PRINT Summer 2014

Ian Cheng

Ian Cheng, Thousand Islands Thousand Laws, 2013–, ongoing digital live simulation.

IN MY ANIMATED SIMULATION Thousand Islands Thousand Laws, 2013–, a video-game gunman, a flock of herons, and an island of plants endlessly mix and mutate—not only in shape and behavior but also in status: as protagonists, as extras, as props. The camera moves through the simulation like a nature documentarian, uncertain as to what is truly of interest in the frame, hedging on every emergent story. It learns to focus on small disruptions, where lines of influence are revealed and status gets reshuffled. A “who” becomes a “what,” figure becomes ground, noise becomes information. The only stable view is of change itself.

What are cartoons in the era of big data? Artificial models to play with complexities that our mental models—enforced by reflexes, emotions, habit, memory, language—cannot grasp alone. At the risk of caricaturing the awe of the world, cartoons can squash and stretch deep-rooted causal chains and freely reframe part-to-whole perceptions in a nauseating Powers of Ten zoom. Can we self-stimulate human evolution in order to render nonhuman-scaled complexities thinkable, even feelable? Cartooning to mutate consciousness is the premise of my recent work.

Ian Cheng is an artist based in New York.