Wonderfruit Festival 2018 has officially landed! A 4-day celebration of the arts to catalyze a positive impact. Although the story really begins the moment you set foot in The Fields, the ultimate peak of the event takes place on the night of Sunday 16 December with a fully immersive, communal art performance, during which every other element of the festival will be completely deprogramed by The Waldorf Project. We got a chance to chat to Tani Burns, Associate Producer of the project to find out more and her tips for Thailand.
(Tani Burns @tboneidol)
Having already tested their theories in London, through “FUTURO”, The Waldorf Project proved with certainty that the energies of 40 people could be connected, and that compassion could be engineered through a creative transformation of the senses. The Waldorf Project aims to take an epic jump forward, by proving the same hypothesis in a situation involving thousands. And so, in the heart of Thailand’s rural Chonburi Province, they present “FUTURO – X”, a truly revolutionary concept both for the Waldorf Project itself and in festival entertainment. Featuring a cast of 250 including dancers from Bangkok Dance Academy alongside the core team from Waldorf Project UK, the environment design and choreography of FUTUTO – X also stars artificial intelligence in a fundamental new role. Not only will the organised performers take part, but FUTURO – X will be experienced by an entire festival's community, with every one of the 5000 guests directly and collectively engaged. After six months of planning and years of psychological research, mathematical work and scientific experimentation, the group of strangers and friends alike will be brought together into one connected organism. This daring experiment in consciousness transformation will be the largest of its kind the world has ever seen!
We asked Tani Burns about her involvement and drive behind the project.
When did you get involved with this project?
It all started with the Waldorf Project back in 2012 when it was gearing towards its first chapter, “Chapter One / Muskmelon”. It’s a world away now, but, even then, it was clear that Sean (Rogg, creator and director of the Waldorf Project) was onto something extraordinary. “Chapter One” was inspired by the Japanese muskmelon, a highly prized, painstakingly cultivated fruit, massaged to create a perfect sphere and to enhance sweetness. As with the muskmelon, the Waldorf Project was about taking something natural and manipulating it to become ‘perfect’. “Chapter Two: COLOUR” was about synthesizing the senses to the point where we were experiencing emotions – rather than tasting / hearing / feeling / seeing identifiable flavours / sounds / textures / images. ‘Colour’ was perceived not as a visual construct, but as a new sensory dimension. It was a big leap forward, but the leap from there to FUTURO was even more unimaginable.
What is the inspiration and message behind the art piece?
I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a ‘message’, but for “FUTURO – X”, which is a one-off iteration for Wonderfruit, it does centralise on the idea of empathy. By collectively engaging a group – in this case one of 5000 people – empathy can be engineered on a monumental scale through creative transformation of the senses.
Other than the Waldorf Project what else are you excited to see at Wonderfruit? Both art and music-wise?
Wonderfruit’s ethos centres on creativity and sustainability, and there are always some really innovative installations. I’m looking forward to experiencing the ‘Dew Flower’ water tower, which was designed by Bangkok's PO-D Architects. It’s a part water tower, part look-out, which captures and collects moisture from the air by incorporating water harvesting techniques. Festival goers can interact with the process by hopping on swings to help shake down the captured droplets, which flow down to the garden below.
The food at Wonderfruit is also meant to be a real highlight, with some of the country’s top chefs and restaurants participating; and I’m keen to get involved in the wellness activities, including yoga, barre and capoeira, Indian Ayurveda and Thai steaming herbal treatments. All in balance!
Is this your first time in Thailand?
I’m actually half-Thai, so spent much of my childhood visiting family in Bangkok and Songkhla in the south, where my mum grew up. It’s wonderful to come back as a ‘grown up’ and look at things through different eyes.
Where are your favourite spots in Thailand?
There’s little I love better than sitting at a roadside table with a massive melamine bowl of dark brown broth and noodles, but I have to say Thailand has really upped its bar and restaurant game in recent years. I recently visited 100 Mahaset which was incredible, with its nose-to-tail eating concept married perfectly with high quality, authentic yet bold northern Thai cuisine. Bar-wise, Teens of Thailand, a cosy gin-focused (Thai Tea Gin and tonic!) hidden gem in Chinatown, has to be up there. You enter through a converted old wooden shutter door, which would be easy to walk past, but when you know, you know!
Being here during the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale, I’ve also been exploring some of the cultural spots. The BACC (Bangkok Art and Culture Center) is a welcome haven among the madness of the city centre and is currently showing a brilliant roster of artists as part of the biennale including an incredible walk-in installation by Mark Justiniani from the Phillipines.
While not really a ‘spot’, I’m totally in love with the East Asiatic Company building, a gorgeous, richly historic 19th Century Venetian-style architectural beauty on the Chao Phraya River. It’s currently also housing work by several Bangkok Art Biennale artists, many who are up-and-coming from Thailand right now – Anupong Charoenmitr, who was commissioned to create video related to the building, is a new favourite.
The Waldorf Project unites the senses through food, scent, drink, movement, sound, and environment. What ignites your senses in the following - food, scent, drink, movement, sound and environment?
I think in all these elements there exists something with the power to evoke both emotion and memory – sometimes both are intrinsically tied, but not always. It’s like stepping out of an air-conditioned airport and feeling a complete environment through smell, sound and humidity all at once – it’s a holistic and emotional reaction experienced through either memory or distinct newness.
I love that one sense can fully evoke another – often in a more powerful way. Like the sound of a lawn mower evoking the scent of cut grass, the sound of crickets bringing to mind heat, or the smell of lime and fish sauce making me want to eat some tam!
In art, movement plays an interesting role. The most compelling dance, I think, whether classical or contemporary, is when movement can be seen as an extension of emotion; when a dancer’s limbs are really communicating something outside of the dancer themselves – outside of the room, even. Something bigger, more powerful; something unconscious. Through sound, the skill of a great musician has the power to do the same.
What’s next for the Waldorf Project team?
Currently the team is continuing to work towards “Chapter Four / BARZAKH”, about which there will be further announcements in the new year – join the mailing list via www.waldorfproject.com to be the first to hear!).
The groundbreaking ambition of the whole thing is incomparable, and the Waldorf Project creative team has been shattering boundaries every step of the way since the very beginning. When Chapter One / MUSKMELON launched, it was named in the “Top Ten Cutting-Edge Restaurants in the World”, and Sean immediately decided that a ‘dining experience’, however extraordinary, was not what he wanted the Waldorf Project to be – so you can see it’s always been a radically evolving concept. Sean is a real one-off. Brilliant, persistently imaginative and – I assume – slightly mad. You’d have to be at least a little bit mad to undertake something as colossal as this…
You can follow Tani on instagram @tboneidol
Images from Tani Burns and Waldorf Project