Ian Cheng

Carnegie Museum of Art
September 22, 2017 – January 28, 2018

Cheng is best known for his digital simulation works that draw on his background in cognitive science and employ rudimentary forms of artificial intelligence (AI). Coding these unpredictable animated worlds from the ground up, he uses the language of video games to probe complex themes such as evolution, human behavior, and the history of consciousness.

Emissary Sunsets The Self is the third work in the artist’s Emissaries trilogy (2015–2017). Each simulation in the series—set on the same volcanic site separated by thousands of years—explores a pivotal moment in Cheng’s interpretation of cognitive evolution, past and future. His protagonists, or Emissaries, are equipped with customized AI, allowing them to shape—and be shaped by—their strange environments as they work to accomplish narrative tasks.

Emissary Sunsets The Self is set millennia in the future on a volcanic atoll now under the control of MotherAI, who begins to provoke radical mutations in the landscape that threaten the region’s ecological stability. Driven by instinct, the atoll’s inhabitants protect their world, while one agent, the Rancher, encourages MotherAI’s mutations to demonstrate their magic.

Curator: Eric Crosby

Photography credits: Brian Conley