A Carnival of Sights

Yeah, yeah, there’s music and pretty people. But check out those EDC art installations!

Flaming Lotus Girls’ “Soma” | Photo by George Schaller

Flaming Lotus Girls’ “Soma” | Photo by George Schaller

I don’t like festival shows. To my thinking, music is best contained in clubs, midsize venues—the metaphorical knife fight in a phone booth. And while I like house, techno and even a bit of dubstep, I prefer to listen to it in my home, where my dancing won’t hurt anyone. And yet, I’m going back to the Electric Daisy Carnival this year. I’m doing it partially for the women—young, striking, dressed like Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC—but mostly for the art.

A rendering of the Great Bamboo Canyon

A rendering of the Great Bamboo Canyon

If you’re saying “What art?” right about now, that’s OK. EDC hosts several large-scale interactive art installations every year—some of them imported from Burning Man and Coachella, and some created especially for EDC. Last year, we saw and touched Robert James Buchholz’s “Wish,” a 50-foot-tall trio of illuminated “dandelions”; “Serpent Mother” by the Flaming Lotus Girls, an 86-foot-long, flaming metal snake; and several other works that either gave off colored light or belched flame.

The art of EDC 2013 looks just as promising. Buchholz returns with “Cherish,” which the artist describes as “a massive steel structure with a unique digital media in the form of a Japanese cherry blossom.” Once again, he’s going big—the piece is 70 feet tall, covered with flowers 8 feet in diameter and weighs in at more than 16 tons—but thinking delicate.

“The cherry blossom itself is symbolic of human life. The flower is only alive for hours,” he says. “Structurally, the piece was designed to mimic the way flora grow: strong trunks with narrowing branches. Aesthetically, with the mosaic coating and the lighting patterns and graphics projected onto the petals, ‘Cherish’ attempts to communicate and celebrate the ever-evolving nature of nature itself.”

Evolution has also come to the Flaming Lotus Girls. This year, they present a new work called “Soma” that’s a great thematic leap for the San Francisco-based art collective. It’s a 60-foot-long sculpture of a cell body, comprised of “stainless steel, copper, aluminum, bronze, resin, fire and light,” Flaming Lotus’ Colinne Hemrich says. “It represents two neurons, each containing a fiery spinning nucleus, with long dendrites undulating away from each center. The neurons are connected by an axon, arching 25 feet overhead and representing neural communication.”

As spake Keanu, whoa. But Hemrich adds that you don’t need to be a scientist to enjoy “Soma”; like “Serpent Mother,” all of its controls are in your hands. You can fire up those neurons to your heart’s content. “It’s constantly changing as the audience pushes buttons,” Hemrich says. I suggest that once EDC is done, we take “Soma” and build a very large and extremely dangerous science museum around it.

Robert James Buchholz’s “Cherish” | Photo by Josh Reiss

Robert James Buchholz’s “Cherish” | Photo by Josh Reiss

The piece I’m most looking forward to seeing, however, has no digital elements, no gas tanks and no metal parts. Gerard Minakawa’s “Great Bamboo Canyon” is exactly as it sounds: hundreds of bamboo shafts arranged into “a rolling wall.” Minakawa’s primary feature—a 450-foot-long, A-framed tunnel—promises to provide respite from the sound and fury.

“People can walk and explore the chasm-like spaces, or just chill out on the seating pods dotting the area,” says Minakawa, who was inspired by visits to bamboo suppliers in Colombia, Indonesia and Vietnam that dried their wares in vertical stacks.

“There’s nothing like it out there,” Minakawa says. “Having an organic bamboo refuge on a grassy field with a chill ambience allows you to recover your energy for an hour or two, and then head out into the jungle again.”

It’s almost as if he developed the piece for someone who doesn’t like festival shows, but loves art … and also comely girls in faux animal skins who are maybe majoring in art.

“Serpent Mother” | Photo by Erik Kabik

“Serpent Mother” | Photo by Erik Kabik

Back to the EDC Guide 2013.

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