In an ambitious new installation, artist Refik Anadol used a 17,000 square-foot gallery to mount an immersive exhibit asking questions about online privacy
T he trick of Refik Anadol’s Machine Hallucinations, a three-day public art installation at The Shed in New York City, is to transform the processing of data into surreal hypnosis. The immersive audiovisual exhibit towers over a cavernous 17,000 sq ft gallery in Hudson Yards, an outer ring of screens features a shimmering and chameleonic display of what looks like pixelated sand. But each square is a narrative of data: a familiar image – tree, building, lamppost, over 130m publicly available images of New York City searched and collected by Anadol and his team’s algorithms – morphed into a single-colored square and then silenced by a single question: what would you do if you owned your data?
The free exhibit, part of a $250m project to shift data ownership from private mega-corporations to individual users called Project Liberty, makes a tactile, sensory, emotional argument for data dignity and decentralization of internet power – concepts often so bogged down in technicality, abstraction and vagueness as to be inaccessible.