When visual art, dance, and music come together, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In this, the third edition of the Soluna International Music & Arts Festival, the theme of Dreams and Illusions inspired curator-at-large Muriel Quancard, who also incorporated the underlying idea of synesthesia, a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sense is experienced in another sensory pathway — an apt concept for a festival that mixes so many different disciplines and talents.
“In the arts it’s not a new concept, it’s been around for a couple of decades,” says Quancard. “It’s about merging arts and going beyond the idea of making a nice video to illustrate a piece of music."
Although Quancard says Soluna’s model has been refined since its inception, the principles the festival began on have remained.
“In the beginning it was experimental and adventurous, but we have a better understanding of what’s possible and what’s not as we go. I don’t think Soluna is a fixed model, it’s a platform that allows for curators to experiment with artists that may not be possible in a traditional museum context.”
As this is the last season to utilize the talents of Dallas Symphony Orchestra music director Jaap van Zweden before he joins the New York Philharmonic, this year’s programming is essential viewing for any local arts aficionado.
Below are Quancard’s top five picks to see during the festival. Best of all, four of the five are free to the public.
We Know You’ve Got Soul
Inspired by both the structure of its venue, as well as the current exhibition “Landscape Relativities,” We Know You’ve Got Soul offers museumgoers a sonic odyssey through the rooms of the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Grammy award-winning composer Henri Scars Struck has devised a music and sound installation that allows listeners to meditate on their purpose in this life and the one to come as they wander its galleries.
Says Struck, “Music can be a vehicle for visitors to reflect upon their perception of these moments: life, death, judgment, and eternal rest. I also wanted to reset people’s minds, offering a momentary distraction from the grind and technology of daily life, and the opportunity to breathe and relax.”
Beginning May 14 and running through June 4, the work was made specifically for Soluna and the Crow, occupying a museum in a way Quancard "had never even dreamed of.”
"Ultra-Seeing: The Mandala Pattern"
Seminal experimental films form the foundation for an ambitious piece at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Encompassing the midcentury visual work of artists James Whitney and Jordan Belson, along with more modern videos and films by Adam R. Levine, Joost Rekvled, and Bruce Conner, "Ultra-Seeing," premiering May 21 at 2 pm, gives this year’s Soluna theme historical provenance.
Says Quancard, “In Soluna, it’s great to deliver some context with not just emerging artists, but also with people who have contributed to the foundation of what we’re doing now. Jordan was instrumental with the work he was doing in the ‘50s and ‘60s with synesthesia.”
After the various films are screened, a performance by Denton’s own Martin Back combining film and music will close out the show. The French artist collective Nominoë’s accompanying Colours installation will remain at the museum for a week beginning May 16 through the day of the screenings.
The focus of of the Dallas art laboratory Agence 5970 perfectly aligns with the theme of this year’s Soluna. Comprised of French sound engineer and professor Frank Dufour and his multi-hyphenate talented Texan wife, Lee (who is also vice president of marketing and communications for the brand Yves Delorme), Agence 5970 serves as a creative think tank that thrives on collaboration.
Commissioned especially for the festival by Quancard, dreamSpace evolved from an earlier piece the duo exhibited back in 2014 at the Dallas Contemporary, amplified with the addition of local fashion designer Charles Smith II and the Bruce Wood Dance Project.
Says Lee Dufour, “We had already worked on [the concept of] dreams in the past, and it was from knowledge of that work that Muriel approached us and wanted us to come up with something for Soluna. We took the original concepts from that piece and blew it up so it could be viewed outside with a larger crowd.”
Featuring dancers clad in wearable poetry designed by Smith II, the interactive audio-video installation will be unveiled May 24 at 9 pm at the Nasher Sculpture Center, where audience members will be encouraged to participate by reading the evocative texts aloud to influence the resulting visual and musical output of the piece.
“The poems will be heard by everyone and will emphasize the meaning of dreams in a really approachable and understandable way,” says Frank Dufour. “There is also the idea when someone is telling a dream, it’s an instant recognition of the sense of time and ambiance. It’s something people instantly understand.”
"Bara, Bara, Bara"
Pia Camil’s sheets of recycled T-shirts from Mexico City have already proved the Dallas Contemporary’s most Instragrammable installation of the season. The work, which mines the behaviors of consumer culture and U.S./Mexican relations, will now encompass its audience even more interactively in the performance “Bara, Bara, Bara.”
“Pia did a piece in Guatemala also using T-shirts that people could collectively wear and walk in,” says Quancard. “When we discussed collaborating with her, it was clear the exhibition she was doing could be activated. She already had that performance dimension in mind.”
Occurring May 27 at 2 pm, it is still uncertain how the piece will unfold, which is part of the excitement for Quancard. “Everything will be contained within the museum, but we don’t know exactly yet what will happen. The idea is that you become art.”
Rossy de Palma’s enigmatic personality and quirky beauty has been lighting up screens since she starred in Pedro Almodóvar’s classic comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 1998. The Spanish cinematic icon has teamed with visual artist Jessica Mitrani to bring to life the spirit of 19th-century American journalist Nellie Bly in the multimedia Traveling Lady. De Palma will share a sneak preview of the work on Tuesday, May 30, at 7 pm at Alamo Drafthouse in the Cedars (followed by a screening of Nervous Breakdown), before unveiling the full work June 1 at 7:30 pm at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre.
Formerly produced in Paris and New York, Traveling Lady appealed to Quancard because “it’s such a great work. The artist thinks about it as an extended film ... you see with graphics the story of this journalist who wanted to travel the world in 72 days, then you have Rossy appearing like she comes out of a shell. It’s a prefix to discuss issues around femininity and feminism.”
The only ticketed event on Quancard’s list, Traveling Lady allows audiences to take a surrealistic trip around the globe without ever leaving their seats.