Creative Machines

Can machines dream? In 2015, Google engineer Alexander Mordvintsec created DeepDream, a computer vision programme that uses a deep convolutional neural network (DCNN), to find patterns in images and generate psychedelic visuals in response. Now, in 2023, we’re seeing an array of such tools making headlines: Midjourney and DALL-E 2 amongst the most well-known. “Six years in AI is like 60 years in innovation,” said Los Angeles-based Turkish artist Refik Anadol (b. 1985) when the Reel Store in Coventry –­ a space for art, science and technology – opened in 2021. “In the future, I think people will become the creators of creators, directors of directors, writers of writers.” This prediction seems to be holding true, with OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT producing convincing paragraphs of prose, and a new AI from Google turning text into music. These innovations have been met with both wonder and controversy. Anadol sees these developments as hopeful. “I’m very excited to share what AI means for creativity and how it can be used for good… I believe the cross-sections of these important mediums will make humanity much better.”

Anadol is best-known for building breathtaking digital experiences using various datasets – transforming buildings, floors, walls and ceilings in the process. Most recently, he’s turned attention to the weather in a new installation for ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, located near Copenhagen. It will take meteorological information from the surrounding area of Ishøj and translate it into mesmerising visualisations via machine learning algorithms. The piece is fed data in real-time and the results are projected onto the museum exterior, changing from one minute to the next. Whilst beautiful and entrancing, the installation will highlight a key real-world application of AI: weather prediction. It’s an essential task currently reliant on the massive power of supercomputers. Research shows that the increasing accuracy and speed of AI models could be crucial in the face of climate crisis and devastating extreme weather events.

This is just the latest of Anadol’s giant digital installations to use AI as a means of interpreting vast sets of images. Previous iterations have tackled entire museum collections. Right now, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is showing a swirling piece trained on its extensive catalogue of almost 200,000 contemporary works – from the swirling landscapes of Vincent Van Gogh to surrealist paintings by Salvador Dali and photography from Wolfgang Tillmans. ARKEN is showing three such works including Nature Dreams (2021), a seven-by-seven metre data sculpture based on millions of images of waterfalls, sunsets, forests and plains. Anadol is an artist at the cutting-edge of a fast-developing medium. | 10 February – 27 August

Words: Eleanor Sutherland

Image Credits:
1. Refik Anadol, Nature Dreams, 2021. Courtesy mabu.eth © Refik Anadol and KÖNIG GALERIE Berlin, Seoul. Photo: Roman März

2. Refik Anadol, Machine Memoirs – Space, 2021. © Refik Anadol Studio
3. Refik Anadol, Metamorphosis – Serpenti, 2022. © Refik Anadol Studio