Emissary Forks at Perfection (2015–16)
Emissary Forks at Perfection, 2015–16
Infinite duration, live simulation + sound
Loan from Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich
Emissary Forks at Perfection is the second part of the Emissary trilogy by Ian Cheng. The series consists of live algorithmic simulations in which the artist creates a model for human cognition and self-consciousness and the way in which this is evolving in respect of artificial intelligence (AI). Cheng developed three personalities that all have a different level of self-consciousness – from an automaton that bases its actions on the direct control from an external being; to a highly advanced AI that processes information and acts on a metalevel; and finally, humans, with their need for narrative and sentiment. Cheng brings these three characters together in a landscape in which they continuously react to each other, comparable to video game that is playing against itself. The actions of the characters seem completely unpredictable but are prompted by a self-learning algorithm, comparable to the tools that shape our Google feed or advertise Amazon’s products.
In Emissary Forks at Perfection we find ourselves in a far future near a dormant volcano’s crater lake, an area that after an earlier eruption (in the first part of the trilogy), has grown to become a highly fertile Darwinian paradise. Humanity has become extinct, but a human is brought back to life by the AI to see how they react to their environment. We follow this human, accompanied by a pack of Shiba Inu dogs, in their movements through an endless generic landscape over which they have neither an overview nor control.
"Perhaps the most intimate crisis we face today is the limits of human consciousness to really grasp non-human scaled complexity", Cheng writes. The decentralised sensation that his artworks evoke makes us aware of the analogy between nature (which Darwin called the most complex live simulation) and the organic nature of the technologies we apply. Both are far too complex for humans to comprehend and therefore reqire versatility and adaptability.