Exhibition view: Ian Cheng, BOB, Gladstone Gallery, New York (31 January–23 March 2019). Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.
Ian Cheng and I discovered our mutual adoration for dogs within the first quarter of our meeting, a few weeks prior to his exhibition, BOB, at Gladstone Gallery. Through the end of our conversation, I knew why no wonder we—two people who had just met—were exchanging photos of our four-legged friends from our iPhones. Swiping through images of our pets on our smart devices, we imaged what they were doing as we sat at a Chinatown locale, not unlike caretakers of _BOB _(Bag of Beliefs), the eponymous protagonist of Cheng's new exhibition. This AI grows before the eyes and under care of an audience, who downloads BOB Shrine iOS app to their smartphones and attend to BOB through parental directives. However, BOB is beyond its maker and audience, evolving outside the limitations of gallery hours and viewer attention.
Since earning his MFA from Columbia University in 2009, Cheng has been investigating ways to infuse humanity into the machine, not shying away from the possibilities embedded in chaos, in defiance of pristine and consequential order technology and science manifest. After debuting at Serpentine Galleries early last year, BOB continues Cheng's utilization of simulation to challenge narrative constructs of art, a path he embarked on with his Emissaries saga, composed of intertwined and infinite narrative possibilities within live simulation, which will be a part of the upcoming Sharjah Biennial 14 in March.