On 15 June, Barcelona opens the doors to its now historic Sónar Festival, one of the most important electronic music venues in the Catalan city, which this year will take place at the Palau de Congressos de Fira Montjuïc. The Sónar Festival in Barcelona reconfirms itself as an international meeting point to connect the world of music with that of art, technology and new media. And with this in mind, a few years ago the Sónar + D section was born alongside the Festival. Since 2013, it has been bringing together artists, technologists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, thinkers, scientists, entrepreneurs, makers and hackers to give a complete vision of how creativity is changing our present and imagine future possibilities.
This year the Festival, and in particular the section of this programme, is dedicated to Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the arts.
The programme features experts, organisations, and companies from 30 countries, with a mix of representatives from international and local artistic, scientific and technological communities.
This year’s highlights include visual artist Weirdcore, a regular collaborator of Aphex Twin, Forensic Architecture’s Stefanos Levidis; producer, writer and thinker Elijah, robot ethics specialist Kate Darling, presented by SEIDOR; Barcelona creative studios Domestic Data Streamers and Playmodes; plus other studios from the UK and Japan, Universal Everything and Rhizomatiks. Also featured are projects from Paris’ Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (L’Ircam), the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC), Aalto University in Finland, Tokyo Denki University, the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the Barcelona Institute of Research in Biomedicine, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Sónar+D also continues its longstanding collaboration with the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), who’ll both be present in multiple forms throughout the weekend. There’ll also be projects from renowned names like Pioneer DJ, Tribe XR and Teenage Engineering; as well as local startups and companies Befaco and Plankton Electronics. Among dozens of experts from various fields will be artistic directors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the world’s most important research lab, the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN). They’ll be joined by representatives from MEET Digital Centre in Milan, Ableton, SoundCloud, alongside members of collectives Black Artist Database and Water & Music. In addition, the Sónar+D 2023 will include a dozen masterclasses and multiple professional and networking activities. They complete an ambitious and transversal programme that caters to both professionals and to curious members of the general public at Sónar.
The programme also includes a second major thematic axis, with activities that focus on how the artistic community is responding, raising awareness and disseminating information about the climate emergency. Via spectacular multi-screen performances and technologically advanced shows, the audience will be invited to think in new ways about our relationship with the planet.
Sónar+D also provides a venue for new musical and technological narratives, which reach across genres and formats. Here the audience can encounter that vital part of Sónar’s DNA: artistic experimentation.
From Kode9 to Daito Manabe; from Nosaj Thing to Jokkoo Collective; and from Max Cooper and Oneohtrix Point Never to Desert, CLARAGUILAR and Ryoji Ikeda. That’s without mentioning the headliners for this year’s celebrations at Sónar by Night: a new show from Aphex Twin and Eric Prydz’s spectacular immersive, three-dimensional spectacle HOLO.
As part of this year’s SonarExtra programme, there’s the return of SonarMies at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion. ‘Reprocessing… Piano+AI’ will see various artists from Sónar 2023 interact with AI via way of the piano. There’s also Digital Impact, the first exhibition made of entirely digital art to be held in Barcelona, which is open to visit during the festival at Disseny Hub Barcelona.
Project Area is the new exhibition area of Sónar+D, a showcase of over 80 pieces and prototypes, the majority of which were selected via an international Open Call.
Divided into themed areas, this year music and sound, visual and immersive projects (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality), video games, as well as tools and instruments developed by artists, creative studios, startups, research centres, universities, and companies.
Amongst the highlights are New Zealand artist Antony Nevin’s creative blend of sound, light and microscope technology, developed during a residency at the Institut for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona, and a machine from Museo Nacional de Ciencias y Tecnología de Madrid that converts cosmic radiation into music and light. Barcelona collective Domestic Data Streamers – who’ll deliver a masterclass at Sónar+D – provide an interactive sonic piece that eschews digital technology for ‘analog’ sound objects, while Playtronica’s innovative instruments re-inject a sense of fun into making music. Pieces from Entangled Others and First Life explore our relationship with the natural world using AI; the latter was created in collaboration with the BBC and David Attenborough to bring extinct species back to virtual ‘life’. And famed creative design collective Universal Everything – also appearing as part of this year’s masterclass programme – will bring a selection of their Augmented Reality (AR) applications for the public to test.
They’re joined by work from around the L’Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (L’Ircam) in Paris, Aalto University in Finland, Tokyo Denki University, the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, amongst others. As part of the music section, there’ll be exhibits from Pioneer DJ and Tribe XR; a showcase from modular synthesiser manufacturers featuring the likes of Befaco and Teenage Engineering, and many more.
Sónar+D will also host two open forums for debate and reflection. The first, organised in collaboration with HacTe, will explore the intersection between art, science and technology, while the second will focus on innovation in the music industry. There’ll also be two symposia: the International Symposium on Soundscape, Advanced Music & AI, organised in collaboration with the Universitat de Barcelona (UB), and the AI & Web3 Creatives Summit, organised in collaboration with the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF).
Amongst dozens of experts from various fields, key invitees include the artistic directors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the most important research laboratory in the world, the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), as well as guests from institutions such as the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC), and the MEET Digital Centre in Milan. Plus representatives from companies such as Ableton and SoundCloud and members of the Black Artist Database and Water & Music collectives.
In addition to AI and the connections between art, science and technology, two other themest form the backbone of this year’s programme. Creative studio Playmodes (Spain) together with the UPC, Stefanos Levidis from Forensic Architecture (Greece) and Jana Winderen (Norway) all show how the artistic community is raising the alarm and disseminating information about the climate emergency. There’ll also be appearances that focus on digital counterculture and new visual languages on the web, with visual artists Weirdcore -a regular collaborator with musicians like Aphex Twin- and Parafeno, the latter in conversation with Spanish queer icon and performer Samantha Hudson.
Year on year, Sónar+D offers a space across the festival’s stages for new musical and technological narratives, which reach across genres and formats. Here is where the public comes into contact with a vital part of Sónar’s original DNA: artistic experimentation.
From Kode9 to Daito Manabe; from Nosaj Thing to Jokkoo Collective; and from Max Cooper and Oneohtrix Point Never to Desert, CLARAGUILAR and Ryoji Ikeda. And not to forget the headliners for this year’s celebrations at Sónar by Night: a new show from Aphex Twin and Eric Prydz’s spectacular immersive, three-dimensional spectacle HOLO.
Sónar Festival, Sónar+D, Barcelona, view website for the updated calendar of events, 15 – 18.06.2023