by Dilpreet BhullarMar 26, 2022
To allure or to abhor are two obvious responses to the snake. The two extreme ends of emotions have served as a relentless subject of inspiration for creative tour de force. The presence of the symbol of snake in myths could be traced to the period of Classical Antiquity. The Greek God of medicines Asclepius had a rod coiled with the body of a snake - the limbless creation has been synonymous with the power of healing, wisdom and resurrection. Lending a bejewelled garb to the labyrinth of myths around it, the Italian jewellery brand Bulgari’s Serpenti collection has attracted global attention for centuries now. To further offer a new meaning to the symbol of transformation and unstoppable evolution, Bulgari has commissioned the award-winning Turkish artist, Refik Anadol, to create an immersive and multi-sensory artificial intelligence data sculpture, Serpenti Metamorphosis. The new media artist with his long body of work is known for locating creativity at the intersection of humans and machines. The sculpture was open for public viewing at the Piazza Duomo in Milan until October 31, 2021, and will now travel to different parts of the world.
Similar to Bulgari’s creative ethos to metamorphose the raw material into astonishing creations, the immersive experience of Anadol's sculpture is a celebration of nature brimming with beauty through the elaboration and transformation of data by machine learning algorithms. For Anadol, the concept of metamorphosis is an indefatigable inspiration, “As machine intelligence has the capacity to take the colours, patterns, and shapes of nature and reproduce them into new forms that only exist in its mind. And, when I welcome the machine as a collaborator, it allows me to make the invisible, visible. Metamorphosis is really the perfect symbol to represent overarching ideas of evolution, growth, and precision in the world that surround us. This precision is demonstrated in everything that Bulgari does, so I see so many similarities in the precise way that we create our artworks and the craftsmanship that goes into the creation of Bulgari jewels.”
The sculpture with the harmony between the colourful nature and floral motif, at once, makes the physical setting of the Piazza Duomo in Milan run into oblivion, activating the faculties of perception, sensation, and smell. Moreover, the sculpture uses the machine-learning algorithm trained on over 120,000 snake images, to highlight the power of Bulgari’s iconic symbol. The press release of the Roman jewellery brand established in 1884 gives a lengthy account of the making of the sculpture: “Machine learning algorithms trained on more than 200 million images of nature, 70 million of which are real flowers, transform these natural phenomena into visual poetry. In this sense, metamorphosis is both the main inspiration of the project and its method...."
“The result is a mesmerising visualisation of an alternative reality of nature that mimics its textures and even its perfume. Metamorphosis thus becomes the perfect emblem to represent the idea of evolution and growth not only in nature but also in other areas such as art, technology and luxury, while maintaining its central meaning as an observable physical transformation process.”
In a bid to further enhance the multi-sensory and even more multifaceted experience, both Bulgari and Anadol in collaboration with Firmenich, a company specialised in the design of perfumes; and Sophie Labbé, one of the most popular master perfumers in the world, have created Rainforest Serpenti. The genesis of the fragrance, like the sculpture, lies in the artificial intelligence that envelopes the spaces of the installation as part of the interactive exhibition. The fragrance is a combination of the lush atmosphere of the rainforest with its dark green and watery notes, earthy and woody inflections and a refreshing touch of cardamom, only to make it an unprecedented work of art. The sensorial experience is an exquisite corollary of human sensitivity and technology.
“The final piece is a celebration of all of the emotions and sensations that floral patterns and colours induce,” Anadol has commented, “offering a harmony with nature and reinvigorating our senses. We hope this experience will inspire the audience to re-evaluate our relationship with nature and provide a fresh, new perspective on the creative potential of machines.”
Unequivocally, the AI data sculpture Serpenti Metamorphosis will remain etched in the memory of the viewer like the myths around the symbol snake and Bulgari collection – timeless.