Ian Cheng

“Entropy Wrangler,” Ian Cheng’s 2013 exhibition at Off Vendome in Dusseldorf, was an excellent introduction to the logic behind this artist’s practice. The centerpiece was a large projection in the gallery’s basement described as “a live computer simulation that changes and evolves, forever.” Like all of Cheng’s simulations, it was programmed with motion capture techniques that register the physical movements of performers that are then translated onto digital bodies. These bodies coexist as individual entities subject to the laws and dynamics of a causal, virtual world: avatars of people and common objects, like hammers and basketball players, rendered in basic three-dimensional form and caught in the zero gravity of the digital screen

Ian Cheng

Life after bob
Ian Cheng’s Life After BOB is an episodic anime series built in the Unity game engine and presented live in real-time. Bridging the artist’s interest in simulation’s capacity to generate emergent surprising phenomena, with cinematic storytelling’s capacity to evoke deep psychological truths, Life After BOB imagines a future world in which our minds are co-inhabited by AI entities. Life After BOB asks: How will life lived with AI transform the archetypal scripts that guide our sense of a meaningful existence?

Ian Cheng


Cheng’s work explores mutation, the history of human consciousness and our capacity as a species to relate to change. Drawing on principles of video game design, improvisation and cognitive science, Cheng develops live simulations – virtual ecosystems of infinite duration, populated with agents who are programmed with behavioural drives but left to self-evolve without authorial intent, following the unforgiving causality found in nature.

Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Maria Guta and Adrian Ganea


Performance & live computer generated simulation

A postmodern fairytale, Cyberia takes place somewhere in a cold distant East, stretching between and endless imaginary realm and a vast physical space. It is a westwards journey towards a promised future with no arrival and no return. There is no here or there, only a twilight zone between a departure point and a simulated destination. Between digital video projections and a physical setting, using the mechanics of a video-game engine with a motion capture suit, Cyberia is the simulation of an endless pre-climax state where a performer and a CG avatar dance as one to the rhythms of an imaginary West. In a world oversaturated by digital data –mysticism and paranormal are as popular as ever. Emerging technologies are increasingly incorporated in a form of postmodern spiritualism, as Arthur C. Clarke points out: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


Cloud Osaka
Envisioned as a high-resolution urban interchange, Cloud Osaka embodies Biothing’s approach to complex design synthesis across multiple orders of scale. Due to its central position in the city, a high convergence of users and one of Asia’s densest transportation nodes found in the adjacent JR Osaka Station, the key driver for the project was to understand 2.5 million people traversing the site every day. This is nearly 10 times the number of daily passengers at the busiest airports in the world. Such an extreme volume of pedestrian traffic, compounded by other forms of traffic in the area, warranted choosing computational physics simulation ordinarily used to simulate systems like river flows; indeed, a key driver for the project became the concept of a “river of people”.


Morphogenetic Creations
Created by a mathematician, digital artist and Emmy award winning supervisor of computer generated effects – Andy Lomas, Morphogenetic Creations is a collection of works that explore the nature of complex forms that can be produced by digital simulation of growth systems. These pieces start with a simple initial form which is incrementally developed over time by adding iterative layers of complexity to the structure.The aim is to create structures emergently: exploring generic similarities between many different forms in nature rather than recreating any particular organism. In the process he is exploring universal archetypal forms that can come from growth processes rather than top-down externally engineered design.Programmed using C++ with CUDA, the series use a system of growth by deposition: small particles of matter are repeatedly deposited onto a growing structure to build incrementally over time. Rules are used to determine how new particles are created, and how they move before being deposited. Small changes to these rules can have dramatic effects on the final structure, in effect changing the environment in which the form is grown. To create these works, Andy uses the GPU as a compute device rather than as a display device. All the data is held in memory on the GPU and various kernel functions are called to do things like apply forces to the cells, make cells split, and to render the cells using ray-tracing. The simulations and rendering for each of the different animated structures within this piece take about 12 hours to run, Andy explains. By the end of the simulations there are over 50,000,000 cells in each structure.The Cellular Forms use a more biological model, representing a simplified system of cellular growth. Structures are created out of interconnected cells, with rules for the forces between cells, as well as rules for how cells accumulate internal nutrients. When the nutrient level in a cell exceeds a given threshold the cell splits into two, with both the parent and daughter cells reconnecting to their immediate neighbours. Many different complex organic structures are seen to arise from subtle variations on these rules, creating forms with strong reminiscences of plants, corals, internal organs and micro-organisms.

Morphing Matter Lab

Printed Paper Actuator
“Printed Paper Actuator is the project that achieves a low cost, reversible and electrical actuation and sensing method. This method that requires simple and easy fabrication steps enables our paper actuator to achieve different types of motion and even various electrical sensing abilities: touch sensing, slider, and self-bending-angle detection. We introduce a software tool that assists the design, simulation, and printing toolpath generation.” Morphing Matter Lab