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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

GeoArt at open-air festivals

Geology at art events: Geodelia displayed at the Boom Festival! Check out also part 2 and part 3.

In 2009 I designed a geologic video-art installation for an art / music event. What a great experience!
The installation was hosted at the Boom Festival, a biennial festival located at the heart of the UNESCO Geopark Meseta Meridional (Portugal). Bringing together the latest inspirations in psychedelic audio and visuals, Boom Festival featured music, paint, sculpture, video art, theater and various kinds of workshops.I named the installation Geodelia, as it invokes geology as a mechanism for obtaining aesthetic inspiration through psychedelic visuals. The animated compositions of Geodelia are an expression of geological objects but they exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Indeed Geodelia features the
element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non-sense. There is no didascalic purpose in Geodelia, the focus is only on the beauty of geological shapes.
Until the start of the event, I asked myself: Is it useful to embrace a non-didascalic approach to Earth Sciences? Why choosing dazzling geological patterns and not a traditional educational video?  
My worries disappeared with the enthusiasm of the participants to the psychedelic event, which demonstrated an encouraging attitude towards Geodelia and supported the expressive power of Video Art. Through Geodelia, I recognized the aesthetic grip of Geologic Art on the public, acknowledging the charm and the beauty of geologic shapes.

The Burning Man Festival.

Boom Festival is a key event in the global psychedelic scene, and recently its fame of being the best European open-air festival is stronger than ever. Intriguingly, the Boom has been described as the Burning Man festival of Europe, which recently featured some geology-inspired artworks.
Burning Man is an annual event held in the Black Rock Desert (Nevada, U.S.A.),, an area notable for its geologic features (i.e. Permian volcanic deposits,  remnants of a Pleistocene lake,  hot springs and playas). Burning Man has grown from a small group of people to a community of over 48000 people, being a vivid celebration of art, self-expression and self-reliance. Molly Steenson, a participant of the event, wrote: "Hurtling down the road to the Black Rock Desert, the colors paint themselves like a spice cabinet — sage, dust, slate gray. [...] The two-lane highway turns off onto a new road. You drive slowly onto the playa, the 400 square mile expanse known as the Black Rock Desert. And there you've touched the terrain of what feels like another planet. You're at the end — and the beginning — of your journey to Burning Man. [...] You belong here and you participate. [...] You're there to breathe art. Imagine an ice sculpture emitting glacial music — in the desert. Imagine the man, greeting you, neon and benevolence, watching over the community. You're here to build a community that needs you and relies on you."

Burning Man encourages artistic expression and since 1995 a different artistic theme is given, for each year's event. In 2009 the theme was evolution, a theory strongly supported by geologic evidences. Indeed Geology provides crucial evidences of evolution and establishes it as a scientific fact. For instance, fossils provide a direct evidence for the history of biologic diversity and the Earth's geologic history explains a significant part of the geographic distribution of organisms.
Let's give a look to the "evolutionary artworks" of the Burning Man!

An overview of Burning Man 2009: Evolution.

Black Rock City is the name of the temporary city created by Burning Man participants. In 2009 its circular streets were named: Esplanade, Adapt, Biology, Chaos, DNA, Extinct, Fossil, Genome, Hominid, Inherit, Jurassic, Kinship, Lineage (for a more detailed view see this PDF).

A song dedicated to one of the most bizzarre Cambrian fossils: Opabinia!


From the previous media, it emerges that Geology had not a central role at the 2009 Burning Man Festival, while "diversity of morphologies" was the leading aspect in the context of the evolution theme. Nevertheless, some artworks show the importance of "geologic mythologies" as a source of creative inspiration. For these reasons, the Burning Man and the Boom Festival represent, in different ways, the successful interaction between geology, art and open-air festivals. This encourages a more pervasive presence of Geologic Art in such open-air festivals!

A picture from Bthe Burning Man 1999: Pteranodon by Norm Barringer. The theme was "the Wheel of Time".

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Carboniferous symphony

'You [Zu] have created a powerful and expressive music that totally blows away what most bands do these day'
- John Zorn, musician

Zu are an Italian instrumental band, composed by Luca Mai on saxophone, Massimo Pupillo on bass and Jacopo Battaglia on drums. This atypical trio mixes elements from classic rock, metal, punk and jazz, but their music would be better characterized as eclectic. Powerful riffs, intricate soundscapes, virtuosistic drumming, pummeling bass, distorted saxophone: Zu are a warm wild marriage of the traditional to the modern.

Zu choosed a geologic setting for their new album, Carboniferous. It features many important collaborations, from Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr.Bungle) to King Buzzo (The Melvins).

Their last release tickle the geologist's imagination as its name comes directly from the Palaeozoic era: Carboniferous. The tracklist includes geologic titles (Obsidian, Carbon) and invokes chtonian atmospheres (Chthonian, Beata Viscera; Erynis, one of the titles of Demeter). Moreover, the official video displays manifest geologic elements, as well as the cover art of "Carboniferous".
Consequently, a question might arise: is "Carboniferous" a geologic concept album?

The official video of Carbon.

To be honest, I have not a straightforward answer. Geologic mythologies are persistent social symbols and therefore it is difficult to distinguish “pure” geologic music from geologic interferences in music. For this reason, further research is needed to solve th Zu-Geology relationship.

Danny De Vito introduces Zu in Rome.