A photographer spends six hours with artist Refik Anadol on his journey to make Walt Disney Concert Hall dream.
Media artist Refik Anadol is best known for transforming architectural spaces and façades into canvases for live media arts. With his latest installation for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Refik sets out to design a creative, computerized “mind” that can dream.
“When humans dream, our minds are hard at work, processing memories to form a new combination of images and ideas,” explains Anadol. By working with the LA Phil’s digital archives – its "memory" – Anadol hopes to create a radical visualization of the LA Phil’s 100-year history and project it onto the exterior steel skin of Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Above: A rendering of a scene from Refik Anadol's WDCH Dreams projected onto the surface of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Most mornings, Anadol arrives early to video conference with members of his team. The team of designers, technologists, and engineers have come together from San Francisco, New York, London, Berlin, and Istanbul.
Refik Anadol's studio – a former auto-repair shop – is located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
With less than three weeks before opening day, Refik Anadol is focused on delivering a musical score and making final adjustments to the 12-minute performative element of the media installation.
Nicholas Boss, an information designer who joined the studio in 2016, begins to calibrate a test projection of an accompanying installation designed for the Ira Gershwin Gallery inside Walt Disney Concert Hall.
On an average day, the temperature in the studio often rises above 100°F. The servers are stored in an air-conditioned closet, but in the studio, there are only a handful of fans. “AC is out of the question,” explains Efsun Erkilic, Anadol’s wife. “We are already at max power.”
Refik Anadol begins to assemble mini projectors with Ho Man Leung, a VR engineer. This will help the team simulate the projection onto the surface of a miniature model of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Each mini projector represents 3 or more projectors that will be used on location. The final installation will run on 42 large projectors with 50k visual resolution, 8-channel sound, and 1.2M luminance in total.
Computational artist Parag K. Mital with sound designers Kerim Karaoglu and Robert Thomas explored the LA Phil archive with machine intelligence tools. LA Phil's entire audio archive (over 18,000 hours of audio) was divided into nearly 10 million segments and each was then characterized by 256 attributes such as pitch, timbre, amplitude, tempo, tonality, and key. These attributes were then projected into a 6-dimensional space and represented as a 3D plane with space (x, y, z) + color (r, g, b) mapped to the 6-dimensions.
Within this new data universe, Refik Anadol’s team hand-picked specific memories and curated a unique soundtrack that accompanied the visual narrative of WDCH Dreams.
By mid-afternoon, Refik Anadol and Nicholas Boss test the interactive features of an accompanying installation that will allow visitors to fly through a visual landscape of the LA Phil’s history.
“I thought it was time to take these beautiful memories and organize them into a story.” – Refik Anadol
As the day draws to a close, Refik Anadol makes final edits to a video teaser that will accompany the press announcement as his wife, Efsun Erkilic, looks on.
Photographs by Jackie Russo
Refik Anadol Studio:
Ho Man Leung
Parag K. Mital