This year, SXSW extends its reach into the art world with the new, expansive SXSW Art Program. By highlighting documentaries focusing on art (like “The Secret Life of Lance Letscher,” based on an Austin artist), art happenings (like the walls of HOPE Outdoor Gallery represented on the Trade Show floor in the Convention Center) and sessions (like a panel on Museums of the Future), SXSW aims to showcase creative freedom across disciplines.
The SXSW Art Program has also curated an incredible lineup of art installations. Here’s a look at five of the most immersive, exciting and innovative installations of 2017.
SXSW Art Installations
1/ Raum Industries: “Optic Obscura”
Through March 18, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Austin Convention Center – Meeting Room 3
Behind a door on the first floor of the Convention Center, the installation “Optic Obscura” is open to guests who can walk through or lay underneath 10 miles of thin, dangling fiber optic tentacles that change color and intensity as their touchscreen interface is manipulated.
The soothing ambient soundtrack helps to make the experience a calm oasis in the middle of rushing SXSW activities. When the door opened as someone entered or left, I caught a glimpse of the blindingly bright hubbub of the outside world. I had to convince myself to leave the beautiful fiber optic bubble.
2/ Refik Anadol: “Infinity Room”
Through March 18, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Austin Convention Center – 3rd Floor Palazzo
Refik Anadol is known for his “Temporary Immersive Environment Experiments” where participants are transported through encompassing visual and audio elements. I was lucky enough to walk right into the “Infinity Room” by myself as soon as it opened on the third floor of the Convention Center (above the SXpress Pass area).
After I put on the provided shoe covers to protect the room’s floor, I entered and simultaneously felt like I was floating and going to fall into space. The patterns shone on a completely mirrored cube allow visitors to lose a sense of physical self and evoke wonder. Stepping out of “Infinity Room” feels like waking up refreshed from a good night’s sleep.
3/ Akinori Goto: “toki – series #02”
Through March 16, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
JW Marriott – Room 306
I’ve seen Akinori Goto’s work as viral Facebook posts, but seeing it in person is such a special experience. Goto is showing three pieces in a room on the third floor of JW Marriott. Two pieces spin on tables, where slithers of light project down upon white mesh. The objects themselves are interesting to look at as 3-D printed sculptures. But once the light shines down, viewers suddenly see dancer(s) in motion, performing graceful moves within the mesh.
Goto’s largest piece stays stationery while projected light reveals dancing, tumbling and falling characters. On the SXSW website, Goto says, “In depicting the invisible concept of time, I am able to more clearly express the relationship between time and movement, and can attempt to capture the beauty and nature of time itself.”
4/ Hyphen-Labs: “NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism NSAF”
Through March 17, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
JW Marriott – Room 305
On the same floor of JW Marriott, the art collective Hyphen-Labs has completely transformed a room into a glimpse of a future four women have created.
Hyphen-Labs (compromised of Ashley Baccus-Clark, Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ece Tankal and Nitzan Bartov) dreamt up thoughtful prototypes meant to provide security and visibility to women and minority groups. Placed on two rows of platforms as an interactive exhibit, visitors can see items like scarves that fool facial recognition technology and earrings that can record current events at a touch of a button.
In the back of the room, two people at a time can virtually visit a futuristic salon (or “neurocosmetology lab”) owned by women of color who outfit the VR participant with braids that help the wearer’s brain transcend to new cognitive heights.
5/ Nick Verstand, Nikki Hock, Pandelis Diamantides: “POV”
Through March 16, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 16)
Hilton – Room 412
Located in a room on the forth floor of the Hilton, “POV” features a dark environment with a circle of pulsating lights that surround the viewer. As the artists said on the SXSW website, “’POV’ influences the audience’s perception of the size, direction and their position in relation to the continuously changing dynamics of the space.”
Like “Infinity Room,” “POV” can feel discombobulating. I’ll admit I was very disappointed that my brain was telling me please get out of here even though you love installation and light art, so I was unable to fully experience the piece. But I still really enjoyed the idea of a sensory palate cleanse in a hotel bursting with people hurrying to attend panels and networking events.
Encouraging Art at SXSW Through Public Access
At this time, these five installation pieces are only accessible to those with a Platinum, Interactive, Film or Music badges. I want to encourage the expansion of SXSW Art and hope to see pieces accessible to the public next year.
For more information on all of these art installations, check out the SXSW Art Program website.
@madameklm wants to know:
Which of these five art installations do you want to see in person?