Ian Cheng on moral codes, the prescience of George Lucas and making an art world version of Angry Birds.
I first met Ian through our work at Badlands Unlimited, Paul Chan’s art/ebook/whatever publishing company. There, we bonded over our shared love for Kanye West, sardines, and over-the-top summer blockbusters. I suppose it makes sense, then, that his latest works Abax Siluria and Entropy Wrangler seem to take place as action scenes in metaphorical fish tanks. Imbued with his wit and a particular brand of Californian irreverence, these pieces are comical and deeply uncomfortable, often at the same time. His background in cognitive science serves to activate his objects, both physical and digital, with an energy as visceral as it is conceptual. Ian and I recently met at Whole Foods to talk about his recent projects, the importance of what he calls “social realities,” and Angry Birds: Rio.
Dylan Kerr I loved your swamp at PS1. Does it have a title?
Ian Cheng Abax Siluria.
DK Do you mind if I ask what that means?
IC Abax is a sand table, which in ancient times was a format for simulating the topography of the battleground in miniature and using proxy objects to model complex military scenarios. Siluria refers to the Silurian era in Earth’s history right before biological organisms got onto land, when they’re all kind of stewing in the water. It’s also the name of a petro-tech company catalyzing the mutation of actual shit, trash and decay into useful chemical products.