in other words

Everything you ever wanted to know about the art market but didn't know who to ask
14 March 2019

Guest Ian Cheng. Photo: Matthew Magelof

#54 Artist Ian Cheng: “The best art is like a Trojan horse”

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

Ian Cheng wants to change the way you think. “I really want to make art that taps into some part of a viewer’s neurology and gets them into a different state,” Cheng says to host Charlotte Burns during this In Other Words podcast. The wide-ranging conversation covers topics from the freedom afforded humans by AI, to the genius of The Real Housewives television show.

Cheng creates art with a nervous system: his practice often involves computer simulations that resemble video games—albeit ones that play themselves. His current exhibition "BOB: Bag of Beliefs" centers around an AI lifeform whose evolution is shaped by viewers who can make offerings—both poisonous and benign—to BOB via an app. Cheng has created his own form of art; a work that is mesmerizing and surprisingly moving (at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York until 23 March).

“It’s a funny time we live in,” says Cheng, who studied both cognitive science and art. He wants his work to tap into our limbic systems (“the most easily triggered and exploitable” part of the brain) with the goal of making us “feel safe enough to be explorative, to be open-minded, to be conscientious”.

Following in the footsteps of artists and storytellers across the centuries, Cheng is spinning tales that might better help us understand our world, using cutting-edge technology to do so.


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Art Agency, Partners is a bespoke art advisory firm founded in 2014, and built upon decades of combined experience, to provide counsel to many of the world's leading art collectors and institutions on collection assessment and development, estate planning, and innovative approaches to museum giving and growth.

Editor Charlotte Burns