A New Kind of Festival: Art and Tech Meet in Panor...

A New Kind of Festival: Art and Tech Meet in Panorama’s The Lab

Music festivals are springing up all over the place, but some, like this weekend’s Panorama festival on Randall’s Island, New York are distinguishing themselves from the pack by providing attendees with one-of-a-kind experiences. Presented by Golden Voice and The Verge, Panorama elevated the experiential potential of what a music festival is through The Lab –  its interactive, multi-sensory space. Capitalizing on the mainstream’s growing interest in art and technology, The Lab featured seven multi-sensory installations by New York-based artists and creatives, within a 70 foot dome that acted as a fully immersive 360-degree Virtual Reality theater.

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Curated by founder Justin Bolognan, The Lab heightened the visceral experiences of festival attendees. The exterior of the dome was projection-mapped by VolVoxLabs with an ultra-high-definition multicolored carpet of light. The interior exhibition space, containing the seven installations measured 150 x 30 ft, and could accommodate 400 attendees at a time.  

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In a recent interview, Bolognino spoke about “simultaneity” as the driving idea behind the innovative festival. He wanted to push against the linear expectations of active performer/passive spectator by combining a more traditional festival set-up with a multi-sensory space.  At Panorama, attendees were invited to participate in their new audio-visual surroundings. While live music is already a near-religious experience for many, the immersive visuality of The Lab provided a new dimension for people to create a more personal, emotive, and even world-altering experience.

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Another aim of The Lab was to elevate and promote local creative technologists as artists. In providing these technologists with an open exhibition space untethered by more commercial concerns, The Lab allowed them to explore the potential of their craft. The most successful of the seven installations were those that used the viewer’s body as their prime mover. One of the highlights of the space was Emilie Baltz & Philip Sierzega’s ‘Cotton Candy Theremin’, an interactive piece in which festival-goers are the performers. By spinning a cotton candy cone over wisps of candy floss, attendees provoke sounds and visuals that turn a cotton candy machine into a new kind of toy. Another work that delighted many was Gabriel Pulecio’s ‘Infinite Wall’, which consisted of mirrors and sounds that responded to people’s presence through a motion sensor. Triggering the sensor provoked what the artist calls a “ripple in time” that modifies a constantly changing audio-visual environment.

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The Lab at Panorama was hugely successful and so much more than a “side show” to the main musical performances. It proved that people, hyperaware of our interconnectedness through technology, are eager to interact directly with their visual and auditory environments as more than consumers. Hopefully, it will inspire other creatives in a wide variety of fields to see the fusion of art and technology as a fruitful locus for individual and collective experiences.  

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All images courtesy by Panorama Music Festival. 

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Jazia is an art advisor, writer, and curator based in New York City. She enjoys spending time in museums, galleries, and flea markets from here to Marrakech.