Visit Refik Anadol’s Exhibit At The MoMA
Anadol’s Exhibit, Unsupervised, is on display through March 5th!
Refik Anadol is an artist who works with digital mediums by creating data-driven machine algorithms to create visually 3D incredible digital art. Originally from Turkey where he was born and raised, he currently resides in Los Angeles, California. He currently has an exhibit at the MoMA through March 5th– be sure to purchase timed tickets in advance of visiting. This except from the MoMA website describes the exhibit:
“What would a machine dream about after seeing the collection of The Museum of Modern Art? For Unsupervised, artist Refik Anadol (b. 1985) uses artificial intelligence to interpret and transform more than 200 years of art at MoMA. Known for his groundbreaking media works and public installations, Anadol has created digital artworks that unfold in real time, continuously generating new and otherworldly forms that envelop viewers in a large-scale installation.
Unsupervised is a meditation on technology, creativity, and modern art. Anadol trained a sophisticated machine-learning model to interpret the publicly available data of MoMA’s collection. As the model “walks” through its conception of this vast range of works, it reimagines the history of modern art and dreams about what might have been—and what might be to come. In turn, Anadol incorporates site-specific input from the environment of the Museum’s Gund Lobby—changes in light, movement, acoustics, and the weather outside—to affect the continuously shifting imagery and sound.
AI is often used to classify, process, and generate realistic representations of the world. In contrast, Unsupervised is visionary: it explores fantasy, hallucination, and irrationality, creating an alternate understanding of art-making itself. The installation is based on works that are encoded on the blockchain, a distributed digital ledger, which stands as a public record of Anadol’s art. “I am trying to find ways to connect memories with the future,” the artist has said, “and to make the invisible visible.”
Learn About Anadol as an artist:
The below questions are featured on the MoMA website:
What artists inspire you? Do you see yourself working in any particular lineage of art making?
“My work as a generative artist draws inspiration from the legacies of abstraction, systems art, Surrealism, and Expressionism. The works and the incredible visions of the early pioneers of computer art—such as the geometric abstraction of Vera Molnár and the algorithmic drawings of Georg Nees—motivated me to define my own place at the contemporary intersection of art, science, and technology. I am also indebted to the Light and Space movement that emerged in Southern California in the 1960s. Play with optical illusions, Minimalism, and geometric abstraction were its defining features, and I dwell on these elements and strategies frequently in my works. Of course, the fact that the movement was introduced to the public at the famous University of California Los Angeles exhibition in 1971 [Transparency, Reflection, Light, Space: Four Artists] inspired me a lot, as I completed my second master’s degree at UCLA under the mentorship of Casey Reas, Christian Moeller, and Jennifer Steinkamp, and have been teaching there for eight years. With the inspiration that I get from Gene Youngblood’s foundational book Expanded Cinema, and artists such as Helen Pashgian, Fred Eversley, James Turrell, Robert Irwin, Bruce Nauman, Larry Bell, and Dan Flavin, I try to understand and explain the relationship between data, machine intelligence, and space by using cutting-edge light and projection technologies in environments and installations.”
What was the first digital art that you encountered? How did it make you feel?
It was The Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw, a groundbreaking interactive art piece [at ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsuhe, Germany], where the visitor rides a stationary bicycle through a city simulation surrounded by three-dimensional letters. It brought together many elements of immersive, interactive, and multisensory art that I had been pondering as an undergraduate student at the time and opened new windows for me to think about the city, urban architectures, and collective memories in a different light. When I viewed Shaw’s piece in Karlsruhe, I was already studying with Peter Weibel at ZKM, and I was interested in exploring Pure Data, and later VVVV, both open-source visual programming software platforms. I helped put together the very first media arts exhibition in Turkey, installing 300 artworks from all over the world in 2009. That was when I realized that I wanted to be in conversation with those artists and push the envelope by bringing new perspectives to the field.
What does your studio look like? Can you tell us about the team that you work with to realize a piece like Unsupervised?
“I knew that I wanted to establish a studio when I was an MFA student at UCLA in 2014, and I began doing research about interdisciplinary studio cultures. We started off as a small group with a focus on public art production, but our studio practice expanded into a cross-disciplinary research unit over the years. The Studio is based in LA and comprises designers, architects, data scientists, composers, and researchers from diverse professional and personal backgrounds. We originate from 10 different countries and are collectively fluent in 15 languages (and spill into other cities beyond LA, including Berlin and Istanbul). Our shared dream is to make art for all ages and cultures. The fact that we are a diverse team contributes tremendously to this project. We have been conducting bleeding-edge research and collaborating with leading neuroscientists, philosophers, biologists, medical doctors, environmental scientists, and computational designers in various parts of the world. We use the most innovative methods and most advanced research available to us to challenge received notions and inherent biases in technology, and to imagine a future where a symbiotic relationship with machines will give us new insights, knowledge, and the power to not only challenge but change existing systems, to create a better world.”
Is there anything particular that you’re hoping a viewer will see or sense in Unsupervised?
“I think that Unsupervised not only pulls the viewer into a strange world of collective art histories as imagined by a dreaming machine, but also provides a moment of meditation on new modes of perception and sensation. As it unfolds, you can see it speculating about, for instance: How to create an abstract picture. How to render volume and depth in new ways. How to deal with inventing new colors. And even the question, Why?—because these are the problems that artists confronted in the past two centuries.
For this work we used the most advanced generative AI algorithms in the world and created a dynamic, living artwork, meaning that it never repeats itself. At times, it also shows another layer of diagramming its own decision-making paths and correlations. It is based on ethical data research and analysis and has the potential to generate new discourses about how our faculties of perception are changing now that machines are inseparable witnesses of our activities and environments. In fact, we are currently designing a research protocol about the immediate effect of Unsupervised on the viewer by collaborating with neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley to measure brain signals, heartbeat, body temperature, and skin conductivity at the moment of experiencing the work.”
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