Matadero Madrid center for contemporary creation

Ian Cheng: Thousand Lives

From March 7 to May 5

Tuesday to Thursday 5 - 9pm. Closed on Mondays.
Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 12 noon - 9pm.

Open configuration options


Free access

Nave 0


Synthetic Imaginaries is an exhibition cycle that looks at non-human agency across various sites and scales, exploring the way it shapes our understanding of intelligence, free will, and complex systems.

Curated by Julia Kaganskiy, the cycle is divided into four consecutive arcs. Each arc showcases the work of a different artist offering distinct perspectives on the core concept of intelligence, as well as the inherent social, political, technological, and ecological potential nestled within its reconceptualization. The third arc in the series, Ian Cheng: Thousand Lives, features two recent works by Cheng that tackle questions of agency, self-determination, and technology’s role in helping humans navigate a chaotic existence. The works on view include Life After BOB: The Chalice Study (2021), a 50-minute anime film set in a future world where AI entities merge with human minds, and Thousand Lives (2023) a real-time simulation based on the daily life of Thousand, a pet tortoise character from the film.  


Synthetic Imaginaries is part of the curatorial proposal of LAB#03 Synthetic Minds from Medialab Matadero, an interdisciplinary initiative in which citizens from anywhere in the world can join a diverse group of artists, critical thinkers, and experts from various fields to collaboratively explore the role that the deliberate composition of intelligent systems will play in shaping our collective future.

Ian Cheng is an American artist who lives and works in New York. He is best known for his live-simulated digital artworks which explore “an agent’s capacity to deal with an ever-changing environment.” With a background in cognitive science, Cheng’s work combines machine learning, video game engines and a distinctive animation style to grapple with evolutionary processes, adaptation and the origins of consciousness. In 2018, he developed BOB (Bag of Beliefs), an AI creature whose personality, body, and life story evolve across exhibitions, what Cheng calls “art with a nervous system.” Cheng is an influential thinker on the topic of worlding and in 2015 he founded Metis Suns, a production company dedicated to worlding and worlding literacy. He has exhibited globally, including solo presentations at MoMA PS1, New York; Serpentine Galleries, London; and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; as well as group presentations at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the 2019 Venice Biennale; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.; Tate Modern, London; Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen; and Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.


The exhibition were open on the 7th March 2024 and is located at Nave 0 in Matadero Madrid, along with a projection of Life After Bob at Cineteca at 18h and a conversation between the artist and the curator Julia Kaganskiy.