Ian Cheng
Life After BOB

9 Sept – 6 Nov 2022
Halle am Berghain

A groundbreaking cinematic experience that engages a central contemporary question: what is the status of human life, in an age of rapid technological innovation?

Ian Cheng: Life After BOB, 9 September – 6 November 2022 at Halle am Berghain, Berlin © 2022 Ian Cheng. Presented by LAS (Light Art Space) © Photograph: Andrea Rossetti © Video: Alexander Ronsdorf

Centring on Ian Cheng’s first narrative film The Chalice Study, this LAS-commissioned exhibition plunges into the complex relationship between technology, human free will and desire. Life After BOB is a planned eight-part anime miniseries by Ian Cheng, wherein humans and AI merge, with turbulent  consequences.

The exhibition advances the American artist's practice as, for the first time, Cheng situates his work with computer-simulated animation in a physical installation. Inside Berlin’s iconic post-industrial venue Halle am Berghain, the resultant experience takes viewers on a psychologically charged journey far beyond the screen. Ultimately, this odyssey unfolds within us, and our shifting social and technological context.

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

Imagine a future world in which your mind is no longer entirely your own, but co-inhabited by an AI entity. Now imagine how a life lived with an AI might transform the scripts that guide your sense of a meaningful existence.

Set in not-so-distant 2074, Life After BOB is an episodic anime series that imagines a future world in which the internet extends into our nervous systems, psychotropic foods unify physical and psychic realities into one fluid experience stream, AI entities are permitted to co-inhabit human minds, and anomie reigns. In 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 volatile world, BOB confronts more and more of the conflicts in Chalice’s life on her behalf, while Chalice grows increasingly 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

Ian Cheng: Life After BOB: The Chalice Study, Real-time story and Simulation, Sound, 50min © 2021 Ian Cheng.

With Life After BOB, Cheng bridges cinematic storytelling, with the computer simulation techniques of his earlier work. The Chalice Study is the most ambitious feature film yet produced using Unity video game engine. This method separates the film from cinema as we know it. Instead of being projected from a reel or file, it is live-streamed for each screening. Meanwhile, an algorithmic feed perpetually transforms its details. After each streaming of the film, viewers encounter an interactive ‘worldwatching’ station. Here, they can pause the film and explore its details at their own speed. The exhibition will also include a merchandise offering, specially designed and produced for this show, including apparel and cherishables. In this way, Cheng’s work achieves an unprecedented reach into our shared culture, and viewers’ lives. Together with LAS, Cheng also produces a bespoke NFT experience titled TRUE NAME, which will generate personalised prompts to guide visitors through the exhibition and engage them in the existential themes of the film Life After BOB: The Chalice Study. Each unique NFT is powered by Tezos and can be obtained for free via QR code in the exhibition’s store.

‘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 that 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

Exhibition Booklet

Exhibition Booklet (EN)

Ian Cheng, Life After BOB
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Exhibition Booklet (DE)

Ian Cheng, Life After BOB
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Biography

Ian Cheng
Artist
Article

‘The holy grail in storytelling is if I can start a story as an author, and then have a simulation and AI help complete it in a meaningful way.’

– Ian Cheng

Ian Cheng: Life After BOB, 9 September - 6 November 2022 at Halle am Berghain, Berlin © 2022 Ian Cheng. Presented by LAS (Light Art Space) © Andrea Rossetti

Article

‘Ian Cheng has built a brave new world deep in the belly of Halle am Berghain. Presented by LAS (Light Art Space), the exhibition is a hypnotic, techno-psychedelic future in the grips of a “Great Anomic Era.”’

– Ian Cheng

Ian Cheng: Life After BOB, 9 September - 6 November 2022 at Halle am Berghain, Berlin © 2022 Ian Cheng. Presented by LAS (Light Art Space) © Andrea Rossetti

Article

‘By becoming an artist, I want to bring transcendent experiences to people who otherwise wouldn't go so far as to seek them.’

– Ian Cheng

Ian Cheng: Life After BOB, 9 September - 6 November 2022 at Halle am Berghain, Berlin © 2022 Ian Cheng. Presented by LAS (Light Art Space) © Andrea Rossetti

Life After BOB: The Chalice Study is co-commissioned by LAS (Light Art Space), The Shed and Luma Foundation.

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.

The interactive mobile application is supported by Leeum Museum of Art (Seoul).

NFTs powered by Tezos.

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