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Like a Paintbrush Dipped in Data: Refik Anadol’s “Infinite Space” at Artechouse

Photographs by Andrew Beaujon.

For “Infinite Space,” his new exhibition at ArtecHouse, the Turkish-born, Los Angeles-based artist Refik Anadol collected ten years’ worth of open source images, melted them down into data, then let algorithms return them to our eyes, as if in a dream.

Bosphorus visualizes the rhythms of Turkey’s inland Sea of Marmara.

Anadol, a former artist-in-residence at Google, used a generative adversarial network to create some of the representations of data you see in “Infinite Space.” The machine’s “decisions become the story,” he says as we watch images from the International Space Station form clouds on three walls around us. He describes the process as painting, but he’s dipping his brush “into the machine’s consciousness.”

Data Tunnel V1.0. Mind that you don’t walk into the walls!

Some less hulking installations await you off Artechouse’s main room, and you’ll need to put on shoe covers to see them. One is the Data Tunnel V1.0, a corridor covered in mirrors, even on the floor where viewers need to take extreme care not to walk into a wall. Fortunately, when I visited, ArtecHouse had staff on hand to save me from breaking my nose. Around you swirls light that’s generated algorithmically, and some nice ambient music. Beyond it are three boxes called the Media Lab that show wind data from different cities presented in like-whoa digital fashion. To the right of the room is Infinity Room, another mirrored box that shuts you inside as light patterns dance around you. You can leave it, but would you really want to?

“Infinite Space” runs from June 14 to September 2 (subscribers get early access June 13) at ArtecHouse, 1238 Maryland Avenue, Southwest. Tickets $8-16 in advance; $10-20 at the door. 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.