Ian Cheng

Life After BOB:
The Chalice Study

How will artificial intelligence transform the archetypal scripts that guide our lives?

LAS is pleased to partner with Luma Arles and The Shed on Life After Bob: The Chalice Study which will be presented in an international tour.

Premiering at Luma Arles, in France on June 14, 2021 and further travelling to The Shed in New York for its North American debut on September 10, 2021, before LAS will finally present it to its audience in 2022.

Imagine a future world in which your mind is no longer entirely your own but co-inhabited by an AI entity. Now imagine how life lived with an AI might transform the scripts that guide your sense of a meaningful existence.
In The Chalice Study, the first episode in Cheng’s newly commissioned and ongoing episodic anime series, 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 volatile world, BOB confronts more and more of the conflicts in Chalice’s life on her behalf, while Chalice grows increasingly irrelevant and escapist. As Dr. Wong begins to favor the BOB side of his daughter, and as BOB threatens to do the job of living Chalice’s life better than she can, Chalice jealously wonders: What is left for her classic human self to do?

Life After BOB imagines new archetypal characters for our ever-weirdening times, and gives life to them through an experience that integrates authored cinematic storytelling with open-ended simulated worlding.”

Ian Cheng

With Life After BOB, Cheng bridges his interest in cinematic storytelling’s capacity to evoke deep psychological truths with simulation’s capacity to auto-generate emergent phenomena. In parallel with a cinematic presentation, an interactive “World Watching” presentation of Life After BOB will allow the viewer to pause the movie and freely explore the details of every scene at their own tempo. Finally, viewers are invited to learn more at the Life After BOB wiki, which catalogues characters and artifacts, flora and fauna, and every background detail seen in the episode. The viewer is invited to contribute to and edit this wiki. These edits in turn permanently modify the details of the onscreen world, thereby extending Life After BOB into a new form of programmable narrative media.

“Artificial intelligence presents some of the most urgent and intriguing possibilities for our times. At LAS we work with artists pushing the boundaries between art and new technologies, so I’m delighted to be working with Ian Cheng on this new project which uses cutting-edge technology to describe a provoking and unsettling imagined future, one in which the line between humans and machines has become startlingly blurred.”

Bettina Kames, Director of LAS.

Co-Commissioners

The Shed is a new cultural institution of and for the 21st century. We produce and welcome 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 our 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, theater to literature, and sculpture to dance. We seek opportunities to collaborate with cultural peers and community organizations, work with like-minded partners, and provide unique spaces for private events. As an independent nonprofit that values invention, equity, and generosity, we are 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.

A project of Luma Foundation, Luma Arles is a creative campus located at the Parc des Ateliers (Arles, France). It is home to seven former railway factories, four of which have been renovated by Selldorf Architects as exhibition and performance spaces alongside a 15,000 square meters tower designed by Frank Gehry. As a center of research, production and experimentation, Luma Arles is an ecosystem where artists, thinkers, scientists and civil society stakeholders work together on advancing environmental issues, human rights, creative productions and education. Each year, a programme of exhibitions and cross-disciplinary projects is presented in the renovated galleries of the Grande Halle, the Forges, the Mécanique Générale and the Formation. On June 26th, 2021, the opening of the Luma Tower, the surrounding gardens and public park designed with landscape architect Bas Smets, will complete the transformation of the Parc des Ateliers.

Credits

Life After BOB is produced by Veronica So; with animation producer Nicholas Sung; technical producer Ivaylo Getov; editor Jess Fulton; cinematography by Eric Yue; animation supervisor Valerie Scheiber; sound design by Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr; and composer Brian Reitzell.

Featuring the voices of Poonam Basu, Cherami Leigh, Dana Lee, Gwendoline Yeo, Aly Mawji, Jennifer Swanner, and Sean Patton.

Research developed with The Transformations of the Human at the Berggruen Institute.

Production developed with Gladstone Gallery (New York) and Pilar Corrias Gallery (London).

Organized at The Shed by Emma Enderby, Chief Curator, with Alessandra Gómez, Assistant Curator. Production and exhibition support for Life After BOB at The Shed provided in part by the VIA Art Fund.

Biography

In his artistic practice Ian Cheng explores open-ended live simulation and the capacity of cinematic storytelling to evoke deep psychological truths.
Biography, Ian Cheng
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