Experiential Art, Powered by HP: Inside Panorama Music Festival’s ‘The Lab’

By Kaylee Hultgren

New York City’s Panorama Music Festival, held this year July 27-29 on Randall’s Island, may only be three years old, but it has quickly become home to some of the industry’s most innovative brand activations. Top among them is HP’s “The Lab,” an interactive digital art experience created by New York City-based artists and designed to showcase HP’s technology in a way that the festival’s music-loving millennial audience will embrace. And embrace it they did, standing in long lines in the summer heat just for a chance to immerse themselves in one of this year’s six high-tech installations housed among an expansive footprint of domes and other free-standing structures.

First up at The Lab was the Pixel Vortex by Windmill Factory. In near darkness, attendees somehow find their way to the interior of an inflatable, tall structure in which heaps of balloons, lit up and constantly changing colors, ascended and descended to the beat of a funky techno track.

Festivalgoers instinctively served them up like beach balls, while powerful (and much appreciated) wind machines kept other balloons floating and bouncing around the space. A camera was set up to snap a pic of each attendee’s “aura,” which became a printable photograph that was then clothes-pinned to a series of wires just outside the space, creating a colorful art installation.

Next up, “Infinity Wild” invited festivalgoers to interact with a collection of solar-powered “vines” covered in thousands of tiny LED lights hanging from a mirrored, rectangular ceiling. As festivalgoers walked through them, the lights flickered and changed color, reacting to movement.

The centrally-located gathering space at The Lab, “As Above, So Below” by Kate Raudenbush, formed a series of purple and gold geometric shapes, each reflecting interesting designs onto the triangular flooring in the structure’s center.

With the help of a tracking device worn on attendees’ wrists, Hypersubtle, an augmented and virtual reality-driven art installation by Superbright, let attendees’ dance moves influence the choreography and virtual environment inhabited by pre-recorded professional dancers. After the digital dance party, festivalgoers were invited to download the Hypersubtle app, an AR experience that reproduces the characters they encountered in the installation throughout the festival grounds. Using the phone’s microphone to detect audio, the app features a variety of dancers whose moves adjust to the beat of the music and who can be moved around and recorded in a video to share with friends.

The “Visage” experience, a free-standing, square structure with a mirrored exterior, produced projection-mapped art pieces by Jonathan Zawada. Once inside, consumers entered their email on a laptop keyboard, chose one of several animation patterns, and were then directed to look into a camera while remaining still. The result was a shareable video of the projection as it slowly unfolded across their “visage.”

The Lab’s Emergence 360 VR experience gave festivalgoers a chance to see what it’s like to be up close and virtual with the music acts at Panorama (or the sound check crew, depending on your timing), thanks to cameras positioned on each stage. First, a friendly HP staffer helped attendees navigate the controller, pick which stage to listen in on for a few minutes and then helped with putting on headphones. On one stage, attendees could watch a few sound check engineers. On another, a musical act was just getting started. While the experience seemed to be more about the visuals and perceived proximity than the tunes, (the latter would be better enjoyed closer to a speaker near the stage), it was cool to witness an act up close. A caveat: On one stage the camera was too close to the edge, which unfortunately kept attendees from turning their heads very far for fear of falling off of it.

Arguably The Lab’s main attraction was the 360-degree, immersive group media experience “Flatland,” preceded by the “Portal to Flatland” experience by Magenta Field. Attendees were ushered into the “Portal,” effectively an enclosed, white-walled space where consumers sat cross-legged on the floor and prepped to watch the show. Bright colors and vortex-inducing patterns were projected at frenetic speeds onto the wall in front and on the ceiling above, building up to a final crescendo of movement, with a deep, bass-heavy soundtrack to boot. Once through this tunnel, attendees entered into the next phase, a dome theater, to watch two films while seated in comfy, upright beanbag chairs—the first being “Flatland,” directed by Justin Bolognino and scored by St. Vincent, and the second being “Abstraction,” a digital artist collaboration with a score from Odesza, another mainstage act at Panorama. Agency: Infinity Marketing Team, Culver City, CA; Content curated by META.is, New York City.