Giant robots informed by South Asian temples and a “cyber-physical” sculpture are among the installations at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California.

For the second year since the Covid-19 pandemic, the yearly festival returned to the Coachella Valley outside of Los Angeles, featuring newly commissioned large-scale artworks alongside works from past years.

Coachella art director Paul Clemente, who has been working with the festival since 2003, told Dezeen that the festival had now evolved from renting works from other events like Burning Man to putting together custom works on site, a practice that began in 2016.

“That eliminates a lot of the logistical problems of getting large pieces from A to B and, building everything on site,” he told Dezeen. “We don’t have to take anything out on public roads or, or anything like that.”

“It makes everything much easier here,” he continued, adding that the team begins working with artists years before their work is showcased.

“We know what works and what doesn’t.”

Clemente also said that the production capacity Coachella’s seasoned staff have developed allows for some artists to create some of the “largest work that they have ever participated in”.

“We know what works and what doesn’t work and can guide them on the final design,” he said.

Clemente noted that while a singular theme wasn’t chosen in favour of selection on a person-by-person basis, a strong multi-media element is present in the works. The effects of each radically changed with the lighting that is projected on each at nighttime.

Here are the four new installations presented at Coachella 2023.

Holoflux Coachella Sculpture
Installation view of Holoflux by Güvenç Özel. The photo is by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

Holoflux by Güvenç Özel

LA-based designer Güvenç Özel created a 60-foot-tall (18 metre) architectural sculpture with a steel structure wrapped in iridescent fabric. During the day, Holoflux blows slightly with the wind and reflects the light.

For the night, Özel set up a series of 3D-mapped projects that covers the fabric with digital art, some of which was generated from cameras that face outwards from the projectors, modulating images of the surroundings.

“[It shows] how architecture can be integrated into the digital ecosystem,” Özel told Dezeen. “I call myself a cyber-physical architect because what I do is about that integration of the digital and the physical.”

Clemente noted that the project, which includes two smaller digitally fabricated foam attachments, was one of the “hardest” pieces the Coachella build crew has ever had to construct.

Robotic statues at Coachella
Installation view of Messengers by Kumkum Fernando. The photo is by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

The Messengers by Kumkum Fernando

Sri Lankan artist Kumkum Fernando created three massive statuesque figures for the event, the tallest of which stands 80 feet tall (24 metres).

Fernando created the figures to have robotic silhouettes and covered them with colourful motifs found on Hindu and Buddhist temples in South Asia. The artist keeps a library of patterns that he uses for his large-scale works.

“One day, I was arranging objects, and they appeared to form a figure,” Fernando said. “Then I thought I should make figures with these patterns.”

Each statue includes a plinth that allows people to gather and look up at the statues, which stand prominently between two of the festival’s main stages. The figures are illuminated by a soft violet light during the night.

Purple molecular ball statue Coachella
Installation view of Molecular Cloud by Vincent Leroy. The photo is by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

Molecular Cloud by Vincent Leroy

French artist Vincent Leroy created a series of glossy pink orbs that sit in clusters on steel poles on a slight hillock overlooking the festival’s main stage.

The clusters move slowly on axles creating different configurations that reflect the movement of molecules and demonstrate a “permanently changing viewpoint”, according to the artist.

During the day, the orbs appear bright against the greenery and white structures and tents of the festival, while at night pixelated light is projected onto them, increasing the sense of movement in the work.

Flower sculptures with Coachella in the background
Installation view of Eden by Maggie West. The photo is by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Coachella.

Eden by Maggie West 

LA-based artist Maggie West created a series of floral silhouettes that range from six to 56 feet tall (two to 17 metres) that the team claimed is “one of the world’s largest 3D photography installations”.

The flowers consist of vinyl wrapped around steel-and-wood structures. Each of the floral designs is a cut-out of West’s photography of a variety of plants, overlaid with both warm and cool colour palettes that create a magenta hue created by taking the photographs under coloured lights.

“By photographing familiar objects with multicolored lights, my work helps viewers take a closer look at some of the nature they might take for granted,” she said. “Like the texture of the snake plants and the stamens in the centre of lilies.”

At night, the massive flowers are complemented by rich blue and purple projections.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is taking place from 14-16 April and 21-23 April in California. For more events, exhibitions and talks on architecture and design visit Dezeen’s Events Guide

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