A little background
Through combining audio-visual (AV) technology with architecturally unique spaces, MIRA cultivates initiatives such as concerts, conferences, screenings, installations, and workshops that showcase hi-tech innovation in pioneering ways. The festival lasts about a week, and takes place at several venues where events are offered free of charge in addition to paid activities. This year, both collectives and individuals linked to creative technologies presented for free over the last weekend of October. Various talks were held, and interactive installations were displayed at the Arts Santa Mònica on La Rambla for two days. The festival opened with a small gathering on the venue’s terrace, equipped with a DJ and some refreshments. The AV shows were held downstairs in an inner courtyard, where the sound resonated effectively.
On October 30th, when AV-K and Kanaka presented Fracture, one of the first live shows of this years’ MIRA, they began playing for a room full of standing adults, and finished with the audience sitting on the floor, watching them captivated, like children. AV shows tell stories through light and sound, but their typically abstract nature allows everyone to individually project their own reflections on top of what they’re actually seeing. The experience is almost meditative in the sense that your mind can only focus on the sounds and images you are exposed to, coupled with the thoughts and emotions that they trigger.
Events the following weekend were organized within the setting of a party, and took place at Fabra i Coats in Sant Andreu. Throughout the weekend, visitors had access to several interactive installations, in addition to the concerts held in the main hall. The combination of modern technologies with the raw, industrial vibe of this location resulted in unique, intriguing performances, which culminated with an after-party held at Barcelona’s infamous Razzmatazz club on November 7th. The performances varied in execution, but they all focused on the relationship between light and sound. A group called Vessels used instruments that seemed to be directly connected to a mobile light construction, which was suspended above the crowd. The following day, another artist performed by projecting light beams onto a fog-filled stage paired with a lot of heavy bass. Others chose more traditional methods: onscreen projections coupled with sound. While these shows may have been less innovative, they were just as absorbing.
More than your average festival
But what absolutely took the cake at this year’s MIRA was the Adidas Dome. Erected in a courtyard just outside the venue, the structure, which measured sixteen meters in diameter, had limited capacity and the line outside steadily grew in size from 17:00 until the last show at midnight. Multiverses, SAT Selection and Entropia were played regularly throughout the two nights, but a few longer performances also took place. Mere words cannot adequately describe the complexity of these performances, but the expressions on the faces of those who left Oscar Sol and Ralp’s Quadrivium Friday night, were self-explanatory. Inside, the audience watched the dome come to life on their backs, lying on pillows scattered across the floor. Five projectors and a surround sound system produced some unbelievable effects, most remarkably an optical illusion that made the dome look like it was concaving onto everyone below. After getting your jaw off the floor, you began to wonder: ‘how on earth was this made?’
An answer to that question was provided during a 360º Fulldome workshop held in the preceding days. Led by national and international experts, it intended to develop theoretical foundations, different technical options, set-up approaches and content creation for such structures. 24 hours of class over a period of three days were available for 135€, while daily tickets stood at 60€.
This emphasis on education is what lets MIRA stand out from other festivals. There is a clear intention to generate and nurture interest and awareness about these emerging art forms. This approach has earned MIRA a small but loyal following. Yet, the average age of a festivalgoer is likely several years older than you might expect. The crowd consists of various artists, designers, technology enthusiasts, and party veterans who have been at this since the 1980s (and are still clearly going strong). Unsurprisingly, roughly half of them are spending the night enjoying something a little stronger than the 3€ beer, or even the mixed drinks sold at the bar. MIRA’s trippy vibes attract an equally trippy clientele; one that’s a little hazy on Barcelona’s poorly enforced drug laws. Attending means coming across some extra groovy dance moves, and bumping into someone who’s busy conversing with someone only he can see.
So why should you attend MIRA 2016?
The festival easily defends itself as an art form. In the past, people have gone from painting to photography to film. Similarly, audiovisuals are another step in the evolution of human creativity. Although machinery has been often times accused of quenching art or creativity, MIRA exposes how technological advancement can lead to new art forms, and the wildly impressive skills it takes to put together live shows of this nature. The festival transforms various forms of audiovisual creativity into an incomparable, immersive experience available to anyone.
It’s hard to imagine a better place than Barcelona to host such an event: a city filled to the brim with the wild and the weird, which prides itself on championing innovative art forms. MIRA encourages thought-provoking partnerships, enables new projects, creations, unexpected symbiosis, and knowledge transfer, fostering musical and visual artistic collaboration. It’s different than anything you’ve experienced before, and different is always worth exploring.
By Aleksandra Klimowicz