Ian Cheng






Ian Cheng

Stills from “This Papaya Tastes Perfect

IT’S 2011. THE TWIN TOWERS OF REASON AND TASTE STILL SHINE DOWN UPON ALL POSITIONS. BUT SOMETHING ANCIENT LURKS.

I remember now.
Somewhere in the dark between Wall Street and Chinatown.
A crowd of futures traders gathers outside a bar to watch something. Something alive.

The exhibition premieres a new digitized performance that sets a sequence of encounters between physical human behavior and the virtual environment.

WHEN INFINITY ABANDONS NATURE FOR CULTURE, POSSESSION EVOLVES INTO ACCESS, INNOVATION SCALES INTO YOUR PALM, DATA CAN BE TOUCHED. TOUCHED! YOU START TO THINK ABOUT YOU. ABOUT YOUR IMMEDIATE NEEDS, DESIRES, FANTASIES. THE PROGRESS OF PROGRESS AWAKENS A BARBAROUS SOMETHING. IN OUR ERA, THE HOMO SAPIEN RETURNS.
There’s a man and a woman, lovers.
Both tall, muscular, dyed blonde. Drunken warriors from the same tribe.
They’ve forced an alien driver to stop his car in the middle of the street.

Motion Capture is a recording process that registers the physical movements of the performer absent the image of the performer. The recorded movements are then translated onto a digital body. In Hollywood, motion capture is used to give impossible non-human characters an anthropomorphic spirit.

AMONG OUR BRIGHTEST DIGITAL CELEBRITIES–GOLLUM, KING KONG, THE NA’VI–YOU SEE PERFORMANCES AT THE THRESHOLD BETWEEN POLITE REASONABLE HUMANITY AND EXPLOSIVE BEHAVIORAL DRIVE. UNLIKE OUR HUMAN STARS, WHO HAVE FULL RECOURSE TO A PRIVATE LIFE OF SEXUAL AFFAIRS, SHOPLIFTING, DRUNKEN TIRADES, PHARMACEUTICALS, GAFFES, RETIRING AND REBIRTHING, THESE DIGITAL CELEBRITIES MUST PUT ALL THEIR LATENT MONSTER ON SCREEN. THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO HIGHLIGHT A FLICKERING INNER HUMANITY AMIDST MONSTROUS DIFFERENCE. BUT IF YOU BLUR YOUR EYES, THEIR TRUE FREEDOM IS TO BEHAVE AS DUMB AS YOU YOURSELF SOMETIMES DESIRE TO BEHAVE.

Working with a choreographer, a performer, and a small team of motion capture technicians, Cheng has configured the motion capture process into a format for recording a visceral, incomplete memory.

I don’t remember what their story is, but they’re screaming it.
The driver tries to reason but they can read the fear in his body.
They want the blood.
CERTAIN CONDITIONS CAN ANIMATE THE HUMAN BODY INTO A HOMO SAPIEN MONSTROSITY, 200 MILLISECONDS BEFORE THE CONSCIOUS MIND CAN REASON AND 600 MILLISECONDS BEFORE TASTE CAN ASSURE THAT IT IS PERMITTED. CERTAIN HUMAN BEHAVIORS CAN CONFUSE THE COMPUTER, CAUSING AN ENTROPIC CHAIN OF DIGITAL MISBEHAVIOR AND AN ACCUMULATION OF DIRTY DATA.

Placing the performer under a matrix of contradictory choreographies, a debased narrative, whiskey, and technical bondage, an ancient horrifying physicality is registered in the virtual environment as a sequence of legible movements punctuated by impossible gestures and gross deformations. In this space, motion becomes a new material.

It’s cat and cat and mouse in and around the car.
The traders are too scared to intervene, but they also yearn for something raw.
The car is cast as an impromptu mediator, protracting the inevitable moment.
What happens next I have to play out for you. I don’t remember the details, but my body does.

TO CALIBRATE YOUR BODY TO THE COMPUTER AND THE COMPUTER TO YOUR BODY, STAND CRUCIFIED AND SPEAK IN YOUR EVERYDAY VOICE: “THIS PAPAYA TASTES PERFECT.”" – Ian Cheng/FORMALIST SIDEWALK POETRY CLUB 

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