Ian Cheng: Life After BOB
Advance tickets are strongly suggested. Tickets through December 19 are now available.
Tickets admit visitors only to Ian Cheng: Life After BOB. If you would also like to view DRIFT: Fragile Future during your visit, purchase a DRIFT ticket instead, which includes admission to both exhibitions.
In accordance with the New York City mandate, visitors 12 years and older must be vaccinated against Covid-19, and visitors two years and older must wear a mask. Proof of vaccination may include CDC Vaccination Card (or photo), NYC COVID Safe app, New York State Excelsior Pass, NYC Vaccination Record, or an official immunization record from outside NYC or the US. Read more details at NYC.gov.
The exhibition is viewed from seats configured in a cinema-style arrangement and limited to 65% of capacity. Tickets for the exhibition are timed on every hour. Life After BOB begins at 10 minutes after each hour and runs for 48 minutes. The interactive “World Watching” of Life After BOB runs continuously on the opposite side of the gallery space.
Watch the trailer
About this commission
Ian Cheng’s Life After BOB is an episodic anime series built in the Unity game engine and presented live in real time, imagining a future world in which our minds are co-inhabited by AI entities. Bridging the artist’s interest in both open-ended simulation and the capacity of cinematic storytelling to evoke deep psychological truths, Life After BOB asks: How will life lived with AI transform the archetypal scripts that guide our sense of a meaningful existence?
In The Chalice Study, the first episode, neural engineer Dr. Wong has installed an experimental AI named BOB (“Bag of Beliefs”) into the nervous system of his 10-year-old daughter, Chalice. Designed to guide Chalice through the challenges of growing up in a volatile world, BOB confronts more and more of the conflicts in Chalice’s life on her behalf, while Chalice grows increasingly irrelevant and escapist. As Dr. Wong begins to favor the BOB side of his daughter, and as BOB threatens to do the job of living Chalice’s life better than she can, Chalice jealously wonders: What is left for her classic human self to do?
Working with an expansive production team, Cheng developed this 48-minute narrative animation using traditional animation storytelling techniques alongside Unity and its suite of real-time cinematic tools. Through this innovative approach, Life After BOB incorporates real-time changes unique to each viewing. The exhibition will showcase a large-scale screening of the narrative animation that foregrounds the drama of the story, paired with an interactive “World Watching” presentation of the animation that allows viewers to freely explore the details of the Life After BOB world at their own tempo. Viewers are invited to learn more at the Life After BOB wiki, which catalogues characters and artifacts, flora and fauna, and every background detail seen in the episode. The viewer is invited to contribute to and edit this wiki. These edits in turn permanently modify the details of the onscreen world, thereby extending Life After BOB into a new form of programmable narrative media.
Ian Cheng’s Life After BOB: The Chalice Study is co-commissioned by The Shed (New York), Luma Foundation, and Light Art Space (Berlin). The interactive mobile application is supported by Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art (Seoul).
The exhibition is organized at The Shed by Emma Enderby, Chief Curator, with Alessandra Gómez, Assistant Curator.
About the Artist
Read More about the Exhibition
For the last decade, artist Ian Cheng (b. 1984, Los Angeles) has developed computer simulations that feature AI-driven characters navigating the pressures of an ever-changing environment — what Cheng refers to as “video games that play themselves.” For his commission at The Shed, Cheng premieres Life After BOB: The Chalice Study, the first 48-minute episode in an anime miniseries, created using the Unity video game engine and presented live in real-time. With Life After BOB, the artist bridges simulation’s capacity to generate ever-evolving behavior with scripted storytelling’s capacity to surface deep psychological truths.
Life After BOB is set in a future world in which the internet extends into our nervous systems, psychotropic foods unify physical and psychic realities into one fluid experience stream, and AI entities are permitted to co-inhabit human minds. In The Chalice Study, neural engineer Dr. Wong has installed an experimental AI named BOB (“Bag of Beliefs”) into the nervous system of his 10-year-old daughter, Chalice. Designed to guide Chalice through the challenges of growing up in a volatile world, BOB confronts more and more of the conflicts in Chalice’s life on her behalf, while Chalice grows increasingly irrelevant and escapist. As Dr. Wong begins to favor the BOB side of his daughter, and as BOB threatens to do the job of living Chalice’s life better than she can, Chalice jealously wonders: What is left for her classic human self to do?
Working with an expansive production team, Cheng developed Life After BOB using traditional animation storytelling techniques alongside the Unity video game engine and its suite of real-time cinematic tools. Through this new hybrid approach, Life After BOB incorporates changes unique to each viewing. The exhibition showcases a large-scale screening of the narrative animation that foregrounds the drama of the story, in parallel with an interactive “World Watching” presentation that allows viewers to explore the details of the Life After BOB world at their own tempo.
Additionally, a Life After BOB wiki indexes characters and artifacts, flora and fauna, and every background detail seen in the episode. Inspired by the extended universes that emerge among online fandoms, the Life After BOB wiki invites viewers to make their own additions and edits. In turn, these edits persistently modify the details of what appears on screen, thereby extending Life After BOB into a new form of programmable narrative media.
In the background of the World Watching mode, you can discover these books that have inspired Ian Cheng’s practice. (links open in a new window)
- Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone
- The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
- The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist
- The Red Book: Liber Novus by C.G. Jung
- What Do You Say After You Say Hello Book: The Psychology of Human by Eric Berne
- Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne
- Emissaries Guide to Worlding by Ian Cheng
Selected Production Credits
Life After BOB is produced by Veronica So, with animation producer Nick Sung; technical producer Ivaylo Getov; editor Jess Fulton; cinematography by Eric Yue; animation supervisor Valerie Scheiber; sound design by Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr; and composer Brian Reitzell.
Featuring the voices of Poonam Basu, Cherami Leigh, Dana Lee, Gwendoline Yeo, Aly Mawji, Jennifer Swanner, and Sean Patton.
Research developed with The Transformations of the Human at the Berggruen Institute.
Production developed with Gladstone Gallery (New York) and Pilar Corrias Gallery (London).
- Running time: 48 minutes
- Includes some profanity and mild violence
The Shed’s Level 4 Gallery is wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening will be available on your smartphone over The Shed’s free Wi-Fi network via the free Listen Everywhere app. Devices will be available for you to borrow at the ticketing desk if you do not want to use your own smartphone.
Download the Listen Everywhere app before you arrive.
Both Life After BOB and the World Watching presentation include subtitles.
For more information on what to expect when you visit, please For more information on what to expect when you visit, please read the descriptions below.
For any other questions or requests, please call (646) 455-3494 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to Expect
Thank you for planning a visit to The Shed. We’re looking forward to welcoming you to Ian Cheng: Life After BOB in the Level 4 Gallery, which is wheelchair accessible.
You will enter the building through our lobby at 545 West 30th Street, which is also wheelchair accessible. Staff members will be present in the lobby to greet you, and can help if you have any questions or require assistance. Staff members wear black t-shirts and wear lanyards around their necks with white name badges.
The lobby is a large, open space. To the left of the entrance are ticketing desks. To the right you will find our bar, Cedric’s, which includes a large seating area with tables, high-top tables, and arrangements of sofas and armchairs around low tables. The seating options are flexible with space for guests who wish to remain in a wheelchair.
To reach the Level 4 Gallery, both escalators and elevators are available in the lobby. You will find elevators in the east and west corners of the lobby, and a staff member can help direct you to them. Once you arrive on Level 4, you will enter the gallery through a door attended to by a staff member. Inside the gallery, the light is lower than that in the hallway. Spotlights in the space will illuminate signage that directs you to the screening area.
Assistive listening is available in the gallery via the free Listen Everywhere app. (Download the Listen Everywhere app before you arrive.) At The Shed, a staff member can help you with the app, or can assist you in borrowing a device to use during your visit.
In the screening area, the film is on a large, 26.5-by-10.5-foot LED screen. There is cinema-style seating, with the front row reserved for visitors who will be staying in a wheelchair. The glow from the LED screen illuminates the gallery but is overall lower lighting.
After the film concludes, visitors move around the seating to the other side of the gallery. There, you will find another identical LED screen and seating bank. The film plays continuously on this side of the gallery, and visitors can scan a QR code with a smartphone to interact with the film. A staff member will be available in the gallery to assist with the QR code, located on each chair’s armrest, if you have any questions.
The interactive “World Watching” experience requires visitors to scan a QR code to access an interface on a smartphone that allows you to pause, fast forward or rewind, and zoom in on certain elements of the film. Selecting an element of the animation to zoom in on gives additional information about the film. Visitors may interact with the film one by one; if others are in the gallery with you, you will join a queue on the digital platform when you scan the QR code. You will be assigned a username that will appear on screen with a code for you to enter on your phone when it is your turn.
Thank you to our partners
The creation of new work at The Shed is generously supported by the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Commissioning Fund and the Shed Commissioners.
The Shed is connected by