Refik Anadol transforms Las Vegas Sphere into immersive canvas


On 1 September, internationally renowned media artist Refik Anadol became the first artist to utilise the Exosphere, the fully programmable LED exterior of Sphere in Las Vegas, as an immersive canvas. The work includes an AI Data Sculpture created exclusively for Sphere called Machine Hallucinations: Sphere

Refik Anadol is a visionary media artist, director, and pioneer in the aesthetics of machine intelligence. He uses large collections of public data and machine learning algorithms to create mesmerising, dynamic, and immersive art installations. Anadol is the founder of Refik Anadol Studio, an award-winning technology-driven creative design studio based in Los Angeles. Anadol’s work has been exhibited on six continents, including at the world’s most preeminent venues for art, such as MoMA, New York; Art Basel, Miami; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Machine Hallucinations: Sphere, an immersive digital experience, celebrates Sphere’s unique architecture by featuring dynamic visualisations using vast amounts of data to create abstract imagery of space and nature. The two-chapter series, which Anadol refers to as ‘AI Data Sculptures’, creates a collective, meditative, and multisensory experience that takes audiences on a journey of light, movement, and colour with vivid pigments, shapes, and patterns. This immersive experience invites viewers to imagine alternative realities constructed by invisible data movements around them.

“I am extremely honoured to be the first artist to utilise the exterior of Sphere,” Anadol says. “It’s so exciting to be given such an architectural and engineering marvel as a canvas. This opportunity aligns perfectly with our studio’s long-term mission of embedding media arts into architecture to create living architectural pieces that are in constant interaction with their environments.”

Image: Refik Anadol Studio, 2023 Courtesy of Sphere Entertainment

“Refik Anadol’s artistic approach made him the ideal artist to partner with first to showcase his incredible work using the full-scale capabilities of the Exosphere, an incomparable canvas for artists who want to explore their artistic expression on a global stage and push the boundaries of what’s possible,” says Guy Barnett, senior vice president, brand strategy and creative development, Sphere Entertainment. “Through the captivating power of the Exosphere and our unwavering commitment to showcase both art and brands on Sphere’s exterior, we will forever change the way artwork and commerce co-exist.”

Machine Hallucinations is an ongoing exploration of data aesthetics based on collective visual memories of space, nature, and urban environments. For this project, Anadol and his team used themed datasets as the building blocks for two distinct chapters:

Machine Hallucinations: Space is a visual speculation of humanity’s historical attempts to explore the depths of space based on Refik Anadol Studio’s collaborations with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that utilises publicly available photographs taken by satellites and spacecraft, including millions of raw images that have been captured and recorded by the International Space Station and the Hubble telescopes.

Machine Hallucinations: Nature draws on more than 300 million publicly available photographs of flora and fauna, resulting in pigments, shapes, and patterns that we associate with nature, but only exist in the mind of a machine as ‘hallucinations’. The second half of this chapter consists of Sphere: Winds of Las Vegas, which harnesses data sets of wind and gust speed, as well as precipitation and air pressure, collected from real-time API wind sensors in Las Vegas.

Image: Refik Anadol Studio, 2023 Courtesy of Sphere Entertainment

The entire exterior surface of Sphere, referred to as the Exosphere, is covered with nearly 580,000 square feet of fully programmable LED panelling, creating the largest LED screen in the world — and an impactful display for artists, brands and partners. The Exosphere consists of approximately 1.2 million LED pucks, spaced eight inches apart. Each puck contains 48 individual LED diodes, with each diode capable of displaying 256 million different colours – creating a vivid new landmark on the Las Vegas skyline.

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Lauren is a freelance technical journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint on Auditoria’s sister title Traffic Technology International, as deputy editor from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum to two busy little girls. She is always in demand!

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