In partnership with UCLA, renowned artist and alumnus Refik Anadol has created a multisensory experience that commemorates the beauty of nature and seeks to aid in our collective renewal through the power of art. The multimedia installation titled “Moment of Reflection” will be displayed April 19–22 in the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden.
Free and open to the public, all are invited to experience a never-before-seen media installation designed especially for UCLA. Viewing hours are from 6-10 a.m. and 4-10 p.m. daily. An opening-night unveiling featuring remarks from Anadol and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block will be held on Tuesday, April 19 at 7 p.m.
Anadol is a media artist, director and pioneer in the aesthetics of machine intelligence. He earned a master of fine arts from UCLA’s Department of Design Media Arts, where he currently serves as a lecturer. His body of work addresses the challenges and possibilities that ubiquitous computing has imposed on humanity. In his art, which often features colorful, animated images in a constant state of dynamic transformation, Anadol explores what it means to be human in the age of artificial intelligence.
Tens of thousands of Angelenos experienced Anadol’s “WDCH Dreams,” a week-long public art installation created for the 2018-19 Los Angeles Philharmonic’s centennial season, as both a 15-minute multisensory show that was projected onto the Walt Disney Concert Hall exterior accompanied by music, and in a season-long immersive exhibition inside the Ira Gershwin Gallery.
Anadol, and the team of artists, architects, data scientists and researchers who together make up Refik Anadol Studio, created the data sculpture especially for the UCLA campus by feeding machine learning algorithms a dataset of more than 300 million photographs of nature (landscapes, flowers, trees, clouds, water, lakes and the ocean). These massive, publicly available data sets, which Anadol refers to as “memories of humanity,” are the foundation of what the AI learns before it can dream of nature from an alternative perspective, or what the artist calls “the mind of a machine.”
The “Moment of Reflection” event was conceived in partnership with the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.
“While there is much to be hopeful for in the months ahead, we also have much to reflect upon now that it has been more than two years since COVID-19 turned our lives upside down,” Block said. “Since we are able to gather in person again, I want to invite members of our community to join us for a special event that can help us process some of the difficulties we’ve endured, as well as build the hope and connection that will help all of us move forward.”
The arts are a vibrant part of UCLA life, with year-round research and public programming from the School of the Arts and Architecture, the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, the School of Theater, Film and Television, the Film & Television Archive, the Hammer and Fowler museums and the campus public performing arts presenter, Center for the Art of Performance all under the auspices of the Go Arts UCLA initiative.
“To have our artwork displayed at my alma mater is an honor,” Anadol said. “I hope people find some healing from their personal moment of reflection while experiencing the art.”
Anadol’s body of work lies at the intersection of art, architecture, science and technology. One piece in particular, 2018’s “Melting Memories,” sparked a specific interest in neuroscience.
“When my uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I saw his memories literally melting away, I imagined a way to honor those memories and give them new life,” he said. “Collaborating with brilliant minds in the field of neuroscience, we gathered data from people in their moment of remembering, and used that data as the basis for the artwork.”
Anadol recalled hearing from people that his art was helping them in some way.
“My art has always been created intentionally for all audiences — transcending age, culture and background,” he said. “If any of our artworks help someone find peace, or relaxation or better their mood, that is super inspiring for me.”
Since embarking on this journey of artistic practice, Anadol has also been in close and ongoing collaboration with members of the UCLA scientific community, advancing the value of art as critical research.
For a forthcoming project, UCLA neuroscientists will show selections of Anadol’s video creations to research study participants while mapping their brain activity during an MRI. They will collect data on participants’ mood, anxiety, stress and sleep levels, seeking evidence on how art might affect brain function.
“We’re intrigued by the notion of whether both viewing and experiencing art might promote new brain connections, leading to improved cognitive and mental well-being,” said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, professor-in-residence of psychiatry.
Lavretsky’s ongoing research is related to integrative mental health using mind-body interventions. She’s part of a group collaborating with Anadol that includes Taylor Kuhn, an assistant research neuroscientist in psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences department.
“If we are successful in demonstrating a meaningful connection between art and mental disorders such as anxiety and stress, this study could serve as a foundation for evaluating immersive artwork as a digital neurotherapeutic,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn is the coordinator of the Lifespan Human Connectome Projects, which are affiliated with both the UCLA Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the UCLA Brain Mapping Center. He previously collaborated with Anadol on a unique 3D-printed and projection-mapping installation titled “Sense of Space,” which was presented at the 2021 Venice Biennale. This work showcased Anadol’s AI-generated art based on MRI data from the Lifespan Human Connectome Project that revealed the structure and function of healthy brains across the human lifespan.
The “Moments of Reflection” installation will be held in the meditative surroundings of UCLA’s sculpture garden, located in between MacGowan Hall and Bunche Hall. Operated by the Hammer Museum, it is one of the most distinguished outdoor sculpture installations in the country. Spanning more than five acres of campus, the space boasts more than 70 sculptures by artists such as Hans Arp, Deborah Butterfield, Alexander Calder, Barbara Hepworth, Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin, and David Smith.