Digital tracks of Sónar+D strike again

Sonar+D festival barcelona

Research in Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, installations and immersive audiovisual “fulldome” pieces, networking and professional meeting will be the most notable topics and performances emerging at the heart of the 2017 edition of Sónar+D, the digital arts / advanced music & technologies initiatives side enlarging for a few years the famous yearly electronic music/culture festival of Sónar in Barcelona.

If Barcelona can be granted the title of capital of electronic music culture since the creation of worldwide known festival Sónar in the mid-nineties, the constant growing of its digital arts/advanced music & technologies side since the happening of the related Sónar+D event is actually turning the Catalan city into a urban symbol of the interdisciplinary and hybrid creation’s principles of today.

Created in 2012, Sónar +D has confirmed its role of a complementary tool of an original manifestation already involved in this very contemporary artistic multidisciplinary approach but still needing more technological, societal and business connections. “Sonar was never a purely music festival, even if the perception of it for a part of its audience and the media maybe was, with the image of the crowd at the biggest music stages, maybe eclipsing other aspects of the festival program”, explains Sónar +D curator, José Luis de Vicente.

video Best of Sónar+D


Technology is a part of Sónar DNA

It’s very much on the DNA of Sónar that artists participating have a more fluid relationship to other disciplines and to technology as a space for cultural experimentation, so we always made this an identity sign for our programs and our curation. It’s a happy fact that in the last twenty years this hybrid condition of people working in the space of sound, image, interaction and music has grown. There was a time when participants at Sónar would struggle to define themselves as musicians, sound artists, visual artists or digital designers. Today we also find other profiles or creators that struggle to define their output as art, tech, research, product or business, and their role as either artist, technologist, developer or entrepreneur. I think this hybrid condition needs new institutions, new frameworks where these practitioners can thrive. We are proud to play that role.

And this year again, this is Sónar+D that will assume most part of the role. Its congress, that is taking place from 14th to 17th of June, is growing and will bring together more than 180 speakers and around 5,000 accredited professionals from 2,100 companies and 60 countries during four days of reflexion and exchange around key figures and projects “shaping the future of design, music and digital creative technologies.

networking day Sonar+D

In a large panel of conferences, talks and workshops, a special networking day dedicated to professionals and companies has been set up for the first time on Wednesday 14th. A novelty that wishes to encourage deeper debates along with other meetings such as Startup Garden (with creative industries societies like MacBook Air design team, Abbey Road recording studio or Edge Fund, one of the UK’s key cultural and entertainment funds), Open Music Initiative – an ambitious project led by the Berklee Music College, the MIT Medialab research centre and the IDEO consultancy aiming to create new standardised practices to unify digital music distribution embodied by YouTube, Spotify, Netflix and Universal –, the MarketLab (with 30 technological companies, universities and creative laboratories) and the Sónar Innovation Challenge hackhaton (with six prototype challenges carried out by companies Inflight VR/Airbus, MTG, Audio Commons, Deezer, Teosto Future Labs/NEMO Project and Red Bull Amaphiko) in the exhibition area, and the Maker Faire Barcelona – the maker technologies orientated event taking place at the Fira Montjuïc Italian Pavilion.

Artificial Intelligence and Virtual reality on the top of Sonar+D

To stress out all these branding/research technological strategies, the very crucial themes of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality will be on top. 
The impact of Artificial Intelligence on the arts will be explore under the monitoring of Kenric McDowell, leader of the Artists + Machine Intelligence program at Google Research, Freya Murray, program manager director at Google Arts & Culture Lab, and Douglas Eck, a research scientist at Google Brain, that will present Magenta, the Artificial Intelligence applied to music research.

But, other activists, remote from the Silicon Valley company business plans, will be invited too, including digital artist of détournement Memo Akten and Twitter and Tumblr bot programmer artist Darius Kazemi.
The new narrative aspects of Virtual Reality will be enhanced through a selection of about 20 virtual reality pieces, including HomeVR Spacewalk, which puts the viewer in the body of an astronaut, and DeepDream VR, a a journey through the oneiric worlds created by the Deep Dream Software and Jessica Brillhart, Google principal filmmaker.

A new immersive environment, sponsored by Movistar+, will be established this year to complete this review of new 3D narrative environment devices. Following the footsteps of SAT’s impressive immersive 360° dome in Montreal – whose team will be curating this upcoming space – the Sonar360° will host a selection of “fulldome” pieces produced at SAT by some very well-known visual artists such as Joanie Lemercier, Will Joung and Nicolas Noël Jodoin. A pretty well introduction to the importance given in the main program of Sónar to the connection between Virtual Reality and immersion devices as underlines it the integration of the itinerant Björk Digital immersive exhibition at CCCB – the Icelandic artist being invited as well for a talk at Sónar+D congress.

Sonar +D SAT 360°

Read also: The immersive show of Satosphère, about this 360-degree spherical projection dome launched by the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) of Montreal.


This principle of collaboration will culminate during the Sónar+D annual invitation launched to the We Are Europe Program - the association of 8 major European events joining forces in order to promote, create and produce innovative cultural practices – that will present a series of conferences in where sound artist Francisco Lopez joins designers like American Carla Diana, specialist in robotics and new media studio Rhizomatics founders Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi.

"24 drones" by Rhizomatiks

But, the We Are Europe program climax will be the Entropy Show inaugurating Sónar+D on June 15 at the Sónar Complex auditorium. 
Blurring the boundaries between conference, audiovisual concert and live documentary, Entropy takes the shape of a scientific lecture by the astronomer and cosmologist Dr. Dida Markovic together with duo DopplerEffekt and visualists AntiVJ: a unique transmedia show about the origin and end of the Universe that will mark as well an entrance point to all the equivalent performances highlighting technological stage connections during the Sónar week-end long.

Entropy Sonar+D
Entropy, an unique experience half-way between a lecture and an audiovisual performance.

As a matter of fact, the regular line-up of main Sónar festival will present several live AV that will play smart complements for a wider audience to the more specific Sónar+D program. It involves synesthesic audiovisual performance Multiverse by Portuguese duo Boris Chimp 504 (soundcloud), motion and 3D sound live creation around Versum software conceived by Netherlands-born artists Tariq Barri and vocal work by sound-artist and photographer Lea Fabrikant, confrontation between sound and light through geometric lines and distorting artists’ profiles imagined by French/Japanese duo Nonotak in their new spectacular show Shiro, and also the new work led together on stage by abstract-hip hop  musician Nosaj Thing and Japanese visual artist Daito Manabe – probably in the wake of the video-clip of “Fated” track directed by Manabe in 2015, in which were combined a stunning merge of dance, lighting design, flying drones and algorithmic generation of images.

Daito Manabe, digital incarnation of Sónar 2017

By the way, Daito Manabe will be a sort of standard-bearer of digital creation during this edition of Sónar 2017 as this multi talented creator (composer, programmer, designer, DJ and VJ), whose work reflects on the interaction of our body with new technology and the possible hybrids between man and machine – everybody remembers the fun of his piece Electric Stimulus To Face-Test in which his own face was used like a grimace automatic device –, is also the artist selected for SónarPLANTA, where he will present his brand new work Phosphere.

SónarPLANTA is another proof of the growing opening of Sónar towards digital creation as its name refers to the gathering of the festival of Barcelona and PLANTA, a space for artistic creation and business innovation located in La Plana del Corb (Balaguer, Lleida), where art, architecture, industrial processes and the natural environment co-exist. Each year, a selected work produced exclusively for SonarPLANTA by Fundació Sorigué is selected to be presented in public at Sónar. 

Realised in Tokyo at the Rhizomatiks studio that Manabe funded with long-time artistic partner and friend Motoi Ishibashi, Phosphere evokes all the technological weirdness and multi-disciplinarity of a studio whose an anthology of work pieces had been presented to Parisian public audience two years ago, during Transphere event, at Maison de la Culture du Japon.

In their usual multidimensional approach, Phosphere presents itself as another massive immersive piece of work superimposing the synchronized movement generated from the physical space of the room and from another space digitally generated by computer, creating a totally new geometrical and 3D expressive space. Concretely, the piece looks like a robotic hybrid architecture in which synchronized mirrors, smoke machines, beams of light, and up to 24 video projectors combine to create a previously unseen spatial experience.

Teaser SonarPLANTA 2017: "phosphere" by Daito Manabe

But like during the Transphere event, in which the duo imagined a way to reveal the invisible by taking picture of exposed objects showing virtual drawing lines, Phosphere plays of the confusion of forms. This time, Manabe found his inspiration through data collected from the magnetic fields surrounding the Earth and imagined to transpose in his installation the processes of crystallization of particular minerals in physical space. The result in Phosphere is an astonishing transformation of this meticulous optical calculation technology, offering new form of stereoscopy relating to the visual and spatial structures created by minerals whose designs surpass human imagination. 
Imagination of humans maybe, but not the one of a Sónar+D team that seem more than ever focused on the most valuable interconnections between art, science and technology.

Laurent Catala

Sonar+D - Creativity, Technology and Business
14th, 15th, 16th and 17th of June 2017, Barcelona, Spain.

Digitalarti Media is proud to be partner of SONAR+D 2017