Looking Outwards

Screenshot from Droning Like a Ur. The human forms have begun to merge with the flora of their world.

Droning Like a Ur, by Ian Cheng, is a live simulation with an infinite duration. Cheng works with a video game engine that continually generates new combinations which allow the simulations to evolve.

This means that his simulations make their own decisions based off of Cheng’s programming. These actions cannot be foreseen and are not completely predetermined. Cheng says that his live simulations are like video games that play themselves.

I love the way in which the creatures and environments in his work maintain ambiguous and strange shapes but are still recognizable. If characters maintain a mostly “human” appearance, we still identify them as such… even if they are unlike the humans in our world.

In the beginning of this video, there are strange, squishing sounds as well as a bug-like buzzing. Coupled with the imagery of bodies twisting around, these sounds created an uneasy tension. This is one of the features of Cheng’s work that I love. He generates worlds with depth and spirit. Art does not have to be lifelike to achieve this.

While I do admire this piece, I believe it could have been more effective if the dialogue in the video were less understandable and less recognizable as human. In my opinion, I feel like the voice contradicted with the unpredictability of Cheng’s simulations. It seemed too absolute, even though it was not fully comprehendible.

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