This year’s event featured an expanded presence for creative technologists.
South by Southwest Interactive has always lived at the intersection of art and technology, and featured an array of creations that meld the two fields. Last year, for example, we wrote about a branded art installation by Kodak-Alaris that took us on a journey through digital memories.
But this year, organizers made a more deliberate commitment to showcasing this type of work through the festival’s Art Program. “This year’s program is the first to be formally selected by the SXSW Art Team in collaboration with an advisory board reflecting leaders and curators in the art world and beyond,” organizers said in a statement.
This comes at a time when music events and other live experiences are seeking to integrate technology and immersive visuals to stand out from the competition. “There’s so much overstimulation now that festivals really had to step it up a notch,” said Russell Ward, founder of media and creative agency The Confluence, speaking at a SXSW panel on installations at festivals. “Art gives people that rounded experience.”
For our 2017 edition of The Future 100, we discussed the rise of the “new experiential rockstars.” “The coolest artists in the world are the ones creating visual, interactive experiences, and we don’t have a name for them yet,” Bolognino, founder and CEO of experience production company Meta, told us last year. He describes his mission as “to make stars out of creative technologists.”
We’ve already singled out the installation NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism by Hyphen-Labs for special mention—but here are some other installations that rocked SXSW Interactive this year.
UK-based creative production company Inition debuted Spatium, the first part of a planned trilogy of films inspired by the work of Philip Treacy, a designer famous for his bold and often gravity-defying hats. Directed by Alex Lambert, the film allows viewers to explore Treacy’s creations in virtual reality.
“Fashion designers push the functional and fantastic as far as they can go. They create illusions of the impossible. But they are still limited by the physical confines of our world,” Lambert writes. “What if that wasn’t the case? What would they do differently today? What would they have done differently in the past? With VR we no longer have to ask those questions; rather, we have a chance to answer them.”
Many brands and artists throw around the term immersive these days, but few try to define it. Artist Refik Anadol, who brought his work The Infinity Room to SXSW, is an exception—for him, immersion is “the state of consciousness where an immersant’s awareness of physical self is transformed by being surrounded in an engrossing environment; often artificial, creating a perception of presence in a non-physical world.” This was certainly the effect that The Infinity Room had on many viewers, who found themselves transported by an array of lights and mirrors that created the impression of being suspended in a space outside normal reality.
With their work Triph, Amsterdam-based audiovisual collective Circus Family transformed a nondescript hotel conference center into something like a digital Stonehenge. Irregular geometric shapes pulsed and glowed softly before coming to life as visitors approached. Color gradients and sound reacted to the presence and movements of observers, so that viewers became part of the sculpture (and often photographed themselves with it).
For more, read our roundup of key trends at SXSW 2017.
Top image: Infinity Room. Produced by Refik Anadol Studo. Sound Design by Kian Khiaban. Sponsored by Epson America.