Interview with Refik Anadol – A.I. and Machine Hallucination: The Fourth Version Of Imagination

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Refik Anadol
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Few people in the world can say that they’ve seen it all. Refik Anadol has done much more than that: he has created more. His body of work locates creativity at the intersection of humans and the machines. Media Artist, Director, and Pioneer in the aesthetic of artificial intelligence, Anadol paints with a thinking brush, offering the radical visualizations of our digitized memories, along with expanding new possibilities of architecture, narrative and the body in motion. In this interview, Anadol not only pleases us in describing the creativity and passion behind his work but also enriches the conversation by making spiritual connections to what it means to be a human being.

As Anadol correctly states “when thinking about time-space and past-future, I believe that our physical sensors have incredible potential.” This is exactly what Anadol’s body of work challenges every day: the possibilities and the ubiquitous computing imposed on humankind and what it means to be a human in the age of Artificial Intelligence. One of Anadol’s most groundbreaking creation is for sure Machine Hallucination, where the artist has used 300 million publicly available images of New York City. For the WDCH Dreams exhibition instead, he accessed 100 years of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s digital archives. In Oakland’s Sense of Place, he worked with real-time environmental data; and for the Charlotte Airport’s Interconnected project, he utilized real-time airport statistics. Refik is the recipient of a great variety of awards including the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award for New Media Art, the Microsoft Research’s Best Vision Award, German Design Award, UCLA Art + Architecture Moss Award, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts Award, SEGD Global Design Awards, and Google’s Artists and Machine Intelligence Artist Residency Award.

Listen to the Creative Interview Episode Here.

Refik Anadol joins Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Tommaso Cartia and Daniela Pavan, for an intimate conversation where human nature is explored, along with its infinite possibilities and potentialities. Ready, set and imagine with this soulful artist gifted with an extraordinary ability to channel the world surrounding us into dreamy stories sparked with the power of our own imagination.

Tommaso – How did your unique art research start and when did art become such a fundamental part of your life?

Refik Anadol – I think I started my journey very at eight years old when I watched the movie Bladerunner — that movie changed my life. The same year I’ve got my first computer and that was also a very changing experience. I was always dreaming about the near future. I transformed my imagination into a form of art.

Refik Anadol
Refik Anadol in his studio

Daniela – How do you create these very intricated installations?

R – I’m obsessed with data, light, algorithms and recent A.I. intelligence. Eight years ago, I discovered the VVVV software. Without writing a code, you can connect notes and create a meaningful software algorithmic logic to pretty much anything: the sound, the text, the visual, the data eventually.

T — Is it something that is now in development? 

R — It’s been more than fifteen years actually. They mostly use it in Germany, but it’s now all over the world. I’ve been using it for ten years now.

T — You put all of this into Machine Hallucination that it’s now on display at the ARTECHOUSE in NYC. Can you tell us more about it? 

R — I’m very inspired by how we as humans can perceive things and create a memory and dream with that. With A.I., we can now experience this feeling like a narrative, as a new form of cinema. I use mounting memories, adopting the A.I. to visualize our memories, particularly the actual moment of remembering.  I’m trying to combine A.I., neuroscience, and architecture to produce the hallucination of buildings and environments transforming in space and time. I want to display the memory of a building. I think it’s an incredible story and narrative that can inspire and create new ways of imagination. Machine hallucination is the fourth version of this imagination. 

ARTECHOUSE NYC | Machine Hallucination • Artist Insight: Refik Anadol

D Art is a way to tell stories, data and numbers are a way to justify decisions – creativity meets logic… it’s like when the impossible becomes possible. How do you build this bridge?

I’m thinking about these experiences as a cinema, instead of just sculptures or paintings. Memory in the 21st century is also data – our likes, shares and comments, the technology we’re using every day, is a form of memory. This is one of the reasons why this project is letting audiences being inside the story by immersing themselves in it. You’re stepping inside of the machine. It’s not fake and the feeling of stepping inside is honest, is real.

T – It seems to me that your work, speaks, profoundly, about the individuality of the human being and of the universe we live in. When you talk about dreams and hallucinations, are you thinking in a scientific way or a spiritual one? And, how do you personally approach the mystery of the unknown?

R – If you think about memories and dreams, there’s the human soul. And emotions are much more complicated cognitive capacities of the human perception. Spirituality comes from the perception of time. The artwork should be communicated through different emotional impacts. We are surrounded by these machines and constantly moving by algorithms. The big question is, what does it truly mean to be a human in the 21st century? I think that the answer lies in the spiritual connection between humanity and technology.

WDCH Dreams
WDCH Dreams by Refik Anadol

T — What kind of response you got from the audience that really inspires you to progress with your research?

R — In the last three years, I think I’ve touched people in different ways. I’ve emotionally reached people that later sent me some very personal messages. I remember that one time somebody spent 5 hours in the Machine Hallucination exhibit, technically is a half an hour experience. In another installation of mine, Melting Memories, people experience such transformative feelings that they can stay in for three hours, and they don’t want to leave.

For more info on Refik Anadol please visit: www.refikanadol.com


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