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The 65th Annual Grammy Awards, held last night, February 5, were a standard affair that seemed to generate the most buzz over two wildly unsurprising topics: Beyoncé breaking the record for most career wins while again being passed up for a big award, and Ben Affleck apparently having a horrible time. But amidst an otherwise uneventful ceremony, sharp-eyed digital art aficionados may have noticed a new phenomenon: An artificial intelligence artwork — generated in real time — was displayed on the screens behind the stage.

The trippy, shape-shifting abstract images are the work of Turkish-American artist Refik Anadol, and according to a representative from his studio, the display marked the first time AI art was used in a Grammy broadcast. Anadol has minted his AI pieces as NFTs and sold them at Sotheby’s. It seems only fitting that AI and NFT art would make their Grammy debut at a stadium called the Crypto.com Arena, the new name for the former Staples Center in Los Angeles as of 2021.

A selection from Machine Hallucinations: Space Metaverse (courtesy Refik Anadol Studio)

One of the specific pieces chosen for the Grammy’s exhibition was “Galaxy (Infinite AI Data Painting)” (2021), a swirling generative image trained on photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope. The work creates itself in real-time and never repeats itself.

The piece is part of Anadol’s multi-year series Machine Hallucinations: Space Metaverse, in which the artist trained a machine learning algorithm on deep space NASA photographs captured by satellites and spacecrafts. The results are detailed and life-like cosmic images, yet while many of his digital works mimic the forms of planetary surfaces and colorful galaxies, others appear more biological, pulsing and morphing on their LED screens. “Unsupervised,” part of Machine Hallucinations, is currently on view at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Last night’s ceremony also featured work from Anadol’s Machine Hallucinations: Nature Dreams, another generative series trained on over 300 million photographs of trees, mushrooms, flowers, landscapes, and other natural objects. Just as in Space Metaverse, Anadol’s algorithm creates a never-ending stream of final products, and similar to his cosmos-themed project, the results are incredibly varied: Some pieces mimic the petals of flowers, others the microbiology of mold, and some the insides of fruits.

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