Artist Check-In: Refik Anadol
We’re catching up with the one and only Refik Anadol, a new media artist whose work has shown at all three of our locations including his first major retrospective, Infinite Space, as well as his first large-scale solo exhibition in New York City, Machine Hallucination. Here we talk NFTs, musical inspiration, current exciting projects and more:
Artist Check-In is a series where we check in with our collaborators to reflect on their experiences showing at ARTECHOUSE, as well as what they’re up to now, amongst other things.
How did you begin to collaborate with ARTECHOUSE in the first place? And how was it working with them across multiple exhibitions?
First of all, it was 2015 and 2016 that Sandro and I started talking about collaborations, because Sandro was watching my journey closely as a creative, enjoying our pioneered artworks, especially using data. He was very inspired, and he said, “That’s perfect! These public art projects can have an installation space.” And I was truly inspired by his approach and the entirety of ARTECHOUSE’s approach to the medium. It was the perfect time to bring these ideas into a space that didn’t fit into a regular museum. So that was perfect, to be honest, to be able to create something for such an innovative space. I know that ARTECHOUSE is also looking for these pioneer artworks to become much more available to the public, so it was perfect.
I was very fortunate to start my residency at Google in 2016 which allowed me and my team to learn AI, so that was a fantastic process that took me to a level of new engagement, but especially Machine Hallucination; it was a very touching project for me, because when the New York location was opening, and Sandro and Tati mentioned how important this space was for the arts, and how meaningful this form of presentation was, it was perfectly aligned with my vision. It’s just perfectly aligned, and I had zero doubt that we could push this idea to the next level. So between 2018 and 2019, we truly pushed that one year, especially after Archive Dreaming in 2017 – it was a humble, immersive environment with AI project in a library in Istanbul, and it was this idea of how we could bring it to the next level, bring this narrative to an inspiring, encompassing world. When I saw the technological infrastructure in New York, that was it. It’s the future of cinema. And I think we’ve made it. It was a massive hit in the field of media arts.
And what have you been working on lately? You’ve been collaborating with NASA on some things, but is there also anything you’ve not discussed publicly yet that you can divulge here?
Yes, at the moment we’re working with Gaudí, the Catalan architect’s body of work; I’ve been obsessed with archives since my data inspiration began, and I’ve been looking at his body of work commissioned by Casa Batlló, the building that he designed in Barcelona. At the moment we’re looking at his body of work to understand his buildings, his decisions, his mind, and it’s called “In the Mind of Gaudí”, and we’re trying to regenerate his mind in the form of an immersive environment in his building. That’s something inspiring.
The second project is of course NASA JPL; we’re visualizing sixty years of every single mission of NASA JPL, and it’s a really remarkably amazing journey of engineers looking for the unknown for humanity.
The other project we’re currently working on is for Michigan State University. It’s a public art project for an education center where we’re trying to educate the public art forum inside of Michigan State University.
We also have another project here in California visualizing the air quality of the entirety of California in the form of public art.
So we’re really sensitive about different types of data. Environmental data, one of the architectural heroes’ data, and so on.
It’s so fascinating how limitless the applications can be. And are there any trends in the digital art space that you’ve been noticing lately that interest you, whether or not you’ve personally engaged with them?
NFTs are very good friends at the moment. [Laughs] Fortunately a year ago I was introduced to NFTs, so I was one of the earlier people to the NFT space, and was able to engage with some of the most inspiring creatives, and it was a very inspiring moment to see how this medium is appreciated. We know that digital art didn’t get enough attention and respect and recognition in past decades; it was a very niche area of interest, only analyzed by certain people, and it was somehow not very well recognized in the classical art world. I find it very meaningful that the gap between these two universes closed during the pandemic, while everything was virtual.
Absolutely. Now, could you talk a little bit about your creative process and/or what inspires you? Is there anything that’s vital, whether it’s listening to music, drinking coffee, etc.?
Yes, honestly, I love science fiction more than ever, and I love science. I mean, honestly, science has become my hobby – looking for people who are creating incredible works in the world, Nobel Prize-winning ideas, or people who are changing the world, basically. So that’s my hobby, is to learn more and more and appreciate the body of work that makes humanity better. Additionally, music is of course the most incredible source of inspiration; I’ve been working with the San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and LA Philharmonic, so I’ve been working with the top, leading orchestras in the world to create musical experiences with AI and data. That’s also very inspiring research. And while researching those projects, witnessing some of the best music in the world is so exciting. Some of the finest musicians generating some of the best tunes in the world. It’s really inspiring to hear their beautiful music.
Are you listening to anything aside from orchestral music at the moment?
I am; apart from classical music, I’m into experimental music at any level. At the studio we’re using a lot of data sonification, so we’re hearing very weird music of LGE 5G bluetooth signals, and we’ve been sonificating many different data the past ten years, so it’s really fun to hear different music from different data sets. Sometimes it’s very annoying, to be honest, I don’t want to say it’s always beautiful, but it’s really inspiring to hear some fresh tunes from machines and their memories.
Very cool! Alright, the time has flown, but any parting thoughts before we wrap up?
Just regarding ARTECHOUSE, our projects were some of the most incredible experiences for me, especially Infinite Space; it touched thousands of people, young generations, and it was a very inspiring project for me, making that beautiful engagement with the public in both DC and Miami. And with the New York project, I think we reached a level of perfection in the field. While there are other examples of using immersive mediums, I think what we did in New York is something very special. That’s why I’m extremely grateful for ARTECHOUSE and the support that makes this cutting-edge and pioneered work an example for many people in the world.