The connected works by Refik Anadol and Lisa Park are an extension of the cybernetic art movement invented by French-Hungarian artist Nicolas Schöffer in the 1950s to explore the nature of interpersonal relationships in our mediatized and digital world. Their interactive art installations, guided by scientific protocols that work in tandem with human data, allow participants that have come together at any given moment to create unique works of art.
Refik Anadol is Turkish. Specialized in media arts, he combines technology, scientific protocols and various materials to create augmented sculptures. His most recent project, Melting Memories, shows the brain’s inner workings when involved in a memory process. With the help of the Neuroscape laboratory at the University of California in San Francisco, the artist asked volunteers to concentrate on their childhood memories while their brain activity was recorded by electrodes placed on their skulls. Once this data was synthesized, he could design an installation, a mix of painting, sculpture and automated lighting, to model the movement of a memory.
Lisa Park is Korean. She also uses biometric captors in her performances. Her project Eunoia connects, by way of an EEG headset, her brain activity with water-filled basins to physically recreate the electrical waves modulated by her thoughts and emotions. In Heartmonic, she acts as the conductor of a symphony induced by the cardiac rhythms of participants connected to heart monitors; each one assigned a different instrument beforehand. The artist’s evolution toward more and more collective types of experiences is not incidental considering her origins. Lisa Park sees her work as a way to transcend borders, particularly the highly militarized one separating North and South Korea since 1953: “My idea was to make a documentary about using sensors to reconnect the populations of both countries (…) Maybe a haptic device that could help them touch, or a virtual reality device so they could see themselves in the same setting,” she explains to ADN magazine. Her most recent project, Blooming, is inspired by her ex-pat experience—she lives and works in New York—and emphasizes the importance of physical presence, which is missing when it comes to layering screens. The installation is shaped like a cherry tree, symbol of human relationships in Asian culture, as it is where people unite and celebrate, a tree that blossoms as participants come into contact with one another.
While these evolutions are often blamed for the disintegration and distortion of social relationships, Refik Anadol and Lisa Park choose to use them as a medium for art-making, between machines and publics, to restore the word “connected” to its original meaning.
Cover: Screenshot of Melting Memories, Refik Anadol, 2018. refikanadol.com