Art Meets Gaming Culture: Ian Cheng For Serpentine’s Second Digital Commission




In autumn 2015 the Serpentine will launch its new digital commission by artist Ian Cheng. The second in the series, Cheng’s commission follows Cecile B. Evans’s AGNES, a bot living on the Serpentine’s server since 1998 who only made herself known to the world on the Serpentine website in autumn 2013.

Cheng’s commission brings together the worlds of art and gaming in the form of a downloadable video game for mobile devices., which is being produced with emerging games designer Aaron Freedman (co-founder of Secret Crush). This new game focuses on the contradictory challenges of influencing the behaviour of a group of organisms from two perspectives: as a bottom-up member within the group and as a top-down manager of the group.

The artist’s work is informed by algorithmic modelling for the gaming industry and principles of improvisation. Through his work he explores the nature of mutation, emergence and the capacity of humans to relate to change and complexity. In his previous live simulations, familiar objects are programmed with basic properties, but left to influence each other without authorial control – this digital commission will, for the first time, allow users to manipulate and participate in Cheng’s unique simulations.

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Galleries, said: “In an echo of the inter-disciplinarily ethos that informs so much of the Serpentine’s thinking, Ian Cheng explores the fascinating juncture between digital art and mainstream gaming technology. His interest in human behaviour in the face of complexity chimes with a world increasingly beset by uncertainty, from unpredictable weather patterns and erratic financial markets to the game-changing arrival of asymmetric warfare. We cannot wait to see what he is creating for the second ever Serpentine Digital commission.”


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