Nature Dreams

Refik Anadol

10.02 – 27.08.23

ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

Can a machine






Artificial intelligence is an increasingly prominent part of everyday life. When we connect with family and friends via our smartphone or search for information and entertainment on the Internet. When we are offered a customised treatment plan at the hospital or listen to climate experts’ projections regarding human impact on nature. We are constantly surrounded by artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning.
Now that machines are beginning to be able to learn independently, artist Refik Anadol asks a crucial question: can they also dream and imagine things? To investigate this question, Refik Anadol enters into a creative collaboration with artificial intelligence. He creates algorithms that he fills with vast volumes of data as the basis for his works. Artificial intelligence then transforms this data into the hallucinatory images we see before us.

NATURE DREAMS is Refik Anadol’s first exhibition in Denmark. Here you will find three monumental data installations, each of which contains technology found in our everyday life. Anadol takes a positive view of these technologies and hopes that when we see what artificial intelligence is capable of, we will become more aware of the perspectives in our lives shared with artificial intelligence – for better or for worse.
Refik Anadol invites you on a dizzying journey of discovery into the brain of the creative computer, where nature, technology and architecture merge in machine-generated dream images.

Refik Anadol was born in 1985 in Istanbul, and lives and works in Los Angeles, USA.

REFIK ANADOL – NATURE DREAMS is the first part of ARKEN’s three-year exhibition series NATURE FUTURE, where contemporary artists focus on humankind’s relationship with art, nature and technology.

The exhibition is supported by

ARKEN’s exhibitions in 2023 is supported by

MACHINE HALLUCINATIONS: NATURE DREAMS, 2021, Data sculpture, 20 min. loop. The work is a spectacular data sculpture made up of over 200 million publicly available images of nature. From this data, an algorithm developed by Refik Anadol creates new images in an endless, abstract stream of images. We enter an abstract universe that exists somewhere between the physical and the digital. The artist calls it “dreaming with machines” when, with the help of artificial intelligence, we move into the borderland between man and machine. For Anadol, artificial intelligence represents an opportunity to achieve a deeper understanding. He attributes an aesthetic and sensual dimension to the technology, which opens the way for us to imagine what collaborations between man, nature and machine might look like in the future.

Arken: Nature_Future

With the exhibition series NATURE FUTURE, ARKEN aims to focus on the relationship between nature and technology, both now and in the future. NATURE FUTURE will unfold as a series of total installations created by highly contemporary, international contemporary artists. The purpose is to re-think the museum’s exhibition formats by giving room to both artistic development and experimentation with new formats. The exhibitions will be produced in Denmark and at the museum to the extent possible, and we are thus seeking to minimize climate impact from e.g. international transportation.

The relationship between human, nature, and technology is a question that not only arises in our reality here and now, but also extends far into the lives of future generations. What is “nature” and what is “human” in a time when we humans are not just part of nature’s cycle but are direct co-creators of it through our scientific and technological discoveries? What are the ethical, aesthetic, and climate consequences of human’s position in nature and development of technology? And how can art help us think, sense, and act in this field?

In 2023, 2024, and 2025, ARKEN aims to invite one international artist each year to explore such current questions by creating a unique exhibition in the museum’s long, spectacular Art Axis. Here, the artists are given the ideal conditions to present art that is both technologically groundbreaking, highly sensory and on a large scale. Through the encounter with contemporary art and its interest in current themes regarding nature and technology, we aim to offer visitors a series of artistic experiences that bring meaningful perspectives on current themes and stimulate a conversation about both present and future coexistence between human, nature, and technology.

Winds of Denmark, 2023. 2-channel projection in real-time, Variable dimensions. The work Winds of Denmark was created specifically for ARKEN’s architecture and shows digital, aesthetic interpretations of the weather around ARKEN. An algorithm uses collected data consisting of measurements of wind and the speed of the wind, as well as precipitation and atmospheric pressure collected from weather sensors located around the museum. This data is transformed into a projection on ARKEN’s facade in real time. With Winds of Denmark, Refik Anadol wants to point out that our world view is becoming increasingly digitally rooted, and that the boundaries between nature and technology are blurring. By connecting meteorological data, algorithms and ARKEN’s architecture, Anadol expands the physical experience of the building. He creates a link between the material and the immaterial, which emphasizes the museum’s location in nature and invites us to imagine alternative realities.

Nature Dreams

by Majken Overgaard

REFIK ANADOL – NATURE DREAMS is the first instalment in ARKEN’s three-year exhibition series NATURE FUTURE, which, through art, focuses on humanity’s relationship with nature and technology, now and in the future. Refik Anadol opens the series with monumental works of art that showcase his unique artistic method, combining data, artificial intelligence and classic art genres such as painting and sculpture. He has coined the terms ‘Data Painting’ and ‘Data Sculpture’ to describe these new, hybrid formats, where the technology that shapes our daily lives becomes the subject of new artistic experiments and investigations.

In Anadol’s works, the machine represents man’s opportunity to achieve a deeper understanding: here, the machine takes on a new aesthetic, sensuous and even spiritual dimension.

Dreaming with the machine

Technological developments have always gone hand in hand with the paradoxical fact that we simultaneously love and fear what we ourselves create. Ever since these developments took off in earnest in the nineteenth century, technology has been the focus of utopian as well as dystopian visions of the future. Refik Anadol belongs to the utopian camp: he is fascinated by machines and the worlds we humans can create with them. In interviews, he speaks of how he creates art in collaboration with the machine, describing it as ‘dreaming with machines’. As a child, he played video games and quickly became engrossed in the narratives unfolding before him through software and screens. Later, he went on to study machines himself and began to combine his unique understanding of machines and data with new opportunities for expressing himself through software. All the while, he sees the process as a collaboration, a unique fusion between him as artist and the potential inherent in the machine. One may even go so far as to call Refik Anadol a machine romantic. Nineteenth-century Romantic writers and painters wanted to convey a sense of the great incomprehensible vastness of nature, the divine power that nature contains. They wanted to make the viewer feel part of this larger context. In Anadol’s works, the machine represents man’s opportunity to achieve a deeper understanding: here, the machine takes on a new aesthetic, sensuous and even spiritual dimension. Anadol is to the machine what the famous Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich is to the forest, the mountain and all the places where nineteenth-century man could let himself be swallowed up and transformed by nature. Putting the machine in place of nature, Anadol lets us catch a glimpse of what we can achieve in terms of insight and transformation if we venture out to dream with machines.

Nature Dreams, 2021, © Refik Anadol Studio

In this regard, one of the most important elements was the need to understand what human intelligence was to be able to simulate it at all.

The age of the algorithm

The exhibition offers an artistic take on the age we stand on the threshold of: the age of the algorithm. Humanity has developed what is collectively known as artificial intelligence. ARKEN’s presentation of Anadol’s works is particularly topical given that the past year has seen great leaps forward in the field of artificial intelligence and imaging: with Midjourney, DALL-E and Stable Infusion we now have systems that can transform text into image. These new possibilities have prompted many discussions about what this means for art now and in the future, because if everyone can generate complex images via a machine, what is the future for art and artists?

Similar discussions arose back when photography was invented. Could a photograph be called art if all that was required for its creation was the push of a button? We are long past that discussion: not all photos are art. Similarly, not all images generated by algorithms are art. It will no doubt be difficult to distinguish between what has been created by a computer or a human being in the future, but Anadol’s works show us where future artistic explorations will take place: in the study of the interaction between man and machine.
When nature appeared as subject matter in Romantic art and literature, it often served as a reflection of human feelings, a figurative expression of the human condition. In the age of the algorithm, we may well ask the question: what do we learn about human intelligence by mirroring ourselves in the machine? Artificial intelligence has roots dating back to the 1950s, when scientists first began to explore the idea of creating intelligent machines capable of simulating human-like thought and behaviour. In this regard, one of the most important elements was the need to understand what human intelligence was to be able to simulate it at all. The development efforts included a range of different scientific disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, statistics, neuroscience and computer science.

Overall, one may say that while artificial intelligence is able to perform many tasks in ways that look similar to the work of human intelligence, it cannot replicate all the capabilities of the human mind. It is likely that artificial intelligence will continue to develop and become more sophisticated. For artists like Refik Anadol, the essential issue is about investigating the unique possibilities inherent in the collaboration between artificial and human intelligence; potentials which we will see unfolding in the years ahead. His works constitute a vision of positive coexistence, a tribute to a future community between man and machine, where together

Photo: David Stjernholm

The human-like machine

Our desire to develop intelligent machines has always centred on developing them in our own image, with human intelligence as a starting point, but what would the world look like if our machines were based on the intelligence of trees or of an octopus? Today, nature is so affected by human activities that our impact can be discerned in geological terms; we have arrived at the Anthropocene landscape, the man-made landscape. This has prompted criticism of our general outlook on nature: we have lost the ability to consider and incorporate our surroundings into our way of life, and as a result we are in the process of destroying our planet. Now, efforts are being made to adopt perspectives that involve plants and other life forms in the attempt to step away from this human-centric perspective that is destroying our ecosystem. When we speak about artificial intelligence, we work on the basis of the same metrics, we model our intelligent systems on normative notions of human intelligence, but what might we learn about ourselves and the intelligence of other species if we tried to model our systems on other ideas about intelligence?

Many artists feel a need to be able to exist in both worlds, and the term ‘phygital’ has been coined to express this, a contraction of the words ‘physical’ and ‘digital’.

Digital sensibility

In this case, we perceive the future in a physical and sensuous way. The term ‘immersive’ is often used to describe the type of works that Anadol creates, because they not only involve us mentally, but let us enter the work entirely, body and soul. He brings entire buildings and spaces to life, incorporating the floors, walls and ceilings to create digital visualisations that fully envelop us. The approach represents how we are currently moving towards an ever-increasing fusion of our physical and virtual lives. What we previously only experienced via our screens now penetrates our physical world, and the screens turn into 3D simulations. This development goes by many names, including augmented reality, hybrid reality or the metaverse. All this is happening now because our digital being is becoming increasingly important to us, and we need the various formats to exist across the different realities we find ourselves embedded in. The worldwide pandemic is now remembered as more than a health crisis: it was also as a digital revolution. Not only did we learn to work and hold meetings online; our sensibilities regarding the digital realms have changed, and we have learned to experience art and culture online. We have not gone back to our former offline cultural habits after the shutdowns brought by COVID-19 were lifted. But our online consumption of culture is growing. Many artists feel a need to be able to exist in both worlds, and the term ‘phygital’ has been coined to express this, a contraction of the words ‘physical’ and ‘digital’. The word is used to describe works of art that straddle the physical and digital worlds, working with traits that characterise both modes. We are heading towards a future where sensory inputs are not only associated with nature or art in our physical reality, but also with the digital realm, and artists like Refik Anadol pave the way for this kind of sensibility.

This is by no means the first time we have seen artists collaborating with technology. The brush and the chisel are both analogue technologies that have facilitated artistic expressions through human history, but in Anadol’s artistic practice the technology possesses real autonomy, actively helping to shape the character and expression of the work. The works are generative, which introduces an element of unpredictability, even for the artist, because the work’s appearance is created in collaboration with an algorithm. People first began talking about generative art in the 1960s, when machines and computational systems became part of our lives and so also entered the realm of contemporary art. Generative art is art that interacts with an autonomous system, meaning different factors that can leave a unique imprint on the work’s form. These factors may be algorithms, but may also involve chemistry, biology, robotics, etc. that take over parts of the process so that the work comes into being in collaboration with the generative source. Anadol controls a range of parameters and creates a unique artistic signature evident in the way textures appear in the picture plane, in the colours and the movements. However, he does not know exactly how the work will unfold over time.

An important aspect of generative art is the very fact that time often becomes an essential part of the work. The works change constantly: what you see at ARKEN will not be the same as what other visitors experience the next day. In addition, the works are generated in what we call real time: the visuals are not video footage that is played over and over again, but unique images continuously generated by the algorithm based on the data selected by Refik Anadol.

Photo: David Stjernholm

Data as collective memory

Access to data is crucial for the times we live in, because technologies that use data are becoming more and more widespread. The algorithms Anadol uses in his works are also based on large amounts of data, so-called data sets – which essentially means formalised information that can be processed by machines. This is consistent with how most people perceive data: as something objective, something detached from us humans. Anadol has a markedly different understanding of data: he sees the large amounts of data he uses as archives for human memory. When he, in collaboration with the algorithm, processes all this information and lets it appear in unified form via the artwork, we arrive at new understandings via the data we are constantly generating in our digital lives. Understandings we would not achieve if this data was not visualised and interpreted through art.

Anadol curates the data he uses in his works and is careful not to use personal data. Trade in data, especially personal data, has become one of the largest business areas in the world today. We get free access to apps and services in return for providing data about ourselves. Data that is often resold on a global market. The increasing use of algorithms has resulted in growing awareness of the ways in which companies use personal data. Many worry that companies are collecting and using their data without their knowledge or consent. A major challenge is that the companies which develop many of the algorithms that surround us often have complex and opaque data collection and usage policies, making it difficult for individuals to understand how their data is being used and what rights they have in relation to that data. In addition, there is often a lack of transparency around how data is shared with third parties, which can lead to further exploitation and abuse.

Another problem concerns the lack of control that individuals have over their own data. Many people feel that they have no choice but to accept the terms and conditions that are presented to them when they want to use certain services or products, even if they disagree with them. This can lead to a feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability. There is a growing need for individuals to gain more control over their own data. When artists like Refik Anadol convey sensory experiences of data, it helps open our eyes to the important fact that data are not neutral facts, but rather something that is a part of us and that we must take care of. Having coined the terms ‘Data Painting’ and ‘Data Sculpture’, Refik Anadol describes how data becomes the pigment in his works, which means that our collective memory forms the central visual element of the overall expression. Anadol gives us a relationship with our own data, our collective memory, by visualising data and giving it material tangibility.

© Refik Anadol Studio

New perceptions of space

Data also holds another meaning for Refik Anadol. He carefully selects the data he uses to train the algorithms, partly because the type of artificial intelligence he works with requires this, and partly because the chosen data is often linked to the physical location where he exhibits his works. Many artists work site-specifically, meaning that they adapt their artistic practice to a particular landscape or architecture. Anadol creates a new form of site-specific artwork by using data unique to the relevant site. For his autumn exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), he took the museum’s collection as his point of departure and let the algorithm work with this specific subset of modern art. For the exhibition at ARKEN, Anadol creates a new work based on the museum’s unique location in nature. Drawing on meteorological data from the area around ARKEN, the algorithms convert this information into abstract data paintings that will be displayed outdoors on the museum’s architecture.

Visualising data is not a new phenomenon in itself, but the kind of integration of data, architecture and nature that Refik Anadol introduces becomes a tool for understanding new connections between these elements. Anadol is not only working to reinvent painting and sculpture as genres, but also to expand our understanding of architecture and space. He connects objectively measurable meteorological data, sensuous digital aesthetics and the architecture of ARKEN with the overall goal of expanding the physical experience of the building and creating refractions in our perception of time and space. By redefining the functionalities of interior and exterior architectural elements, he invites us to imagine alternative realities and possibilities for ourselves and our surroundings.

Who defines our technological futures?

Much of what we experience in an exhibition like NATURE DREAMS is linked to our ideas about what the future holds. Refik Anadol is interested in speculating about the near future. The works are not about what our relationship with technology will be like in a hundred years, but about what we might expect in five, ten or twenty years from now. Our use of algorithms and artificial intelligence will have an impact on our physical, spatial surroundings, and we will see a greater fusion between our digital surfaces and our physical spaces. We will express ourselves in collaboration with algorithms that generate texts and images; we will think and dream with machines. However, it is important to emphasise that it is we who develop the machines, we who define what future we want to live in. Technological development can sometimes feel like a force that grows and evolves independently of us, but the fact is that we humans are the ones who create technology. At least right now and in the near future.

The thinking machine

In 1818, Mary Shelley published the novel Frankenstein, which formed the starting point of the kind of literature that deals with ideas about the future of man and technology: science fiction. The book takes its starting point in Frankenstein’s main obsession: his desire to create life. Shelley is one of the first modern writers to describe the human urge to create new technology. Until the 1800s, electricity was something we only experienced through lightning and static electricity, but around the time she wrote her story, various possibilities in the field of electricity were being discovered.

For example, Ørsted demonstrated the existence of electromagnetism in 1819. Our ability to control electricity represented a breakthrough and served to spread the idea that man, not God, is the creator. A fascination with electricity and the idea of man as creator runs like a thread through Shelley’s work. She imagines electricity being used to create life, and thus the monster is born between Frankenstein’s hands. This human urge to create and, in one and the same movement, possibly lay the foundation stone for one’s own downfall is the focal point of this seminal science fiction story.

Mary Shelley was the first writer to capture the emotions that follow whenever we invent new technology and thus change our world: fascination and anxiety. Shelley represents the dystopian outlook, the idea of how wrong things can go when we become obsessed with the urge to create. Refik Anadol takes the opposite position. One of the most important questions to ask oneself on the basis of an exhibition like NATURE DREAMS is, then, what kind of relationship do you want with the machine? What future do you see unfolding between man and machine?

Nature Dreams 2022, 6-kanals projektion.



A set of instructions for a computer for performing a specific task or solving a specific problem in a specific number of steps.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines. This involves creating algorithms and models that allow machines to perform tasks that would typically require human-level intelligence, such as recognizing patterns, making decisions, and solving problems.


Blockchain is a digital ledger that is used to record transactions across a network of computers. Each block in the chain contains a record of multiple transactions, and once a block is added to the chain, the information it contains is considered permanent and cannot be altered.

GAN (Generative Adversarial Network)

GAN is a deep learning model composed of two networks, generator and discriminator, competing against each other to generate realistic images or data. The generator creates new data, while the discriminator evaluates it to determine if it is real or fake. The two networks continuously improve through the competition, leading to the generation of highly convincing, yet fake data.


Machine learning is a subset of Artificial Intelligence that involves building systems and algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data without being explicitly programmed. This allows the machine to continuously improve its performance as it receives more data and feedback.

NFT (Non-Fungible Token)

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which is a unique digital asset that represents ownership of a specific item, such as an image, video, audio, or piece of text, stored on a blockchain.


StyleGAN is a type of generative adversarial network (GAN) developed by NVIDIA for generating high-quality, photorealistic images of human faces and other objects. StyleGAN has been widely used in a variety of applications, including computer graphics, digital art, and research into the nature of image generation and perception.


Data Sculpture refers to a type of digital art that uses data and algorithms to create three-dimensional sculptures that reflect data patterns. It often involves using data sets or mathematical algorithms to generate the form and shape of the sculpture, with the end result being a physical representation of data patterns in the underlying system.

Immersive medier

Immersive Media refers to a type of media that fully surrounds the user and provides a highly interactive and engaging experience. The goal of immersive media is to create a sense of presence for the user, where they feel as though they are physically present within a virtual environment. There are several forms of immersive media, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and 360-degree video.

Nature Dreams

This digital catalog is created in connection with the exhibition:

Refik Anadol – Nature Dreams
10. februar – 27. august 2023

ARKEN Museum of Modern Art
Director: Marie Nipper
Senior curator and head of exhibitions: Dorthe Juul Rugaard

Exhibition team

Curated by: Rasmus Stenbakken
AV and Exhibition Technical Responsible: Jens Simon Haumann
Exhibition Assistant: Laura Næsby
Exhibition Design: Maya Lou Ploug Ochoa
Registrar: Irene G. Olsen


Managing editor: Marie Nipper og Dorthe Juul Ruggaard
Editor: Rasmus Stenbakken
Writers: Rasmus Stenbakken, Majken Overgaard, Laura Næsby
Design and Development: Åsmund Sollihøgda
Translation: Rene Lauritsen

Published by

ARKEN Museum for Moderne Kunst
Skovvej 100
2635 Ishøj


© Refik Anadol Studio, Los Angeles
© ARKEN Museum for Moderne Kunst

Photo Credits

© Refik Anadol Studio, Los Angeles
© David Stjernholm
© Roman März

Photo: David Stjernholm