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REFIK ANADOL & NFT Dreams become virtual reality

CARNET DE VOYAGE/Roberta Olcese

“I am not an engineer, but I am inspired by science, nature and art”. Refik Anadol, a 36-year-old Turkish artist, is one of the protagonists of Media Art, an essential trend during lockdown. ORecently, one of his Nfts was auctioned for more than 2 million dollars in Hong Kong, a result which established him as an artist in his field. Nfts, the “No Fungible Tokens”, are certificates attesting to the ownership of a work of art that is registered on blockchain, a digital database. To buy it you need a wallet, a profile. “Three years ago, my collectors chose to buy on wallets, so I adapted. The artist explains his motivation for entering the crypto market, even though for thirteen years he has been investigating, studying and producing in this field, which is part of life in the third millennium and without realising it has enveloped us. “I consider myself a pioneer of new ideas, my art is fresh”, says Anadol, the visionary. He moved from Istanbul, a city halfway between the West and the East, to Los Angeles nine years ago to study media art at UCLA. His goal is to go beyond what is architecturally visible and transform numbers into 3D sculptures. Anything seems possible in the digital age. The new element of this current is that art becomes blatantly immersive and multisensory and allows for a more dynamic perception of space. The wall separating the viewer from the work, be it a painting, a sculpture or even a performance, has come down. Refik’s metamorphoses are projected onto all the walls of the exhibition space. In some cases, the floor and ceiling are mirrors, amplifying the explosive effect of the material as it melts, deforms, and changes colour. To celebrate its iconic snake, the Bulgari luxury fashion house commissioned Refik to create a multi-sensory experience for viewers using the algorithm. The young Turkish artist created “Metamorphosis”, a sequence of images taken from nature, which change shape and colour, run rapidly on the walls, turn into artificial flowers and move on the screens like a snake. Music and the essences in the air are the work of the algorithm. The revolution that has met the public’s interest is born inside a computer and passes through artificial intelligence, an evolving mathematical algorithm. Anadol moved permanently to Los Angeles and set up a studio of 14 people from ten different countries, including technicians, engineers and artists, who change the algorithm that governs his files every 3/6 months. Renewing oneself without losing one’s identity is fundamental in this system. The basic format that defines his poetics is always the same: the machine receives millions of images identified by Refik, taken from nature and the world of art. The algorithm modifies them and creates new, fluid three-dimensional forms, true sculptures ready to flow on the wall screens. A portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent is deconstructed, dissolved and easily becomes a new work, even a Nativity. Anadol has a passion for the Italian Renaissance and in the lockdown era has created “Renaissance Dreams”, a site-specific cyclopic work for the Meet in Milan, the new International Centre for Digital Art and Culture. A million images and texts produced between 14th and 17th in Italy were used to create it. The work is composed of four chapters: painting, architecture, literature and architecture. The data in each chapter was processed by artificial intelligence using GAN (Generative Adversarial Network) algorithms, capable of identifying common features in images and texts from the Italian Renaissance and producing original creations. The result is a hypnotic walk through art, a composition of dynamic multidimensional shapes to which artificial intelligence has attributed new volumes and colours and associated, as at Bulgari, with an ad hoc sound design. The digital work of art lasts 35 minutes. The photos of an art history book pass in front of our eyes. They are entirely dedicated to our Renaissance. This artist’s work attracts followers of all ages inside and outside the virtual world. For Refik, his videos are the new public works. In all his works, the concept of metamorphosis and immersion of the viewer emerges. The viewer is overwhelmed by virtual reality. “The concept of metamorphosis is a real inspiration to me. The machine is able to take colours, textures and shapes from nature and reproduce them in new forms that only exist in its mind. And when I welcome the machine as a partner, it allows me to transform the invisible into the visible”.