A Visual Tour Through Sónar's Art Installations

Article by: Amanda Foschini|@foschini

Wed June 17, 2015 | 00:00 AM

Sometimes you just need a break from the music part of a music festival, in order to clear your mind and body. At Sónar Festival in Barcelona, your opportunity comes in the form of high-tech art installations from renowned artists that are just as much of a festival draw as the Sónar's music lineup – literally. The festival, long known for having a strong technological and creative identity, even integrates its art installations into some of its musical performances as well.

Take HiLo, for instance, where the "Gyro Gearloose" musical duo Cabo San Roque creates surreal instruments like the Tres Tristis Trons (below). You can see this duo's live show, where its members will use nothing but an app to coordinate all those self-designed machinations. 

Arguably the most highly anticipated visual performance of Sónar comes from Arca – the producer behind much of Kanye West's Yeezus and FKA Twigs' brilliant LP1. Arca will work with visual artist/director Jesse Kanda to turn Arca’s experimental and liquid sound into powerful anthropomorphic images.

To really disconnect from the festival and embrace higher levels of visual art, head to Realities+D, Sónar’s new space created exclusively for virtual reality installations. Once there, look for Datum Explorer, an exploratory game that combines real nature, data, and computer-generated animals. This one-of-a-kind virtual landscape was created from visual and sound data gathered by a 3D scanner and a binaural recording device at a forest in Sussex, UK and then combined with animated creatures to create a half-fantasy, half-reality digital environment.

Getting the itch to go down this obscure and virtual road a little more? Strap yourself into a vibrating wheelchair and get ready for the most frightening and psychological experience Sónar has to offer. “Catatonic” takes you on a virtual (and often disturbing) journey through a 1950s asylum where you are the mental patient. Spoiler alert: The ending is quite bleak and you don’t get out alive.

Head towards a more abstract visual experience with Blackprint, a collaboration between French artist Joanie Lemercier and British musician James Ginzburg. Based on the connective links between architectural geometry and cosmic geometry, this monolithic tower flanked by two large screens takes the audience on a journey around patterns, lines, and forms in the universe. Architecture and sound are also the protagonists of “Transient Senses,” a visual installation that uses the world-famous Mies van der Rohe pavilion as a stage to interplay with the audio transparency of the space; flying speakers suspended in the air by helium balloons will question the architectural barriers of the space.

Finally, there is Nyloïd, a sort of symbol of Sónar. It's an impressive, high-tech spider-shaped tripod with six-meter-long limbs that are brought to life by sound devices. It's an enchanting and impressive work of art that's as much a part of Sónar as all of the amazing music you'll hear throughout the festival. 

Sónar takes place in Barcelona from June 18th to June 20th and you can buy your tickets here.