As you return to the Sugar Creek airstrip for the second day of the FORMAT (for music, art and technology) festival, you may notice streams of blue and green light shimmering in the night sky. In fact, it’s hard to miss.
The Aurora Borealis effect is from a mirrored hot air balloon installation, “New Horizon” by Doug Aitken. Anchored at the furthest end of the festival grounds, the balloon’s metallic, reflective shine, combined with seams of kinetic lighting and colorful projections, draw crowds further into the night’s surreal art events. They just have to see where the colored light comes from.
By the time they get to the light sculpture of the balloon, they may notice that the projections not only change color and pulsating patterns, but are able to create images of clouds in the air. Some might even lay on the ground to watch the digital clouds roll by in the night.
As a festival goer who wants to take it all in, you have a lot of stops to make. To get to Smokey’s, a location in a hidden forest enclave, you must walk through James Tapscott’s artwork, a circular eclipse-like installation called Arc Zero. From a distance, you see the luminous element visually smudge. It’s only when you walk underneath that you realize that site-appropriate work fogs up the people walking underneath.
Once inside the forest behind, music lovers are projected into a place designed by assume astro vivid focus, a duo of artists – one from Brazil, the other from France. The result is something they describe as an adult playground to encourage play, movement and inclusivity. The stage is neon-colored and resembles a creatures face – performers on stage can be seen inside its large mouth. During performances, the lights sometimes form an irregular line like teeth or shoot laser-like beams from his eyes.
The small nature of the place keeps the viewing experience pretty even. No place is better or worse to see, only different. And you can’t miss the shimmering disco ball that twinkles in its center.
Retracing your steps through Arc Zero and past the hot air balloon is a small black box of a location. If you dare to pull back a black curtain and step into a room as dark as night, you will see space artwork by John Gerrard and Richie Hawtin. The digital simulation produces a video loop of an ouroboros, a snake eating its tail, historically symbolic of infinity or the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It is presented in combination with techno music to immerse the audience in the musical and visual aspects.
Next door is the site of Boris Acket’s ‘Waaiwerken’, which debuted on Friday but was dismantled for repairs on Saturday due to unforeseen circumstances.
As you begin to pass the barn that once stood at The Momentary, you might be drawn to local drag queen Maddy Morphosis, who hosted the renamed venue “Drag Me to the Disco” for FORMAT Festival. Inside the disco madhouse this weekend – aside from the neon green spotlights, disco balls lining the rafters and twinkling curtains dividing the small seating areas – there were performances of salsa, funk and African disco, not to mention lots of dancing.
If you manage to break free, your next chance to dance is a stop at Solana House, marked by a small forest of metal cylinders (taller than most people), where live DJ sets perform with rears. -digital video plans. Come back during the day and they give you free snacks, like popsicles and tamales.
On the other side is a three-story building called The Cube. Long before entering you can see people enjoying 4D sound and augmented sound realities. The lights reveal the thin, translucent material of the structure’s exterior, making the silhouettes of the interior part of its appearance.
A hypnotic frequency session collaboration by sex anthropologist and author Betony Vernon with local musician Amos Cochran took place at The Cube on Saturday afternoon.
After all the dancing and walking, DomeRx is a welcome rest for legs and minds that need a break. In Darren Romanelli’s 360 Immersive Dome, festival-goers choose a beanbag to lie down and watch laser light show-like projections while listening to techno and other music. Some sets have been described as “vegetable poetry meditations” and “vegetable music listening evenings”.
Once rested, you might just have time to put your head through one of the holes in Pia Camil’s large fiber artwork, which looks like a ton of t-shirts sewn together. Then it’s back to live music.
Local Cherokee singer-songwriter Kalyn Fay played the opening show on the North of Oz stage on Saturday early afternoon, followed by British band Palace. Between songs, singer Leo Wyndham said he never imagined they would be performing in Arkansas. As the set ended, Wyndham said they would be back in the area soon.
The Flaming Lips, Beach House and Rufus du Sol all performed to packed audiences on the North Oz and South Oz stages late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Nick Cave’s 10-foot-tall raffia and hair soundsuits interacted and danced at the edge of the stage to songs and performances by The Flaming Lips. As the soundtracks went off, lead singer Wayne Michael Coyne, who was in a Wonder Woman, said: “Whatever those freaks are, they’re unlikely to end up somewhere as cool as this tonight. .” At the end of their set, Coyne said, “Thank you for being so excited…and for your beautiful screams.”
As Australian house and electronica band Rufus du Sol took the stage, lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist simply opened with “Let’s dance”, and much of the audience agreed. Lindqvist had Covid two weeks ago and felt rather lucky to be back with people, he noted. Rufus du Sol drummer James Hunt said it was the band’s first time in this part of the United States and thanked everyone for the warm welcome.