Tripadelic Transformations: Decor that Defined an Era

We’re flying high. Three-dimensional visuals are not making it any easier for us to come down. It’s been one twisted ride since the days of freaky smiles under UV lights and the world of 90s flouro trash that revolutionised the aesthetic-value of the perpertual, never-ending party.

Installation by German crew, Cosmic Walkers @Murilo Ganesh

Installation at the Boom Festival by German crew, Cosmic Walkers @Murilo Ganesh

And so now we’re tripping on technology: we’ve got projection mapping and towering monsters that come to life. We’ve got geodesic domes and gravity-defying structures and whole cities filled with mind-bending installation art. This is the baby spawned by the dance-culture generation. So we’re diving into the time machine now to find out how we did it… Hold onto your hats.

The Mutoids defined the counter-culture movement of 80s & 90s Britain. They tore down dis-used, industrial machinery to create t sculptures as these.

The Mutoids defined the counter-culture movement of 80s and 90s Britain.

Whether it’s anarchy or marxism or any other movement from the counterculture – creative expression has always been a powerful tool for communicating the message of the underclass. It’s one of the most important things to trigger the mutation of the dance culture era – proven in particular, by the likes of the Mutoids (Wrekon Mutoid Waste Company). So let’s start where we should and give respect where it’s due…  

If you don’t know the story of the Mutoids, look it up – or I will aim to post something later. But the Thatcher years cracked the whip and the anarcho-punk movement exploded. Reclaiming their materials from the throwaway age, they built insane creations, threw wild punk, dub-reggae, acid-house parties and played Glastonbury Festival for the very first time in 1985.  

Finally forced out of Britain by the  police for ‘making too much noise’ – they left behind their King’s Cross squat and took off for Berlin. It’s where they went for gold – daring to do what no one had ever done… 

The Mutoids tore down industrial machinery to create towering sculptures.

They tore down industrial machinery to create towering sculptures.

Confronting high-ranking military men guarding the Berlin Wall – they managed to buy cheap ex-army gear like tanks and rockets, reforming into art for their freestyle parties across Europe. Pure epic.

At first they [German military] thought we were arms dealers because there were so many criminals shipping ex-army equipment off to Africa…” says Uli Happe, a filmmaker who spent five years documenting the Mutoids, “but they soon realised we were just a bunch of crazy artists that wanted dysfunctional machinery for our shows, so they sold it to us quite cheap.

The infamous sculpture of the green VW Beetle 'towered over the Berlin Wall' with flashing lights symbolising a peace sign just weeks before the Wall fell.

The infamous sculpture of the green VW Beetle that ‘towered over the Berlin Wall’ – its flashing lights symbolised a peace sign just weeks before the fall of the Wall.

LUGU Test Area share the philosophy of the Mutoids today with their sustainable décor design and Mad Max-like creations: tearing down scrap machinery and materials to create lighting and decor with a raw, industrial yet a­esthetic appeal. Take for instance, LUGU’s hand-operated shower created for Boom 2012 or the ingenious design of their latest light sculptures made of recycled materials. This speaks for itself: a statement as much as it is art. They are the instigators of the DIY culture and do not need to explain themselves; their actions say it all.

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LUGU Test Area at Transahara Festival, Morocco

LUGU Test Area at Transahara Festival, Morocco

Artists though, are like time-travellers. Their constantly spiralling creativity manifests the future and evolution of installation art and décor. Bamboo DNA founder, Gerard Minakawa agrees. “The job of an artist is to poke holes through the comforting veils of our perception. 

This precipitates a cascade of inquiries which inevitably lead to a questioning of the past… Since what is the NOW but a structure built over past foundations? And if the foundation just shifted, then how will the rest of the structure, now and in the future, be created? ”

Bamboo DNA's 'wave' structure at the Coachella Festival, California, (USA)

Bamboo DNA’s ‘wave’ structure at the Coachella Festival, California, (USA)

Previous generations shifted that foundation. Think visual design at Tip Records, Megatripolis, Warp Experience, Planet Dog, Mindscapes, Liquid Spiral, Escape from Samsara, Tysen Studios, Synergy Project, Penndragon, Return to the Source and more. London kicked it. A new wave of party was born.

Angus Watt has made 17,000 flags since 2003. No two flags are ever the same. They continue to fly high at festivals across the world.

Angus Watt (Spain) has made 17,000 flags since 1993. No two flags are ever the same. They continue to fly high at festivals across the world.

An old-school legend though, is Angus Watt. If you’ve ever been to Glastonbury Festival or paid a visit to the Eden Project, you’ll remember his gigantic flags. He’s made 17,000 since 1993. No two flags are ever the same. How does he do it?! “That’s a good question… ahem. I like a challenge? To be honest, I’m more tired than inspired. Too many festivals! 

'The Ice Palace' by Tim Carol. Photo credit: Paul O'Connor

‘The Ice Palace’ by Tim Carol. Photo credit: Paul O’Connor

 “Tim Carol was the real legend though,” says Angus. “He was the man behind Temple Decor and sadly died on his 50th birthday. He made amazing tent coverings for WOMAD in the late 90s and created art at the first (real) full moon parties in Koh Phangan. There were no digital gimmicks or button-pressing pixels back then, just long-hours and living for the party. Where did those days go?!”

Crystal grid stage design by Geo-Matrix Design

Crystal grid stage design by Geo-Matrix Design (UK)

They came and went. We created the future. Another generation embraced it with technology. It’s a massive leap and we recognise it in the work of Artescape, Ananda Tribe, Cognitive DissidentsCosmic WalkersDelta Process,  Floating Bush CollectiveGeo-Matrix DesignInOrbitLooney Moon Decor, Psynema, Pixel ParellaxSaucereyes, Something Groovy, Techno ShamansThe Do LaBXDMT and countless other evolutionary forces that never cease to trip us out with their incredible art. We have achieved so much and the possibilities have become limitless.

Geo-Matrix Design crew  at work

Geo-Matrix Design crew at work (UK)

This fearless generation continues to transform the concept of the party for both co-creators and crowds. Russia’s Quantum Tribe is just one example.Technical progress has moved into top gear,” says creative director, Kelt. “It’s given artists a new impulse and the freedom to create things that were impossible to imagine even 10 years ago.” 

Decor and Installation work by Quantum Tribe (Russia)

Decor and Installation work by Quantum Tribe (Russia)

Lycra installation by Floating Bush Collective (UK)

Lycra installation by Floating Bush Collective (UK)

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Technology, environmental consciousness and new directions have shaped the (r)evolution. As a result, an increasing number of people have become real good at their game: professional designers, architects, illustrators, builders, seamstresses the lot. It’s something that appears to have grown very quickly since the beginning of the dance-culture era.

This is why – when impregnated by such strong creative forces – event design has permeated into several spatial dimensions: becoming ever-sophisticated when worked with light, shade, form, shape, space: creating powerful optical illusions that challenge our perception of the 3D world. 

Chill Out Area at MO:DEM. Stage design by Looney Moon Deco.

Chill Out Area at MO:DEM. Stage design by Looney Moon Deco.

Visuals by Delta Process projected on to stage designed by Looney Moon Deco at the MO:DEM Festival

Visuals by Delta Process (IT) projected on to stage designed by Quantum  Tribe (RU) at the MO:DEM Festival

Immersive is one example: they do high-tech, sophisticated projection mapping and more. Originating from the old school psy-scene, they now work on some of the most high-profile projects, including the Olympics. There’s also Italian projection-mapping and live visuals crew, Delta Process who work with visionary artists and stage designers such as Looney Moon Deco to dramatic effect. It’s art that’s arisen from the underground – and it’s proof of how fast things are moving.

Screen-shot of stage-mapping visuals at MO:DEM Festival by Delta Process (Italy)

Screen-shot of stage-mapping visuals at MO:DEM Festival by Delta Process (Italy)

We’re visualising string theory and quantum physics. We’re all about molecules and atoms and science and infinity and maths and magic. Many event designers originate from artistic backgrounds but end up as enthusiastic students of metaphysical science; simultaneously inspired by architectural design.

In Orbit Deco (UK) @Matt Cameron-Wilton

InOrbit Deco (UK) with XDMT (UK) @Matt Cameron-Wilton

This dynamic however, was very different at the beginning of the dance culture era: but the message of the art was the same. So let’s rewind a moment and go back to events by London’s TIP Records, which became known for the work of legendary artist, Brahma Templeman.

He says: “I recognised the music was powerful at the time and needed powerful imagery to complement it, so I began painting large backdrops with fluorescent colours that could be seen at night under black UV light at TIP parties, organised by my good friend, Raja Ram.

"Mirror of Mexico" (2000) by Brahma Templeman (London)

“Mirror of Mexico” (2000) by Brahma Templeman (London)

“I realised there was scope for a professional artist to improve the quality of visuals, so I evolved an art-form designed to send a message of optimism and transcendence to the young audience.” 

At that time, there were also fewer materials and little awareness of eco-issues with iron, wood and plastic generating much waste. Things changed by the late 90s as the Liquid Connective emerged with a fresh soul for the psy scene.

Lycra Installation by Liquid Faeries (London)

Lycra Installation by Liquid Faeries (London)

Liquid Faeries founder, Li explains: “We suddenly had organic, bamboo and wood sculptures, lanterns made of willow and re-usable materials. There was a definite leaning towards consciousness.

“It was also the birth of the Lycra generation,” says Li: “The material was excellent for projecting visuals; easy to hang up or take down. It could be stretched to build giant structures, gateways and domes over dance floors.”

Lycra installation by Liquid Faeries

Lycra installation by Global Village Productions; sewn and fabricated by the Liquid Faeries, rigged by Nuno

We’ve apparently created an unstoppable monster that continues to grow, stretch, develop, yawn, transform, incarnate into countless forms. It’s made of string, UV, Lycra, industrial machinery; raw, natural materials; LED lighting, projected fractals, digital mapping… and don’t forget, gaffer tape too.

LUGU Test Area (FR/PT) at Transahara Festival (Morocco)

LUGU Test Area (FR/PT) at Transahara Festival (Morocco) 

So we’re high on ideas and technology is helping. Do we have the same values of anarchy and activism that we started with? Or have we changed into something else? Has technology moulded our reality or does our reality mould technology? We are re-modelling the now, changing the past as we do it. It’s amazing what we’ve become and what we can achieve when we see from where we’ve come. Tripadelic times indeed…

Designers are riggers and engineers too. Geo-Matrix Design at work with the Extra-dimensional Space Agency crew

Designers are riggers and engineers too. Austrian decor crew, Extra-dimensional Space Agency at work.

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