Caldera 360° | Caldera Festival

After a very successful festival in 2018, the team behind Caldera Festival have returned with another unusual, immersive arts experience. This time Caldera 360° is entirely online with three performances and two installations to explore from within your own four walls.

Inspired by the lockdowns, border closures, and global restrictions of COVID-19 in 2020, Caldera 360° is a reimagining of performance for a new post-COVID world. Incorporating elaborate video recordings with a 360° perspective and an interactive online platform, designed by Martin Baker and with soundscape composed by Clemence Williams, Laurence Rosier Staines’s virtual arts festival recreates the in-person experience while also injecting online perks. Baker’s web design, in particular, generates an atmospheric homage to the coronavirus with blurry, twisted shapes and squiggles floating through the background and the user/audience member/player wading through this space like a protozoa in a petri dish.

Amongst the microscopic creatures are five pieces marked by runic symbols that allow the audience member to enter the performance venue. The two installation pieces, “Exit” by OneJessa (lighting and photography by Dave Klaiber and sound design by Alex Wilson) and “Black Butterfly” by Meng-Yu Yan (photography by Klaiber and sound by Wilson), place the viewer statically in the centre of the installation. But both play with light and sound, especially the spooky wind-chime sounds of “Black Butterfly”, to create an affective environment.

The other three pieces are performances with other-worldly elements that translate well into the virtual, not-quite-reality space of the internet. “Fantasy” performed by Tanzer with Samantha Ramirez on harp (lighting by Ben Beare and photography by Nick Wright) sees Tanzer crooning an aria-esque song about desire in a fungal, undulating yellow costume designed by Anastasia Le May. This sci-fi element transitioned well into “Supernature” performed by Zelia Rose (lighting by Beare, photography by Wright, and sound from Cerrone) as a space disco burlesque with sequin jumpsuit and all. Marcus Whale’s performance in the final piece “Cowboy Song” by Whale, Athena Thebus, and Chloe Corkran (photography by Klaiber) is particularly haunting for the ghostly elements of the white veil through which Whale wriggles and his pale white clown make-up but also his resonant vocals that echo through the screen.

All three performances make slightly different use of the 360° performance space by repositioning the viewer, repositioning themselves like an apparition, or, through Rose’s use of rotation in her performance, adding movement and maintaining a sense of imminent unbalance.

Caldera 360°, while re-enlivening the Sydney performance scene after a decimating 18 months, is a mediation on loss, from the presence of bees in “Exit” nodding to the large and small environmental impacts of climate change to the deep yearning of “Fantasy”. While exploring the exciting possibilities of digital technologies and virtual platforms for art and performance in the future, there is space to remember what is lost in the translation, and the people, venues, projects lost to the pandemic.

Caldera 360° is available for exploring at 360.caldera.sydney

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