While the launch of another music festival is not a rare occurrence in Sydney, it is far less common for a new immersive electronic music, projection and light showcase to be self-funded by a team of three friends in their mid-twenties. It is rarer still, that recognising the value of what the group were proposing, Craig Donarski, artistic director of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in western Sydney, would clear the exhibition schedule and offer up the entire venue for the one-day event.
All of the collaborations will be unique and never repeated again. So when you bring it to a platform as big and as reputable as Casula, these fringe artists are exposed to a new and larger audience," says co-founder Thorsten Hertog.
The event, Soft Centre, was founded by music event producer Hertog, installation artist and photographer Sam Whiteside (Voena), and Jemma Cole; who spends her weekdays working in VICE’s marketing team and her nights on FBi Radio. They founded Soft Centre as a way to extend beyond the specific music scenes they were so familiar with and create a platform for genre bending collaboration.
“A big part of our mission statement was to bring together disparate subcultures from both the art and music worlds,” says Cole. “We found that a lot of these scenes existed in isolation from each other, despite there being a lot of crossovers. By bringing all these scenes together under one roof we hope that people's appreciation and taste will be broadened.”
With the help of curator Alice Joel (Secret Garden Festival, Bad Festival), over the past year four collaborations between electronic musicians and performance artists on the bill have been produced. “All of the collaborations are completely unique and will never be repeated,” says Joel. These performance-based collaborations will be accompanied by light installations across each stage.
“The festival site consists of four large light installation spaces that co-exist with the music stages and will be reactive to each artist’s performance. We consider each stage as it’s own work of art,” says Whiteside.
From Whiteside’s own laser-based work in the cavernous Turbine Hall, to two giant light helixes by Melbourne artist Hyper Reelist suspended from the ceiling of the Hopper Gallery; Meagan Streader’s intricate geometric work made from a kilometre of electro luminescent wire in the Switch stage; and an interactive projection installation by Asterism in Marsden Gallery, the one-day event promises to stimulate all of the senses.
“It’s going to be a multi-sensory spectacle like Sydney has never seen before. One minute you’re bathing in deep hellish noise grumble of Lawrence English with light helixes playing with the noise, and then you walk through an electro luminescent maze and pop out to main stage and the whole sky will be covered in red lasers and deep fast trance is playing,” says Hertog.
With the intention for the festival to become an annual event, the team is also invested in involving the surrounding western Sydney community. Egyptian food truck from Granville, Koshari Korner, will be providing food on the day, as will a local Vietnamese food vendor. Buses have been organised to transport inner-city patrons to and from the venue.
Tickets for the festival are being hosted through Humanitix, a social enterprise-ticketing platform that will donate a portion of the ticket-booking fee to the Women’s Community Shelters.
Soft Centre is on Saturday September 23 at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.