That week-long projection-mapping job on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA is now live, and judging from photos, looks amazing.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic collaborated with digital media artist Refik Anadol (hear a recent podcast I did with him) to come up with a data-driven set of visuals that illuminate metallic skin of the building.
The results, says the orchestra, are stunning visualizations for WDCH Dreams, a project that is both a week-long public art installation projected onto the building’s exterior skin and a season-long immersive exhibition inside, in the Ira Gershwin Gallery.
This is a preview. The thing went live on the weekend …
To make Walt Disney Concert Hall “dream,” Anadol utilized a creative, computerized “mind” to mimic how humans dream – by processing memories to form a new combination of images and ideas. To accomplish this, Anadol worked with the Artists and Machine Intelligence program at Google Arts and Culture and researcher Parag K. Mital to apply machine intelligence to the orchestra’s digital archives – nearly 45 terabytes of data – 587,763 image files, 1,880 video files, 1,483 metadata files, and 17,773 audio files (the equivalent of 40,000 hours of audio from 16,471 performances). The files were parsed into millions of data points that were then categorized by hundreds of attributes, by deep neural networks with the capacity to both remember the totality of the LA Phil’s “memories” and create new connections between them.
This “data universe” is Anadol’s material, and machine intelligence is his artistic collaborator. Together, they create something new in image and sound by awakening the metaphorical “consciousness” of Walt Disney Concert Hall. The result is a radical visualization of the organization’s first century and an exploration of synergies between art and technology, and architecture and institutional memory.
To actualize this vision, Anadol is employing 42 large scale projectors, with 50K visual resolution, 8-channel sound, and 1.2M luminance in total. The resulting patterns, or “data sculptures” formed by the machine’s interpretation of the archives will be displayed directly onto the undulating stainless-steel exterior of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
WDCH Dreams’ accompanying soundtrack was created from hand-picked audio from the LA Phil’s archival recordings. Sound designers Robert Thomas, and Kerim Karaoglu augmented these selections by using machine-learning algorithms to find similar performances recorded throughout the LA Phil’s history, creating a unique exploration of historic audio recordings.
There is a separate touchscreen-driven piece inside, in the Ira Gershwin Gallery, that presents the entire LA Phil digital archives in a non-linear fashion. The visitor, via a touchscreen interface, can interact with the archives in multiple ways: via a sunburst timeline; through curated moments highlighting milestones in the LA Phil’s 100-year history; and by delving into to the entire data universe that can be uniquely manipulated by each gallery visitor.
The 15-minute “performance” with music outside will be on nightly through Saturday.
The LA Times has mixed reviews of the work, calling the data-driven side of it hokey but conceding it does, indeed, look remarkable.
A zillion gigabytes of data and a panoply of artificial intelligence algorithms don’t art make. Much of this is pure hokum. The electronic soundtrack, bits of Stravinsky and this-and-that in fashionable distortion, is the one thing of the evening that should properly embarrass an orchestra on a commissioning spree.
And yet don’t, under any circumstances, miss it.
Anadol or his computer (it’s hard to know who’s in charge) may make a mess of archival L.A. Phil imagery. But no matter, you can’t take your eyes off it. Properly lighted for the first time, the building looks amazing,
And in the moments when we see giant images of Zubin Mehta, Previn, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Dudamel conducting, when we see the orchestra at its business, gloriously covering the hall, the excitement is palpable.
This is what Gehry had intended all along, projecting night concerts as they are happening on the building, and nothing on the Las Vegas Strip or in Tokyo’s neon-arresting Shinjuku district compares.
There has never been any reasonable excuse for city, the county or the Music Center not to embrace Gehry’s vision. After seeing Anadol’s lighting, to not do so now would be to invite bad, instead of good, vibrations.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.