Refik Anadol Blazes Trail for AI-Based Digital Art

Reflections on LED as a Digital Canvas

As someone who works in creative, I spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between art and business—two pursuits that often seem out of sync with each other. Often, profit-driven business strategies take such precedence over creative quality and ingenuity that the final product suffers the fate of middling success and, ironically, low profit. Of course, businesses need to turn a profit. The challenge, then, is to recognize the positive impact creative talent can have on a business, and to harness it without hurting the integrity of the work.

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Davis Green is a marketing design associate with SNA Displays, responsible for graphic design, video editing and project photography. He attended Nature Dreams: San Francisco on behalf of SNA Displays.

Having worked for SNA Displays for a couple years now, I’m happy to say I’ve seen many great examples of this strategy in play. LED display technology can be wonderful because the nature of a digital canvas almost demands dynamic, innovative content. The possibilities of the LED display hardware in customization and content creation are truly endless, so how could you resist the urge to go crazy on the creative side? I’m happy to see that many brands are implementing good creative with their SNA Displays-manufactured LED technology to bolster their identity and reputation among their peers.

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Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to San Francisco to attend an event hosted by Salesforce in the lobby of their 350 Mission Street high-rise, Salesforce East—the centerpiece of which is a massive LED video wall custom built by SNA Displays. The event was held for Refik Anadol, an LA-based artist who specializes in AI- and data-driven visuals and whose work has been on display at Salesforce East for seven years now. At the event, Refik unveiled his latest digital masterpiece, Nature Dreams: San Francisco, a 3-dimensional AI data sculpture that uses 90 million images of national parks and wind data from San Francisco to create the ethereal, data-driven artwork he’s so well known for. He also spoke about his unique creative process, his recent projects and technological developments, and his broader vision for the future of the interface between AI and art.

It was clear that for Refik, new developments in technology, LED or otherwise, were opportunities to fold more layers of depth into his creative work. In a time when it’s easy to criticize new and often confusing trends such as NFTs, it was refreshing to see someone so wholeheartedly embracing them for the sake of pushing creative expression forward. To hear him talk through such innovative and inspiring ideas while his new work shined from the LED wall above us was just the icing on the cake.

It’s also worth mentioning that Refik is one of the most humble, kind, and thoughtful people I’ve had the joy of meeting. I was grateful for the opportunity to chat with him about the role LED technology plays in his life as a digital artist. All of Refik’s ingenious work needs a suitable canvas, and LED is the obvious solution. He is setting a wonderful example of what can be done with the tech, and I hope his approach inspires many artists to come. Of course, this experience is thanks in large part to Salesforce, who recognized the value that Refik could bring to their brand. I hope their example helps to shape how we utilize good art moving forward.