New Algorithms For A Glitching World

An interview with artist Gökhan Doğan, who combines order and chaos through his digital works.

We first met Gökhan Doğan on OMM's opening night: The İstanbul-based artist, who combines machine learning with digital art had created Cometa, a mapping installation that turned the guests into comet-like figures as they stepped into the museum for the first time. Inspired by the relation between comets and space, and using Google's TensorFlow technology, Doğan devised an algorithm that detected human movement and sent a stream of lights upon detecting it. We spoke to the artist about order, chaos, and the personality of algorithms.

The project you installed for OMM’s opening night, Cometa, has a special place in our hearts. Can you tell us a bit about the project and the process behind it?

We wanted to do something more experimental with Cometa. Our starting point was the idea of the museum, both central to Odunpazarı and separate from it; giving the city new life and texture. I felt like the space was above the observable world. So I wanted Cometa to feel galactic and mirror that effect of being above the world. The museum can take you out of the real world and add something beautiful to it. The name Cometa comes from the word “comet” – and some parts of the installation mimicked shooting stars. When people walked towards the museum the lights appeared and tailed them in the opposite direction.

I focus mostly on the chaotic order of the world, the uncontrollable increase in population and the resulting disarray in world systems, the way individuals are deformed – I’ve worked with the deformation of the human figure a lot.

How did you begin working in digital art?

I used to want to work in character animation and VFX (visual effects). I then realized that I wanted to create more high art, digital art rather than work in the film industry, because I express myself better that way. I realized that the work fed my perspective and spirit beyond just being a career. The things I discovered on this path have taken me to the places I’ve wanted to go in life. I drew a path for myself where I could focus totally on this work, and this sector. I began growing, I worked with talented people and learned from very inspiring artists. I learned by working with them.

You work with a variety of digital techniques, from data mapping to data visualization. Do you have a favorite?


I love using any current technology to create digital installations that provide people with an experience. I can’t say I really have a “favorite” because I see all of them as part of the equation. Whatever you do, whatever equipment you work with, at the end of the day your creation is part of the same whole. We can project our ideas and feelings onto people’s experience. We show the audience a side of the world that we find beautiful. I don’t have a favorite technique, but these are the feelings that I value.

I enjoy being able to mirror my own discomfort or happiness through an audience.

Your work is inspired by global issues, and can bring data to life that would be otherwise difficult to visualize. There is also a humanitarian and educational aspect to it. What areas do you mainly want to draw attention to at the moment? What issues trigger your creativity?

I focus mostly on the chaotic order of the world, the uncontrollable increase in population and the resulting disarray in world systems, the way individuals are deformed – I’ve worked with the deformation of the human figure a lot.

Yes, your project Heads On was very intriguing.


The deformation of people’s identity is very interesting to me. I’m someone who notices and photographs these things in daily life; broken or empty billboards, deformed screens, I find aesthetic pleasure in these things. The same goes with people. Amorphous bodies come together with aesthetic sensibility and produce good results. Being able to reflect these things or at least denounce them in my work is very important for me. These are usually my starting points. Enabling people to experience shared feelings, to bother them, make them uncomfortable when necessary. I enjoy being able to mirror my own discomfort or happiness through an audience.

One starts to notice that the world provides us with warnings through all these daily glitches. For example, you happen upon a broken billboard on a busy street and you feel like it’s trying to tell you something.

You observe the points at which order breaks down, becomes dysfunctional.

Yes, I enjoy encountering those points. One starts to notice that the world provides us with warnings through all these daily glitches. For example, you happen upon a broken billboard on a busy street and you feel like it’s trying to tell you something. It’s comforting to be able to imbue those moments with meaning.

If I understand correctly, the algorithms you create always end up being some sort of reflection of yourself, a part of you.


Of course. At the end of the day, you’re the one behind the code. Whatever you see in your daily life, on the street, on your own timeline, you set out from there and make something. It’s more than crafting a product; it’s creating a reflection.

At the end of the day, you’re the one behind the code. It’s more than crafting a product; it’s creating a reflection.
Cometa
Cometa

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