In conversation with Refik Anadol
We had a pleasure speaking with Refik Anadol who is a media artist, director and pioneer in the aesthetics of data and machine intelligence. His body of work locates creativity at the intersection of humans and machines. In taking the data that flows around us as the primary material and the neural network of a computerized mind as a collaborator, Anadol paints with a thinking brush, offering us radical visualizations of our digitized memories and expanding the possibilities of architecture, narrative, and the body in motion. Anadol’s site-specific AI data sculptures, live audio/visual performances, and immersive installations take many forms, while encouraging us to rethink our engagement with the physical world, its temporal and spatial dimensions, and the creative potential of machines.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work in general and how did you start with what you are doing?
I think my journey started almost 13 years ago as a media artist but the last 10 years I used data in my work I did pioneer many concepts and I also did some data painting and a I data sculpture, that are my kind of editions last 10 years. The last 5 years ago I became one of the first artists at google. That’s how I became an AI artist, that gave me the chance to learn AI from one of the best engineers. Now I have a team of 14 people, can speak 14 language who present 10 countries. The purpose of our studio is: make art for anyone, any age and any background which is as much as possible. We are working with technology, probably the most prolific technology in my work. Lots of collaboration with scientist, researchers and engineers. We are trying to create a new meaning in architecture, medi-art and AI. And I am teaching at UCLA.
Are you teaching online at the moment?
Yes, for the last seven years. When I got my masters of finance degree, so I am still teaching there and researching.
What subjects do you want to tackle and what do you want to evoke with your art?
I think in general, AI. So first of all, data can become a pigment and architecture can dream and hallucinate. And for me, when machinelike algorithms and competition, connect with architecture, there is a very powerful. For humanity. Also, we are living in a world where machines are taking over mini decision; what we eat, what we say, where we go is defined by machines. For me the question is: what else can we do with them. Can we use them to remember, or dream? Can collective memorization of humanity become a part of this exciting pigmentation? Can i use it taking brush? These questions are very important for my work. The whole line is connecting human emotions with machines an appreciate the physical world. So, I am not a wishful thinker, but I am trying to say that these powerful tools can be very purposeful and impactful for artistic experiences. And feel better after … especially. Even five minutes of escaping form reality is a powerful message for me.
I obviously don’t know as much as you do, but I see the art world definitely going in to the world of digitalization. That’s something that is for me quite new to understand. Given I don’t have education based on that, but it seems like something I am willing to explore.
I will explain more. Two days ago I sold my first NFT auction for 5.1 million dollars. This room that you see here, I am doing this for 10 years, a version of this sold for 5.1 million dollars. And we will have this also as NFT, this room.
Wow that is worth to explore more. But its really exciting to get back for what you do. It’s quite special. And you’re able to collab with brands such as Bulgari.
Yes that is really powerful. First of all, as an artist I have dreams. A lot of the execution could not be done without the collaboration with Bulgari, its really top notch technology, complex installation, communication, in the centre of Milan on Duomo square. These are not easy things; this needs excessive thinking and a lot of preparation.
How long have you been preparing for this amazing collaboration?
For 1 year including the AI, training, data collection.
A lot of it is exactly inspired by flowers and nature right?
Bulgari brought this incredibly concept of metamorphosis, it was just a keyword. But for me when I heard that, I mean; can we feel metamorphosis, can we go inside by the senses, what is metamorphoses, how can we capture it as a feeling? And flora systems in nature are one the places, besides animals, where transformation happens. The questions was, what happens when we train our AI with 70 million. With a lot of species of the world. And see what’s the dream and if that dream can become a space, a sound and a scent.
Ok wow, really nice. Looking in to the nature aspect in all that, how much more do you search out of the nature aspects?
Everything comes from nature. We are all nature. Everything to be honest. So going back to the source of inspiration was the actual idea.
As your audio-visual performances are sight specific, what role does the space and location on or in your exhibit play?
At the moment we are in the heart of Milan, one of the most amazing architectural space and open for free for everyone, which is very important.
The exhibit will be in Milan untill the end of October right?
Yes. And the hope is it will travel the world. And the finale is most likely Istanbul, turkey. Where the piece will be NFT auction. So, it’s the worlds first multisensory NFT. Basically sense and smell and touch, it becomes a sculpture as an NFT form. That’s the journey.
Tell us about your collaboration with Bulgari, is this your first collaboration with a fashion and jewelry brand and if so, how does the approach differ from creating for museums?
It’s a major difference, and I know not many artist are practicing in these spectrum. But for me art and design and culture are all connect, like there is no way to separate these universes. And instead, how can we connect these universes, We are going to a decentralized universe. I am just trying to become this disruptive mind, to connect every single culture together, so it’s a powerful collaboration. It is also for me, what is inspiring is; I am mostly practicing in technology, art and science but the fashion, design and creators that are imagining this world and connecting them in their network is really inspiring. People are working with different materials and mediums, and I am super grateful to connect new audience. My aim is to make art for everyone. I have no bias, I am against bias in the audience.
The installation is truly mesmerizing, make sure to go check it out if you are in Milan during the time it displayed on Duomo.