He is 38 years old, was born in Istanbul but lives in Los Angeles, where he directs a studio made up of architects, musicians, computer scientists and scientists, and is one of the most prominent creators of digital art today. Refik Anadol is a pioneer in the use of artificial intelligence to create living works that feed on data and whose aim, he confesses, is to build “a collective memory of humanity”. He is the author of Living architecture: Casa Batlló, a map inspired by Gaudí’s facade that gathered 47,000 people in April last year and that will be projected again this Friday from 9.30pm.

He is the first artist to work with AI. What has he learned as a person from the machine?

In 2016 I was invited to do a residency, and as an artist, I was allowed to work with any algorithm, with incredible computation. I felt like a kid playing Playground with all the tools at my fingertips. But my goal with artificial intelligence is to find the language of humanity. From the first day I felt like an artist, my hope has been to find a common language for anyone of any age and any culture. Little did I know then that AI would be the perfect tool to achieve this.

Shouldn’t we listen, therefore, to those who warn of its dangers?

No, no, it’s very powerful and can be very dangerous, but also very useful. It is a perfect mirror of the world. But I have to be very tactful when I work there, with my intentions, my desires, my imagination. What I find inspiring is this concept of art for everyone. If you think about a normal artist working with a brush, their tool doesn’t change, only their ideas. With artificial intelligence, ideas change and the tool changes every morning. And this gives incredible energy and motivation, because it is an art that is relevant at the same time in the past, in the present and in the future. What I always look for is to find the elements that connect us and remind us of who we are. The collective memory of humanity.

And that’s why he creates immense pictorial frescoes, sculptures or immersive installations from data collected, either from brain scans of memories or dreams, from the collection of works of a museum like the Moma or also from the archives of NASA, such as Machine memoirs: Space, the piece that is now on display at the Design Hub as part of the exhibition, Digital impact.

Yes, indeed, my goal is the global memories of humanity. I try to draw attention to these memories, not for someone to consume them privately, but to share them and make them public.

However, the internet has become a kind of wild west of data. They track what we eat, what we say, the places we frequent…

We leave our memories behind us, what we read, what we watch, what we like… And then our memories become artificial intelligence that comes back to us. Did we ever consent to this being so? I’m not sure, but that’s how it works. And my approach as an artist is that we have the possibility to train our own AI models, which is not easy or comfortable but it is possible. I was recently in Iceland in minus 40 degrees and walked 80 kilometers with a very heavy backpack for ten days. I recorded images, sound and even the aroma of the glaciers, and with all this I trained a model of my own. The possibility exists for artists who are not comfortable with what is out there.

Is digital art a humanist art?

Yes, in my practice I try to always find the human in the non-human. And this is where empathy and emotion come from. Algorithms, hardware, software… all this is cold, it has no soul, it has no emotions, but it is a 50% collaboration and in this man-machine co-creation there is beauty, inspiration and hope

A year ago his NFT Living architecture: Casa Batlló, inspired by the facade of Gaudí’s building, was auctioned for 1.38 million dollars. Would it reach that number today? Has the bubble burst?

I think it would be worth much more now. Certainly not all NFTs have value, but some works increase in value over time and this is one of them. Screenings like the one experienced in Barcelona allow us to be together again, something very important in a world that pours us into the individuality of screens or virtual reality glasses. Museums and galleries are important, but I started in the streets and what continues to move me is the idea of ​​an art open to everyone.