From Coachella and Panorama to more boutique events, immersive artwork is becoming a crucial part of the lineup
With more musicians making repeat rounds on the festival circuit to recoup the losses from shrinking album sales, a singular experience can distinguish one music festival from a growing sea of others. This was abundantly clear to Omar Afra, who has owned and run the Houston music festival Free Press Summer Fest for nine years. Were glad that festivals have given a lot of bands social revenue, he told the Dallas Observer this month. That said, we dont want any of those bands that are playing every other festival. We want to create special moments that you wouldnt otherwise see.
Enter Day for Night, his new festival that closed its second installment last weekend. Day for Night actually offers a few different singular experiences in a single package: there was RZA and the Jesus and Mary Chain and a rare US appearance by Aphex Twin on huge indoor and outdoor stages, alongside the streaming, oozing, flashing beams of light of various digital art installations scattered through the darkness of a cavernous, abandoned mid-century post office a Berlin ravers dream, according to Day for Night co-founder and multimedia artist Alex Czetwertynski.
As curator of these art experiences, Czetwertynskis goal was to integrate art into the festival as a founding concept, not as an add-on, he says. Large-scale sculptural installations have already invaded the music festival grounds of Austins SXSW, New Yorks Panorama, and the grand desert spectacle of Coachella, which this year presented its largest artworks yet. (Festival art director Paul Clemente told the LA Times that he needs to push the limits of his epic art experience because pictures of Coachella end up to be the iconic images and memories people have from that year.)
But rather than objects in space, Czetwertynski sought works that better integrated into the festival scene, tapping artists and musicians that cross the digital line between audio and visual. Bjrk Digital was an obvious choice; the touring virtual reality exhibition immerses visitors in a series of alternate, Bjrk-designed realities scored by tracks from her blistering 2015 break-up album Vulnicura. Crescendoing from totally mundane music video concepts to actual surreal, semi-frightening 3D experiences, the six-piece series shows the artists growing mastery of this burgeoning technology.
Once donning those headache-inducing goggles stationed on a rotating stool, you first found yourself, nonplussed, on some peaceful distant shore with one Bjrk in front of you and, wow surprise, a second behind you! but by the fifth experience, after falling through cosmic quicksand and tumbling around inside Bjorks mouth, you find yourself cowering before a giant flaming avatar of the Icelandic singer that eventually (spoiler) passes through your body.