UNconventional: Refik Anadol

UNconventional: Refik Anadol

Turkish media artist Refik Anadol amalgamates data science and AI into art and architecture with machine intelligence in his unique and immersive visual installations. Read on to know more.

UNconventional by FTC is a series exploring creators, designers and artists expressing unique, thought-provoking perspectives of socio-cultural and global significance through their craft. These creators stray away from the conventions and norms of everyday ideas and give them a new meaning through their otherworldly creativity.

Refik Anadol, born in Istanbul, Turkey is a media artist, director and designer. Anadol currently resides in Los Angeles, California and is working in the fields of live audio/visual performance, immersive installations and parametric data sculptures. His work explores the space between digital and physical entities by creating a hybrid relationship between architecture and media arts with machine intelligence.

He holds a master of fine arts degree from University of California, Los Angeles in Media Arts (where he is now a lecturer and visiting researcher at UCLA’s Department of Design Media Arts), Master of Fine Arts degree from Istanbul Bilgi University in Visual Communication Design as well as Bachelors of Arts degree with summa cum laude in Photography and Video.

Co-founder and Creative director at technology-driven creative design studio Antilop, Anadol majorly draws inspiration from nature perspectives and multiple creative individuals such as Marvin Minsky - an American cognitive scientist concerned largely with research of artificial intelligence and co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory; Buckminster Fueller - an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist; Ellsworth Kelly - a painter, sculptor and print maker.

All of his inspirations form an amalgamation of creative insights and have assisted him in developing and envisioning several visual projects to fruition. His projects exhibit abstractness, alternative realities, emotive aesthetics and sometimes visual symmetries. Anadol builds his works on the nomadic subject’s reaction to and interactions with unconventional spatial orientations with data and machine intelligence.

Korea’s Kompsat-2 satellite’s captured image over the sand seas of the Namib Desert on 7 January 2012. One of Anadol’s inspirations.
Korea’s Kompsat-2 satellite’s captured image over the sand seas of the Namib Desert on 7 January 2012. One of Anadol’s inspirations.

Refik’s work suggests that all spaces and facades have potentials to be utilised as a media artists canvas. He perceives massive pools of data sets not just as piles of information, but as raw materials for what he likes to call “Data Sculptures” and has showcased his works all across the globe through the years under his entity RAS (Refik Anadol Studios)

One of his most notable works includes the WDCH Dreams exhibit he conducted for the American orchestra, LA Philharmonic’s Centennial Anniversary at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The week-long exhibition, beginning on 28th September 2018, celebrated history and explored the future side by side.

Crafting nearly 45 Terabytes of data into stunning visualisations blended with mesmerising audio, Anadol created a truly impeccable A/V installation. The 45 TB of data included 100 years worth of LA Phil audio, videos and images compiled into separate pools of colossal datasets.

There were 40,000 hours of music from 16,471 performances, compiled into one consolidated dataset with recordings ranging from the years 1928 to 2018, representing all of LA Phil's musical memories. These audio visual libraries created an immersive journey of both time and space analyzing the century old rich history of the orchestras performances.

This installation augments information from every concert season to generate a tangible and interactive representation of the orchestra’s repertoire. Through machine learning algorithms, Anadol and his team developed data structures based on the machine’s interpretation of the digital archives. These sculptures were projected directly onto the stainless steel exterior of the Walt Disney Concert Hall using 42 large scale, 50K visual resolution projectors, 8-channel sound and 1.2M Luminance in total.

Pairing a computer’s mind with a building’s structure transformed both, giving the neural networks of the machine a canvas on which to create - and the architecture a consciousness with which to dream.

The project reflects the synergies shared by art and technology along with architecture and institutional memory. It serves a never-before experienced deep dive into the past with it’s immersive audio-visual capabilities. The whole exhibit was segmented into three chapters: Memory, an archival upload - Remembering LA Philharmonic’s Past; Consciousness, data visualization - Mapping the Present; and Dream, imagination - Envisioning the Future.

Apart from his other individual artworks, Anadol, along with his cadre of computer scientists and software developers has partnered with Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, JPL/NASA, Intel, IBM, Siemens, Epson and more to put the latest, cutting-edge technologies to work.

Refik is paving the way for a new interactive field of Artificial Intelligence in art and pioneering it fearlessly, syncing the two to their fullest potential. His numerous works of art never fail to spark new ideas and thoughts with regard to what the future holds for us.

Refik is a visionary and a genius in the truest form. He is one of the few creative artists who is, in a way, ahead of his time, in his journey to combine the once thought to be parallel fields of art and technology.

Check out his mesmerising works on his official website here - prepare to be amazed.

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