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The Wind's Invisible Poetry Flows Through These Digital Paintings

Refik Anadol Studios' new work turns a year's worth of wind data into painterly animations.

by Kevin Holmes
Jan 4 2017, 2:25pm

You might not be able to see it, but when it's windy outside, you certainly feel it (not least when you regret leaving the house). Yet in amongst that invisibility are woven intricate and complex patterns, which, if they could be colored with different hues, might animate the world around you into a much more colorful, psychedelic—and possibly overstimulating—place.

US-based Turkish artist Refik Anadol is tapping into these unseen patterns and giving them visibility in his new work. Titled Wind of Boston: Data Paintingsthe Walt Disney Concert Hall projection-mapping artist has collated data from winds in and around Boston Logan Airport and turned this information, using custom software, into abstract data paintings and displayed them on digital canvases.

The software, built in Processing by Refik Anadol Studios, read one year's worth of wind data, then analyzed and visualized—using a particle engine and physics simulations—wind speed, gust patterns, direction, time/date, and air temperature. 

Image courtesy of the artist

"The first chapter [of the work] is called Hidden Landscapes and uses the anemometer's [a wind speed sensor] most radical movements to create immaterial spatial painterly gestural experiences," explains Anadol to The Creators Project. "The second one is named Porcelain Memories and recalls the intangible and poetic quality of a gale. Sea Breeze explores the gentle wind blowing from sea toward Fan Pier in winter and Gust in the City is a top-view of pictorial phenomena from short bursts of high speed winds."

GIF by author. (via)

Anadol picked the airport because it's located on the coast, where wind is a constant, and the airport, for obvious flight safety reasons, is equipped with a highly accurate sensor known as an anemometer. This measures and tracks wind speed in a very detailed way, enabling Anadol access to a wealth of data and turn the poetry of these blusters into sculptural and painterly forms.

Image courtesy of the artist

Anadol says the data was used as a source of inspiration because of its mind-boggling influence as an elemental force, and for its importance as an alternative energy source.

Image courtesy of the artist

"In our studio practice we are constantly searching for how to bring novel data-driven experiences to the built environment and also trying to find poetic reasons for how to create connections, to reveal the invisible and make it visible to our perception," he notes. "Wind is one of the most vital phenomena that surrounds us every single moment in the naked environment. First of all, its motion is full of inspiration and uniqueness in any given moment due to the natural facts and land characteristics. In meteorology there are several laws that explain these phenomena such as Buys Ballot's law or Westerlies, and trade winds are part of the earth's atmospheric circulation. Secondly, wind as an energy form is so important for the future of humankind because it holds extreme potential in supplying electricity across the world. Like solar energy, wind has tremendous potential to lessen our dependence on traditional resources like oil, gas, and coal, and do it without as much damage to the environment."

Image courtesy of the artist

GIF by author, via

You can learn more about the project and other work by Refik Anadol at his website here.

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