Enter the mesmerising, AI-driven world of artist Refik Anadol

Enter the mesmerising, AI-driven world of artist Refik Anadol

Surveying and synthesising more than 200 years of art from MoMA’s collection would be a daunting, and likely insurmountable task for most artists and researchers. Not so much for Refik Anadol, who recently unveiled a major installation in the museum’s ground-floor Gund Lobby, using AI art to generate endlessly changing forms and sounds across a 24ft x 24ft media wall, based on 320,000 visual inputs.

Unsupervised, as the installation is tagged, is a major career moment. ‘To show at MoMA is one of my biggest motivations in life,’ describes the Turkish-born, LA-based media artist. But numerically speaking, it is far from the most ambitious. In 2019, he’d used 100 million photographs of New York City, found publicly on social networks, to create a 30-minute cinematic piece. For a 2020 exhibition at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, Anadol deployed Google AI’s algorithms to process around 200 million nature and landscape images to create a 3D visual piece, Quantum Memories. The following year, his contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale, Sense of Space, involved a collaboration with neuroscientist Taylor Kuhn to develop machine-learning algorithms based on 70 terabytes of MRI data, then used it to imagine the development of brain circuitry throughout the human lifespan. Not only is Anadol fascinated by what data sets tell us about the world, he also uses words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘inspiring’ to describe them.

Refik Anadol Architecture biennale

Connectome, an AI data sculpture model for Sense of Space at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, 2021

(Image credit: Refik Anadol Studio)

Refik anadol at NGV Victoria

Installation view of Refik Anadol Quantum Memories 2020 on display in NGV Triennial 2020

(Image credit: © Refik Anadol. Photography: Tom Ross)

‘In 2008, I coined the term “data painting” to express the idea that data can become a pigment that reflects imagination. This has driven my practice for 14 years,’ he tells me via Google Meet from his LA studio. Rather than conventional paintings, which involve fixing paint on canvas, he creates ‘living paintings’ which morph and evolve infinitely.  

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