‘Everything is made by machines’: Refik Anadol’s new installation of Crossover NFT art star at MoMA allows AI to create, generate and dream

'Everything is made by machines': Refik Anadol's new installation of Crossover NFT art star at MoMA allows AI to create, generate and dream

Imagine the following sentence: after viewing all 130,000 works in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, a person is asked to do an artistic reflection. Assuming the person did not die of starvation, what might their work look like? This premise is at the heart of Refik Anadol’s concept. Unattendeda recently unveiled project that renders a museum collection into an AI that constantly brings out works of seductive form and color.

We know machines can learn, we know what they can create (thanks to AI image generators), but Anadol asks if they can dream or hallucinate? If these questions sound eerily similar to those of Philip K. Dick Do androids dream of electric sheep? this is no accident. Anadol in talks to film adaptation of Ridley Scott Blade Runner his thoughts had haunted him since childhood, especially the replicant Rachel’s realization that her memories had been implanted.

In MoMA, Anadol plays Eldon Tyrell, a man yearning to dream and remember a machine burdened with 200 years of artistic images.

“We believe museums have an obligation to support artists who explore and critique new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence,” MoMA curators Michelle Kuo and Paola Antonelli told Artnet News. “With Anadol, we hope to give visitors a new experience and perception of art.”

Standing in the cavernous lobby of MoMA and watching Unattended work is definitely a new experience. It fills the 24-foot-by-24-foot screen with a restless sculpture, some form of mutant that becomes a crimson marshmallow one moment and a luminescent web the next. Blink and its shape, texture, color anew.

Provided by MoMA

Strictly speaking, Unattended plays in three aesthetic styles, or what Anadol calls chapters. “We started 18 months ago and the chapters are basically works of art where we reconstruct and influence the AI ​​brain,” Anadol told Artnet News, noting that two of the works are generative and the other is pre-computed. “It’s all machine-made. We don’t know what piece will be played, when or how.”

Simply put, Anadol uses the UMAP algorithm to reduce the dimensional complexity of an archive and scan it for similarities. The result is what the artist calls a “data universe”. It then goes through generative adversarial networks (GANs) that are programmed to create visual associations, which it learns when viewing images. The curatorial touch is added by the fact that his team works with parameters such as color, the relationship between data points, and the specific point in time and space in which the work is created.

The installation, which will run until March 2023, unexpectedly became Anadol’s first in-person show in North America. “I think a lot about the use of public spaces,” Anadol said. “I first came to MoMA in 2011 and being in this place, [with Unsupervised being] one of the first things visitors see is amazing.” These visitors are turned into unwitting creators with real-time input, including movement, light changes, and acoustic volume that Anadol has included.

“The data visualization is slightly altered by this live atmospheric feedback, like a river touched by the wind,” Antonelli and Kuo said. “Unattended open to chance and intuition.”

Provided by MoMA.

The installation brings into physical space a project that began online last year, when Anadol minted his museum-learned hallucinations as NFTs on the new Feral File media platform. The move sees MoMA join the wave of elite cultural institutions from the Uffizi to the British Museum, tapping into the hottest art trend of 2021.

After heavy lockdowns and attendance well below pre-pandemic levels, Unattended not only engaged in the latest developments in the field of digital art, but also offered a new source of income. The museum received 17 percent of primary sales and five percent of all secondary sales. A quick view of the Feral File shows slow but steady trading of NFT Anadol.

However, to view this collaboration as an opportunistic shenanigan – an accusation leveled against some of the museum’s colleagues – would be unfair to tarnish the project itself and MoMA’s track record of promoting creative people working at the intersection of art and technology.

“Refik’s main success is that he created a work from an extraordinary collection of images representing the MoMA collection,” Michael Nguyen, head of operations at Bitmark, the parent company of Feral File, told Artnet News. “As we continue to work with both, we see Unattended as the beginning of more exciting things.”

As shown by the 2017 Thinking Machines exhibition, which traced the early history of computer art primarily through works in its collection, MoMA has long been a place to actively seek out and platform new artistic practices. Other milestones include launching their first website in 1995 and uploading the entire collection to GitHub in 2015. Going back even further, starting in the early 1930s, the museum was one of the first institutions in the US to begin collecting photographs, a medium that had fallen. a victim of the same accusations of undermining human creativity that are currently aimed at the art of AI.

Provided by MoMA.

For much of the last decade, Anadol has been diving deep into the world of AI with scientists, architects and artists from his studio in Los Angeles. His chance at acquiring gigantic datasets—petabytes, I think—began in 2017 when he discovered an open-source archive of 1.7 million cultural documents in Istanbul called SALT.

Using supercomputers and AI expertise at his disposal as a resident of the Google Artists and Machine Intelligence project, Anadol used SALT to create immersive media installations that revealed unexpected connections between documents. This is a feat of mass data and grandiose predictions that he has since repeated for the cities of Seoul and San Francisco, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Artechouse.

However, unlike previous settings, Unattended touches upon the aesthetic foundations of art itself, its mathematical qualities based on data. As Leland McInnes, developer of the UMAP technique that Anadol uses, told Artnet News, “It’s amazing to see my work being used in MoMA. There is a deep connection between abstract mathematics and art, and the work of Refik Anadol concretely implements this interaction.”

At MoMA, Anadol takes visitors on a journey through time that explores alternative art histories, images that were never created, offshoots of movements that never branched out. But it also points to a possible future, a collaboration between machines that perceive the intangible and humans that define this indefinable thing called taste.

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Written by khirou

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