Sonica Festival, produced by Glasgow-based Cryptic, is a renowned and often remarkable calibration of innovative installations, mind-bending visuals and some of the most invigorating contemporary music being thrummed out today. Indeed, the beauty of Sonica lies within its interdisciplinary curiosity, which extends beyond the traditional art forms and into the realms of the scientific and ecological, altering our perception of reality in the process.
This probing of the macro and microcosms is best exemplified by Robbie Thomson’s preformative installation Infinite Lives. Inspired by the works of both psychiatrist RD Laing and sci-fi author Philip K Dick, Thomson combines robots, meat, bacteria only visible through extreme magnification, psychedelic visuals and a pulsating electronic soundtrack to create an inverted universe for an intimate audience where consciousness and subconsciousness collide. Essentially a live laboratory experiment, Infinite Lives is striking for the question it provokes: are these bacteria responding to the visual and musical stimuli?
Thomson isn’t the only Sonica artist to experiment with miniature beings; Elizabeth Saint-JaImes and Cyril Leclerc’s Slow Pixel hones in on the crawling trajectory of 176 live snails as they make their way around a sensory environment. Each snail Slow Pixel is equipped with a diode and speaker as the audience is invited to respond at a literal snail’s pace, altering our perception of time in the process.
Meanwhile, Bristol-based sound artist Kathy Hinde is responsible for two Sonica installations. The first, Phase Transition – a term used to describe transitions between states of matter – is a sculptural sound installation which pairs the acceleration of a turntable with the synchronised acceleration of infrared lighting melting blocks of ice. The effect creates a staggeringly low bass frequency which shifts and changes as one moves about the installation and reflects our engagement – or lack of it – with global warming.
Kathy’s second piece, Singularity, is a collaboration with Norwegian visual artist Solveig Settemsdal. The music and visuals are deliberately not in sync but instead follow structures of growing and shrinking, deriving from ‘technological singularity’ – the idea that technology will eventually outsmart humans. Solveig’s fluid visuals – suspended white ink in cubes of gelatin – and Kathy’s part-improvised score create a hypnotic experience.
Irish artists Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell – aka Lakker – tap into the unpredictability of the earth’s natural resources in their new AV show, a techno scoring of tectonic shifts, grinding glaciers and vast open country.
Robert Bentall’s wondrous nyckelharpa provides the delicate score for Heather Lander’s spellbinding geometric visual construct Nearer Future. Bentall’s gently effective plucked strings punctuate Lander’s installation with a delicate intensity. The work creates an immersion in extremes of virtuality: symmetrical webs weave crystalline patterns of colour to create a veritable cathedral of light.
NYXedelica offers you the chance to immerse yourself in a multi-sensory headphone opera trip from Els Mondelaers and Dyane Donck. Sonica Festival teems with interactive invention and unpredictability: it’s also – as importantly – tremendous fun.