Refik Anadol, who lives in Los Angeles, continues to draw attention with his firsts in the field of media art.
The artist will transform a room in Chelsea Market in New York into a digital art space using artificial intelligence. This work, called Machine Hallucination, lays the foundation for the cinema of the future. Anadol, who also works as a trainer at UCLA, has been widely featured in the American press with the Machine Hallucination exhibition in New York on September 6. He questions “What does it mean to be a human in the 21st century?” through the art of media. Our pleasant interview with the artist opened up our horizon. Let’s see what you guys will think.
You’re going to have a very special art event at Chelsea Market; can you tell us about it?
You know, I’ve been dealing with artificial intelligence for a long time. We are working with a team of 12 for this art event. The team includes an anthropologist, artificial intelligence expert, designer, architect, and coding specialist. I work as a director; this project I am working is like directing a movie. I’ve been working on memories for a while. Our study’s point of origin is the following question: “Can a machine dream in the 20th century in a world where even machines can learn?” For the last three years I have been producing works that seek the answer to this question. The event, which will take place in New York, is called “Machine Hallucination”.
What kind of work is that?
As you know, memories are no longer just what we tell each other. Our memories are stored in different forms and kept as data. In the cities where we live our lives, the social channels somehow store our memories. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we leave behind a set of commemorative data.
Can we tell that we will be able to see the dreams or thoughts of a machine?
Yeah, what would a machine have been dreaming about if it had been able to think? I don’t think of it as just a machine, in fact, I think of it as an architectural space. I foresee that in the future machines will have a relationship with architecture. The architecture consists of cold materials. Like concrete, glass, metal. Artificial intelligence can create an architecture with data and light. Here we can think of extending a microphone to artificial intelligence: What is his architectural understanding?
Where do you collect the data from for Machine Hallucination?
We use data collected from 113 million public sites. A very ambitious project. A machine will need tremendous data to learn a city. All the memories of a city are on the Internet. We’re looking at this data. This camera specifically selects photos without people in them. None of them will contain a human. How do we see New York City? How do we experience it? With an ego-free data, we can say that it is the story of a machine that still dreams very close to reality even though it is not real.
Through what kind of infrastructure will it take place technically?
We will equip the space with 18 projections and a set of 32 channels. We’re going to have the visitors experience the story with a beginning and an end in 30 minutes. It’s a story with a script. We can call it cinema experience in the near future. There’s already a term called cinema. After learning data, artificial intelligence can spread this information in 1024 dimensions. This is difficult for us to understand, we perceive life in three dimensions. Artificial intelligence can carry what it learns up to 4096 dimensions. Our biggest success with this project was to see the data being moved to this 4096 dimension. We wrote the code, worked with the best software company in the world, and they gave us the patent for this algorithm. We put our signature on a first in terms of technology, let alone arts…
What kind of experience do you think the visitors will experience?
I dream of giving an inspiring experience, asking questions, in a machine’s dream. An experience that questions the effects of technology on our lives… I did my first artificial intelligence project in İstanbul with the Archive Dream. It was a first in the world, and I am very happy to have arrived there in three years.
How will the visitors become a part of this experience physically? Will there be a seating arrangement?
They will have this experience in a room in Chelsea Market where no one has been in for 120 years and has heating systems. This room was locked after it lost its function. Artechouse I worked with suggested this place and I liked it very much. To me, the place looks like the Basilica Cistern. The ceiling, floor, and walls of this place will be clad with projection. Visitors will be free to roam the place. Considering we’re in New York, I think there will be people lying down and watching. It was a very convenient place for the project. The event will continue for four months.
With which gallery are you realizing this project?
Artechouse… We materialized another exhibition in Washington with the gallery and it also became a work that grabbed great attention. This gallery is not like the classic galleries. It presents works that bring arts, technology, and science together. We have been working together because they see me as a pioneer in this field.
You have been lecturing at UCLA, can you tell us about it?
I have been giving lectures at the university I am graduated from. I am working on a special research at the same time. I am so happy to convey information to the youth.
Do you have the opportunity to share your experiences in Turkey?
I come as a speaker from time to time; however, my dream is to realize a workshop where I will be the mentor. I believe that many creative people will originate from Turkey.
Can you explain media arts?
Media arts is a discipline that began to emerge about 50 years ago. It begins with the awareness of a group of foreseeing artists. It is an art experience that lives through the media where everything from architecture to music can come together. We can say that the experiences created by the different channels in a meaningful technology-oriented manner. There is a point to be considered: works with depth, meaning and questioning aspects should be considered.
What is your quest in arts?
What does it mean to be a human in the 21st century? I am looking for the answer of this question.
You are calling your project cinema of the future, does living in Los Angeles have a share in this?
Certainly… Cinema is one of the most powerful media created by human beings. I didn’t stop dreaming after the first movie I watched when I was 8. My second home is in Los Angeles after İstanbul because of my passion for cinema. I cannot think of any other media as exciting as cinema.
Who are your favorite directors?
Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg… I’m interested in all the groundbreaking directors in their field. As a result of my project with Disney, I had the chance to contact many people from this sector. Inarritu said, “For the first time, I felt like I could touch the technology,” after my WDCH Dreams work at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This happiness was hard to describe for me.
What do you do in Los Angeles when you are not working?
My spouse and I love to travel. We are in a geography with beautiful nature. We explore a new area every weekend.
Do you travel by train?
I traveled a lot by train, particularly in Europe. I find it very special. You are one with nature and you can think and work and contribute to the ecological balance.