Artist Refik Anadol used to wonder if buildings could dream. Now he knows the answer is yes. A dream is the subconscious regurgitation of sensations, memories, and images. Without intelligence, buildings lack the tools needed to regurgitate much of anything except commuters. So Anadol is giving them a kind of artificial intelligence, or an artificial consciousness. He did this with WDCH Dreams in September 2018, by conceiving an ever-changing projection-mapped light display based on audio and visual data stored within the hall’s archives. 

“It would take 17 years to listen to all the files,” he says of the data that drove the images cast by 42 large-scale projectors onto the billowing panels of the concert hall. “Yes, we are giving a context and consciousness to architectural spaces, but I think we are somehow making a very synesthetic narrative, meaning we are trying to make the space have a sense of smell, a sense of imagination, a capacity.”

Refik Anadol: WDCH Dreams

As a graduate student at Bilgi University in his native Istanbul, Anadol created a piece called “Quadrature,” transforming a wing of the Santral Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art into what he calls a living sculpture, for his thesis project. Projected images mimicking the building’s facade responded in constant flux based on ambient audio in the neighborhood. Images of Quadrature went viral on social media and suddenly Anadol was getting emails from curators and the curious from all over Europe. 

Refik Anadol, Augmented Structures v1-0- Acoustic Formations-Istiklal Street, Istanbul Biennial in 2011

Since then, his schedule has been nonstop, including “Virtual Depictions: San Francisco,” a sculpture that moves based on data, in the lobby of a Mission District office building. To inaugurate ARTECHOUSE at Chelsea Market in New York this September, his Machine Hallucination will focus on the city’s architecture using A.I. to harness images and identify connections between them, creating a machine-based interpretation of the city’s evolving face through the decades.  

“Humans, machines and environments is a beautiful triangular concept and a relationship I find very inspiring,” Anadol explains about his mind-boggling new form of art. “In physical and virtual worlds, that’s where they can happen.” 

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Refik Anadol, WDCH Dreams

Refik Anadol