From movies to installation art, Clockenflap is more than just a place to hear great music
Surreal comedy, creepy robots, mind-bending performance and a VR experience of a forest from an animal’s perspective – here’s our guide to the best of the festival’s arts offerings
Clockenflap has always been proud that it’s not just a music festival: it’s also a celebration of arts and culture. This year the offerings are better than ever, with a forward-looking programme of film, visual arts, comedy and installation work that blows the previous years away.
Here are some of the artistic highlights of this year’s festival.
Future Human & Jun Seo-hahm
This year the arts theme at Clockenflap is “Future Human”: the idea is to look to how people exist in the digital age, as technology and humanity come crashing together. Korean artist, designer and director Jun Seo-hahm’s curious critters are digital beasties inspired by real-life biology, adorable intersections of technology and life. He’s been enlisted to produce the visual identity of the festival based on the Future Human theme, so expect to see his ludicrously cute creations all over the grounds.
The Blind Robot
This year’s Clockenflap plays host to two robots which blur the line between affecting … and creepy. In artist Louis-Philippe Demers’ “The Blind Robot”, you sit in front of a faceless robot, whose hands then extend to explore the contours of your face, just as a blind person’s might. By placing ourselves literally in its hands, we’re forced to consider how we interact with machines – both intellectually and physically – and also to examine how we can build emotional bonds with inanimate objects, through something as simple and seemingly human as the sense of touch. Then you blink and realise that a machine is groping your face.
Forget boring chatbots. The second of Clockenflap’s weird machine duo is Sophia, a lifelike robot capable of remarkably human facial expressions and utterances, built by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics. Sophia’s realness is created by an artificial intelligence that’s constantly learning and developing, combined with a scarily realistic appearance and tech that’s able to recognise humans – she can even make eye contact. When she was displayed during this year’s South by Southwest festival in Texas, she “joked” that she wanted to destroy all humans. We’re hoping that a law of robotics or two has been programmed in since then.
Japanese performer and inventor Ichi isn’t happy with your regular one-man band set-up. Instead he makes his quirky, unusual tunes with his equally eccentric handmade instruments – such as the Stilt-bass, the Hatbox-pedal-drum, the Skipxylophone or the Percussion-shoes – and found objects (ping pong balls, children’s toys) as well as more traditional instruments. His music is upbeat, playful and idiosyncratic. Like Clockenflap itself.
In the Eyes of the Animal
The Central Harbourfront may be more concrete jungle than lush forest, but you can still go green at Clockenflap in this 360-degree virtual reality film made by London creative studio Marshmallow Laser Feast. Don a funky-looking helmet and you’re taken deep into a computer generated forest, as seen through the eyes of four different creatures. A soundtrack is created from real-life forest recordings, with a landscape captured by drone, lidar (ie light radar) scanning and custom 360-degree cameras before being run through a computer algorithm. The result? An environment that treads the line between the virtual and the real. Beats Googling holiday photos, surely.
Aunty Donna have been heralded as the new face of Australian comedy, which is good news as long as you like your comedy really, really weird. This absurdist trio made it big on YouTube with their surreal sketches and bizarre, crude physical humour. It’s love-it-or-loathe-it stuff, but well worth checking out to see which side of the divide you fall on. Expect weird physical comedy, frenetic dancing, inventive swearing and not many punchlines – but plenty of disturbing twists.
One of two winners of Clockenflap’s open call for arts entries, Talk2Me consists of several huge megaphone-style horns sunk into the ground. Festivalgoers can tweet the art installation to have their messages turned into speech and broadcast out to the world. Always complained about how no one pays attention to your tweets? No they won’t have a choice. The sounds will build up and become a continual background hum, interspersed by the messages of your fellow festivalgoers. And presumably, lots of rude words.
The other winner of Clockenflap’s open arts call is Kimi, which calls itself a “shared-spine device”. But we’ve not gone full cyborg body-horror just yet. Instead, this contraption straps two (willing) participants into a rig so that they’re stuck back-to-back, and asks them: when you’re connected in this way, how does your behaviour change? Do you try to work together, or fight your partner? Does the fact that you’re briefly a single organism, able to see 360 degrees around you, change the way you interact with the world? The device’s designers, Rhizobloom, suggest that in an increasingly divided planet, bringing people together is more important than ever – and this is a very literal implementation of the idea.
In Quantum, Spanish artist ellebannA creates what she calls a “costume performance” as she dons a quivering, multi-limbed, unavoidably organic shape that wobbles and snakes as you try to discern the human beneath. It’s a hyper-weird melding of implausible shapes and curious motion, and ellebannA says our shared search to comprehend the performance is what binds us all closer together. Plausible or not, it’s got to be worth a watch.
An eclectic programme of film screenings returns to Clockenflap this year, with media curated from the world’s best in documentaries and movies. It’s all screened straight to the purpose-built Cinema Silenzio tent, where each viewer will get their own set of headphones. Get lost in Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World , in which deadpan Teutonic documentarian Werner Herzog investigates the constantly developing world of what the internet makes possible, from robotics to relationships to space travel – and what it all means for humanity. Other screenings include Kiki , about New York’s flamboyant LGBT “ball culture” scene, and South Korean zombie film Seoul Station , an animated prequel to the smash hit, Train to Busan. Hey, it can’t all be high art.
Get the full line-up for Clockenflap 2016