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Sónar+D 2017: Highlights, intense sensory stimulation

 Text by CLOT Magazine

1.Freya Murray, Google Arts & Culture
Freya Murray, Google Arts & Culture

With only 5 years of existence, Sonar+D is becoming a world reference showcase of the latest trends in digital art and creative technologies – bringing to Barcelona the key figures and projects shaping the future of design, music and technology. This year’s Sonar+D is continuing to grow in size and content. The professional conference starts on June 14, one day earlier than usual, with a Networking Day, an extra day that will be dedicated to professionals, creators, companies and entities and where conferences and workshops will inspire and stimulate debate.

Fields at the forefront of technological advances such as Immersive environments, Artificial Intelligence and VR will be central themes at this year’s edition, with highlights such as Björk, who is giving the Inaugural Conference as well as an exclusive 4-hour DJ set for the Opening Night. Stepping aside from some of the controversial views about the negative impact of AI on human existence, Sónar+D brings us a program that looks to a future where our ideas of intelligence and creativity will have been radically transformed for good. In this vein, professionals like Kenric McDowell and Freya Murray from Google’s research and development teams will present their more recent lines of work.

New narratives in VR are represented under the Realities+D program, which expands to more than 20 Virtual Reality pieces applied to the arts, including Dear Angelica, the first piece of hand-painted animation in Virtual Reality and Home: VR Spacewalk, which puts the viewer in the body of an astronaut. Talks from Gabo Arora, founder of UNVR (United Nations VR) and Edu Pou, executive creative director of the multi-award-winning North American VR studio Here Be Dragons, round out the VR programming.

Under the category of tech shows, we find some of the audiovisual performances that are also cross-listed in the general music programme. These included presentations from the acclaimed Arca and Jesse Kanda and the renowned electronic duo Matmos (these last have already been featured in CLOT Magazine). We also expect to see the show by Amnesia Scanner (a secretive living organism live performance) and Nonotak (exploring space and geometry with light).

Also, under tech shows, we find the opening night’s show Entropy, which will be the inaugural Sónar+D 2017 event for the general public on Thursday the 15th. Entropy is a transdisciplinary project including scientists, musicians, digital artists and creative coders. An audiovisual concert and a live documentary featuring a scientific lecture by the astronomer and cosmologist Dr Dida Markovich, with original music from Dopplereffek and data images and visualizations from European collective Antivj.

Sonar360 versus
Entropy by Maurice Mikkers

Sónar 360°, curated in collaboration with Montréal SAT (Societé des Arts Technologiques), is the new Sónar+D space inspired by Movistar+ and Google Arts & Culture Lab – dedicated to “full-dome” audiovisual pieces. In this immersive environment, the audience is entirely surrounded by 360° images and sound. Pieces from visual artists such as Joanie Lemercier, Will Joung and Nicolas Nöel Jodoin and workshops will take place in the same 360° dome.

This provides a unique opportunity to learn how to design similar immersive pieces. Fittingly, SonarPLANTA, with its focus on history,  will host the Japanese New Media art studio Rhizomatiks, led by Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi. The project they are presenting, ‘photosphere’, will reproduce the crystallisation processes of particular minerals in a physical space.

Last but not least, in the beautiful set of the Mies van der Rohe pavilion, closely located at the primary day site, the Sonar+D team continues to excel in their programming.  This year will host Wave Shift, by Mark Bain, an investigation of the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion itself and a sculpture that exists solely through sound and its formation within the architecture.

With more than 60 speakers, there are plenty of opportunities to examine the minds behind many projects presented closely. With highlights on ‘How a creative mind works’ (with Playmodes, Tarik Barri, Nonotak and Alba G.Corral), and a one composer-performer Turing-test machine (with established sound artist Francisco López). There will also be time for a talk on robotics by American designer Carla Diana and on other creative technologies with Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi, founders of Rhizomatics and Ayah Bdeir, founder of littleBits, an open-source library of modular electronics that snap together with magnets.

Organizations such as the MIT Media Lab, Ideo, the Berklee College of Music, Somerset House Studios (London) and the universities RMIT (Australia) and Kunstuniversitat Linz (Austria) will also take part at this year’s edition, paying particular attention to music technology.

Sónar+D is a hub of creative experimentation in which the most innovative and influential voices are brought together for a long weekend of intense sensory stimulation.

(All photos courtesy of Sónar)

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