Home Digital art SOFT CENTRE: Prowling Aliens, Virtual Reality and Screamo

SOFT CENTRE: Prowling Aliens, Virtual Reality and Screamo


I was inspired to attend SOFT CENTER by its poster – a figure in armor delicately suspended among shards of crystal, against the backdrop of a desolate landscape. Below is a long list of artists, including Sam Rolfes, Loppy B and Rainer Kohlberger. Not a single name was familiar to me, but I figured there was nothing electronic music could throw at me that I couldn’t handle.

I was unprepared for the reality that met me at Carriageworks.

For those who may be as misinformed as I am, SOFT CENTER is an annual one-day festival of cutting-edge music and art. In terms of genre, the music included trap, hardcore, gutter techno, post-music, noise and more – all firmly within the realm of experimental. In the hallowed interior of Carriageworks, artists painted scenes using only light, sound and bodies.

These scenes unfolded and evolved over SOFT CENTER’s eight-hour runtime. In the mid-afternoon light, the venue’s lobby was hazy from a mixture of fog machines and vapes, the full-length windows of Carriageworks making the space look eerily bare in the cold light of the day. With the setting sun, the space was transformed. A pulsating, ever-changing red-white mist shrouded the hearth, while a crowd formed a large circle in its center.

Within this circle, the first artistic performance of the night began. Makeda, a Melbourne-based performer, sang on skates while two other performers performed a roller figure skating routine around her. The skaters pushed and pulled against each other in a mesmerizing dance of tension, only stopping to hand roses to the crowd. Above, Sam Whiteside’s changing lights Contact the installation sets the scene.

performance of Aliens in Manila by Leeroy New, Red Rey and Wytchings. Image by Jacquie Manning, courtesy of Carriageworks.

Performances continued throughout the evening, including a particularly terrifying performance by Red Rey, who, clad in sprawling sculptural armor by Leeroy New, roamed the hall in search of victims. I use the word “roam” much like I would a lion, with Rey crawling towards and stalking viewers, creating a level of suspense and tension in their art. I lived in fear that this performance would turn into an ironclad sprint towards me. Wytchings, a West Sydney mood composer who provided the soundtrack for this hunt, wrote of their collaborative work Manila Aliens that “We hope we pissed you off a little!” Hehe

Beyond the foyer, in the closed hangars of bays 17 and 20 of Carriageworks, the festival raged and raved. tracks, a live audiovisual performance by DBR, Cypha, Brigitte Podrasky and Joan Shin, was an otherworldly visual spectacle. DJs obscured behind semi-transparent sheeting played a hypnotic set, while projected before them was a live visual rendering that ebbed, flowed and zoomed with the music through an ever-changing grainy field of lines and shadows. . Many sets throughout the day placed the visuals as an equal participant alongside the music rather than simply as a backdrop. Experiencing such artistic harmony between visual and auditory spaces was deeply awe-inspiring, especially considering the unique trance music and performance of tracks‘ fractal-like visuals. tracks it was like exploring the inside of an HR Giger alien, and having it unfold on a crowded dance floor felt like raving about an evil screensaver.

Always from tracks by DBR, Cypha, Brigitte Podrasky and Joan Shin.

Leaving tracks looking for more variety, I came across a set from Plea Unit, including beautiful visuals from the artist behind the SOFT CENTER poster: Endless Prowl. As an exciting high-energy rap and punk-inspired set unfolded on stage, the screen behind showed a stunning, tranquil scene of an underwater cave. Populated with semi-organic crystalline structures and rising bubbles, the claustrophobic environment projected from floor to ceiling and consumed the performance space, lined with fractal-like metallic shards. The dissonance and scale of the audio and visual elements made me want to decode the artistic connection between the two – but my only conclusion is that both are really cool.

The following performance greeted me with a visual and auditory wall courtesy of Berlin artist Rainer Kohlberger. Kohlherger’s Rainbows included layers of noise and light stretching for what felt like an eternity, filling the cavernous space as well as entering my brain and shaking things up. Standing in bay 17 experiencing his set was mesmerizing as the buzzing noise and static of the AV experience made it feel like he had wrapped me in tin foil and put me in a mic -waves. I admit that I needed a little break from this set.

by Rainer Kohlberger Rainbows. Image by Claudio Farkasch, courtesy of Soft Centre.

By the time Sam Rolfes and Lil Mariko took the stage, I was thrilled to hear a steady beat, not to mention the words. My relief was short-lived, as the pair’s VR performance was plagued with dizzying technical difficulties, including clipping cameras, rotating perspective, and a few exits to restart the scene in Blender. Despite this, their first of RULE 3-2-1 makes me desperately want more. The artwork is comprised of Lil Mariko’s iconic hyperpop-screamo hits, framed by the tale of a memory bounty hunter who accesses minds through a digital world, all presented in a live VR performance. RULE 3-2-1 was incredibly cool to experience and makes me really excited for the future of digital art.

Joshua Wells and Karina Utomo quickly brought me back to earth with a terrifying techno/screamo set. The pair brought something very dark to Bay 20, throaty moans filling the space as patrons continued to nod and sway in the dark. Utomo’s vocal performance was genuinely chilling, backed by an improvisational electronic beat that heightened the discordant atmosphere.

The final performance of the evening was a stunning collaboration between Gamilaraay DJ Creschendoll and pole dancing collective Club Chrome. Creschendoll’s set was a breath of fresh air, bringing hyperpop and electronic hits alongside his own beats to infuse the crowd with energy and movement. By the time the Club Chrome performers took to the poles, the audience was completely thrilled. This set was an amazing way to end the night, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for another chance to see Creschendoll perform around Sydney.

SOFT CENTER was everything I could hope for from Sydney’s cultural scene: art, music and performances that provoke, intimidate and experiment. Pushing things hard enough to break is an incredible feat for any artwork, whether you’re pushing the support or the viewer. I wasn’t the target audience for many of these works, there’s a lot I didn’t understand and I’m not sure I’ll ever fall for the hard noise. But it was incredible to be challenged by art.