An innovative public art project will brighten Pioneer Tower for 2 nights

·4 min read

A high-tech art installation will cover Pioneer Tower in hallucinatory digital art that celebrates Fort Worth history, culture, and nature.

Created with social data as material, imagery from artificial intelligence will be projected onto the 200-foot Will Rogers Memorial Center landmark for an immersive 360 experience with multichannel sound. A year in the making, the massive public art project is free and open to the public from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Aug. 20 and 21.

From Dallas Aurora, the public arts organization founded in 2010 with a biennial art festival showcasing sound, light, and video art, this new media exhibition, “New Stories: New Futures,” is commissioned by Fort Worth Public Art, a city initiative managed by the Arts Council of Fort Worth.

Curated by New York artist DooEun Choi, the outdoor show includes ten-minute visual performances from two international media artists, Refik Anadol, an Istanbul native based in Los Angeles, and Davide Quagliola, better known as Quayola, from Rome now living in London.

Anadol coined the term “data painting” using light as a material and data as pigment. As one of the first artists in residence at Google, he started by imagining “invisible patterns of life” like heart rates and brain activity as art and created data paintings and sculptures using AI and big data. Anadol describes his “Pioneer Tower Dreams” project as a sculpture dreaming data from Fort Worth history from many local sources including archives at libraries and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, as well as images form social media.

“These are local memories,” Anadol said. “We take the information and train the AI to learn these memories and dream of Fort Worth in the form of architecture.”

Pioneer Tower digital art exhibit.
Pioneer Tower digital art exhibit.

For this installation, patterns of information create abstract visions using over ten million images. Six terabytes of sounds recordings from local radio and news stations are processed into operatic audio with algorithms.

“This allows AI to create realistic hallucinations,” Anadol said.

Known for using robots to create classical sculpture to explore tradition and history, Quagliola’s installation explores the history of landscape painting. Inspired by traditional painters uncovering new visual languages with representations of nature, “Texas Surveys: New Pointillism, Landscape Scans and Horse Paintings” tries to “decode” landscapes with technology.

“It’s not just looking with my own eyes,” said Quagliola, who explored Fort Worth to gather material for this video work. “I captured all sorts of data sets along with photographic and film materials. It’s a celebration of the natural landscapes that surround Fort Worth.”

He developed systems to visualize these data sets. Billions of three-dimensional coordinates, for example, are reassembled for these pixel paintings. These high-tech methods mimic the traditional practice of landscape painting.

“I describe technology not so much as a tool, but a collaborator with a very different pair of eyes that allow us to observe things differently and uncover new aesthetics,” Quagliola said. “I am very fascinated with this idea of how machines see the world.”

Quagliola compares this sensorial experience to a concert. He developed other software to orchestrate computer-generated harmonic progressions. He says the audio and video are interconnected by an “algorithmic core.”

Dallas Aurora executive director Joshua King says the complex installation requires 13 projectors and 20 speakers with 3D mapping and sound engineering from a technology team.

“We focus on the future of art and how it keeps evolving,” said King, who describes the event as a fusion of museum and festival that is accessible to everyone. “These are two of the most elite artists when it comes to art and technology colliding.”

Curated by Fort Worth artist Lauren Cross, Anadol and Quayola’s video works are accompanied by an outdoor group show from ten North Texas artists including Letitia and Sedrick Huckaby, Jin-Ya Huang, Jeff Gibbons, Bernardo Vallarino, and Angela Faz.

“I wanted to combine great artists with powerful, unique stories who wouldn’t be exhibited together traditionally,” Cross said. “I wanted to look at how their stories differ and relate to each other.”

These site-specific technology-based works from regional artists challenge perceptions of community and offer personal responses to the pandemic.

“It was really important to create this collision of regional and international talent to really start exploring an unknown future,” said King. “And Fort Worth is one of the first cities to purchase digital works of art from these international artists.”

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