A Little Commentary on Refik Anadol’s “Unsupervised” at the first glance

Meltem Sahin
4 min readMay 3


[[On a sunny wednesday morning, May 3, 2023, I encountered the work “Unsupervised” by Refik Anadol during the last lecture of “Seminar in Contemporary Architecture“ class. I felt an urge to reflect my thoughts just being slightly familiar with the artist’s background, yet without knowing anything about the artwork, its technical qualities, context, history and the process. I found it important to reflect before and after acquanting process to achieve a complete critical process. Now, that it is the direct reflection of my “seeing”. If -one day- I feel confident about my knowledge and dominance in critics, then this commentary may re-produce itself as a form of “interpreting”]]

MoMA Official Video of “Unsupervised”

The work “Unsupervised” by Anadol is a captivating work of digital art that creates depth and rhtym on a simple, flat surface. The piece distorts perception of two-dimensional ortogonal geometry of the plane and transporting it to another resolution. At that point, the significance of resolution and its place in human senses and perception is worth highlighting. To further elaborate on the notion of resolution and its place in architectural theory, I would like to refer to the contemporary architect and theorist from Yale, Mark Foster Gage. Architect and theorist Mark Foster Gage writes about the resolution in architecture, categorizing modern architecture as “low resolution” and advocating for a return to a “high resolution” architecture. He believes architecture lost its power, effect on human perception and its “WOW” effect with the sudden decrease in its resolution that elevated with the reductionist ideas of modernism. He proposes the Gothic, Baroque and even Renaissance were able to create the mysterious admiration on people and we have to bring that high resolution back to the table with the invention and integration of new tool into architecture.

holo.mg “Refik Anadol’s “Unsupervised” Showcases AI Art at MoMA”

Now in Anadol’s work there is no doubt that there is a certain resolution effect that creates the “WOW” effect on the observer, yet it raises questions about the parameters that produce this effect. Is it the movement of the air that becomes the intriguing force to this digital show? Or is it the density of the people passing by. Is it the change in the certain meter cube’s temperature or is it a combination of all? Furthermore, it is also worth considering the “process” into the digital artwork. The process art used to claim the explicit process of making art remains the prominent aspect of the completed work and becomes the artwork itself, then the result is only the deduction of the effort and thought. Now, consider how we can merely look at the outcome animation and ignore the huge capability, quantum machines behind? Is it possible to evaluate this work without knowing the tools and the process that made it to the MoMa permanent collection? Can we call the engineer and story tellers who formed the inputs and coded the process the real artists of the work? If yes, why are we calling Anadol as the “startist” and ignoring all the hardware, software and human source behind it. Oh yes! The same thing went on in the arhcitectural business for decades, too. We were squeeezed into the “Starchitects” world for years where we underestimated the collaborative process that architecture required. Maybe it is why the architecture could not extend its borders to Mark Foster Gage’s theory and stayed as a continuation of modernist and post-modernist ideas of a hundred year. Now it is possible to say, that, architecture as this digital piece of art, ignored its production and process and gave up on its innovative and collaborative nature. It forgot that the Primitive hut never had a name of an architect over it. The stone Hedge and the Pyramids never be called by a single personality but they fascinated people with their marvelous process, rich ideas, deep culture, vivid context and meaningful story.

In overall sense, I consider Anadol’s work as an attempt to bring resolution, depth and the “WOW” effect back to our simple and non-detailed architectural surfaces and thus achieve a hybrid reality where the duality of plain physical and detailed digital come together.

Questions left and needs to be digged in detail:

  • * What about the medium of the artwork? Do we still need a “white box” to exhibit?
  • . * Idea of “canvas” by famous art historians. Ongoing discussion for decades. To be referred for sure…
  • * What if the commentary includes the MoMA Building and its “white surface” architecture in its observant and critical approach.
  • *What about the technical details related to the process? Projection tools, story behind, the time spent on the “project”, data type collected, the way it re-presented and visualized… The unignorable feature of the work is the projection technologies and the algorithm of the “artwork”, apparently. On the case of projection mapping on Gaudi’s mapping VS MoMA surface
  • *Idea of the “end product” in historic and contemporary art. On the cases of The Milkmaid and Las Meninas. The frozen scenes, captures frames, artists short and long-term memory and pausement.
  • *The idea of “bilboard” should be questioned over the case of “Learning from Las Vegas”. Architectural surfaces which have been considered as an interface between the outside and inside and a seperator inside for a long time should be re-considered in the sense that its emergence on the so-called façade as a bilboard which is an entity tha can re-produce itself on the shop fronts for experiencial shoppingand the free, 3d environments. It -for sure- effects the urban space and the relation of interior and exterior. Now, everythin is interior! On the case of Nike Times Square Immersive Bilboard environment. The the long-fighting façade becomes a very interesting component of the architectural experience and expression.

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Meltem Sahin

Currently @TUM, Munich. Graduate of METU, B.Arch. // instagram: @meltemsahin11 @oncekahvem // meltemsahin.rocks/

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