, intervene, and recombine in open-ended narratives, Cheng’s simulations evolve endlessly as self-contained ecosystems. Cheng’s self-evolving and dynamic work-worlds unfold live across an unlimited time period. Automated camera movements focus on the areas of greatest activity, arbitrarily guiding the observer from one place to the next in the simulation. Each activation is unique, generating new narratives and spontaneous developments that cannot be anticipated.
“Emissary Forks At Perfection takes place many thousands of years in the future, the volcano now a fertile Darwinian playground managed by an AI. During its post-mortem analysis on humankind, AI resurrects the remains of a 21st-century human celebrity into this unrecognizable world and sends Shiba Emissary, a canine superpet, to extract one final impression of a man under stress. The work 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.”
With Emissary Forks at Perfection, Cheng leads the viewer to question the human mind’s adaptive capacities and human evolution in the face of otherness, randomness and the unpredictability of an ever-changing world. Recently acquired by The Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and presented at Serpentine Gallery (London) the Emissaries trilogy traces the evolution of ensembles of beings and the way they adapt to their environment.
For Ian Cheng, the making of Emissaries became a lesson in Worlding – the unnatural art of creating an infinite game by choosing a present, storytelling its past, simulating its futures, and nurturing its changes. Since the 2010s, Cheng body of work jumbles a blend of cognitive sciences, computer programming, and video-game aesthetics: he develops ecosystems, virtual biotopes populated by animated, mutant creatures. As entomologist-demiurge, he breathes artificial and autonomous life into his worlds, then watches them evolve. As in nature, these microcosms are composed of elements of individual logic that meet, collide and mingle in evident, but organic, chaos. These beings take animal, vegetable or mineral form and are programmed with an array of predetermined properties, behaviors and intentions. They then freely move about in the complex universe created by the artist. Escaping the power of their inventor, their trajectories, and encounters – with one another and their environment – are random, allowing for infinite potentialities.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m / Sunday: from 10.30 a.m. to 8 p.m / Open on public holidays / Free entrance.
Location: Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia, Calle del Ridotto 1353, 30124 Venice – Italy
Images courtesy of the artist; Pilar Corrias Gallery, London; Standard (Oslo) and Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris