Turkish Airlines collaborates with Refik Anadol to explore the transformative power of travel

In a groundbreaking fusion of art and technology, Turkish Airlines and artist Refik Anadol present 'Inner Portrait', a captivating project that highlights how travel can transform the human experience.

If you needed to visualise the concept of "travel", you might think of the places people visit. Sun-drenched beaches. Buildings and monuments steeped in history. Vast open stretches of desert. Immense, towering glaciers.

In fact, the more you think about it, the more diverse and varied each of our dream destinations is. So, simply showing a collage of places doesn't really represent the universality of the travel experience.

What, then, brings this all together and makes travel such an enriching, life-changing experience wherever you go? Ultimately, we'd argue that it's not so much what's "out there" but what's "in here". In other words, what's truly special about travel is how it changes us psychologically and physically.

In a groundbreaking collaboration, renowned media artist Refik Anadol has teamed up with Turkish Airlines to develop just this idea.

Pushing the boundaries

Refik, a Turkish artist who lives in Los Angeles, is known for his beautifully colourful and abstract artworks based on data-driven machine-learning algorithms. Now, he and Turkish Airlines – the airline that flies to more countries than any other – have unveiled 'Inner Portrait', an innovative art project that explores the profound impact of travel on the human mind and body.

It debuted at the famed international event Art Basel in Switzerland this month. This multidisciplinary work pushes the boundaries of artistic expression by merging cutting-edge technology with the raw emotions of first-time travellers.

The project follows four individuals who had never before travelled abroad, capturing their experiences as they embarked on journeys to dream destinations.

How it was made

A Brazilian man from the Amazon ventured to Tokyo. A Kenyan woman explored Istanbul. An Australian woman discovered the ancient wonders of Göbeklitepe and Cappadocia. And an Icelandic man witnessed the beauty of Jordan.

Using advanced neuroscientific sensors and AI tools, Refik and his team gathered real-time biological data from each of the travellers, including heart rate, skin conductance and EEG outputs. This raw emotional and physiological information was then transformed into mesmerising AI data paintings, creating a visual narrative that represents the transformative power of travel. As Refik put it: "Their emotions, goosebumps, feelings and sharing were part of every single movement, colour, pattern and texture."

The resulting artwork not only showcases the individual journeys of the participants but also highlights the universal impact of travel on human cognition and emotion. By exploring the link between experiences and neuronal activity, this innovative, AI-driven approach turns authentic human experiences into the building blocks of a new aesthetic expression.

In situ, visitors to Art Basel were enveloped in the motion-led artwork via immersive, surrounding screens, forging a real and immediate connection between the travellers and art lovers.

Overall, 'Inner Portrait' serves as a testament to the immense power of travel in bridging cultures and expanding perspectives. It invites viewers to reflect on their own travel experiences and how encountering new environments can fundamentally alter our perceptions and inner landscapes.

Profound impact

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, projects like 'Inner Portrait' remind us of the profound impact that crossing borders and immersing ourselves in different cultures can have on our minds and bodies. By visualising these internal changes through art, Refik has created a powerful statement about the enduring value of travel in our lives.

The exhibition at Art Basel, which took place earlier this month, marks just the beginning of 'Inner Portrait'. A 30-minute documentary about the project will be released this autumn, offering deeper insights into the creative process and the journeys of the participants.

In an age where digital experiences often dominate, 'Inner Portrait' serves as a poignant reminder of the irreplaceable value of physical world exploration. It challenges us to consider how travel shapes not just our understanding of the world but also our very biology and consciousness. We love this visionary new work and can't wait to see the documentary and learn more about its creation.

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