Story by: Jacki Moon Horne
Photos by: Mario Villeda
Austin has long been proclaimed the “Live Music Capital of the World”, but the best kept festival secret in Texas can be found an hour northeast of the city at Art Outside in Rockdale, Texas. Now in its 10th year, Art Outside has captured the hearts and souls of the Central Texas creative community and beyond. The 10th instillation of the festival left an unforgettable impression on everyone involved, as it continued to inspire the masses this year by exemplifying a beautiful balance between a burn and a festival.
Art Outside provided a plethora of captivating, interactive and inspiring art instillations strewn across festival grounds for attendees to discover, several of which also appeared at the notorious Burning Man. However, it became immediately apparent that the people of Art Outside are just as much the art as the tangible items exhibited. More so than ever this year, the lines between attendee and entertainer became blurred at the festival, making the act of onsite people watching an unforgettable experience.
What truly continues to distinguish Art Outside as a cut above the majority of other festivals is its emphasis on every type of art; the festival is a hearty and aesthetic feast for all of the senses. Per usual, Art Outside continued to be a calm and intellectual family friendly gathering by day (with yoga, workshops and kids activities) then a much rowdier celebration by night. The festival provided music until the early sunrise hours, but workshops resumed again in the early afternoon. The plethora of activities and aesthetics provided this year created a true “choose your own adventure” style of festival.
It would be an impossible feat to experience everything Art Outside 2014 had to offer without cloning oneself, but in the spirit of Art Outside’s “chose your own adventure” style, I’m going to be a bit Gonzo and list out my favorite observations and inspirations of AO 2014:
Dome Life Mantra
One of the essential mantras of Art Outside becomes immediately apparent within a few hours at the festival: Dome Life. The giant festival dome serves as a home to some serious wubs and whomps, as it hosts top-notch bass music acts from all ends of the electronic spectrum. Talent at the dome stage included local bass heroes: Psymbionic, Brede, DRRTYWLVZ and D.V.S*, as well as national touring favorites: Phutureprimitive, Fort Knox Five and Kalya Scintilla. The bass wobbles start early and go on until after sunrise in the Art Outside dome.
The dome atmosphere gets rowdy, weird and even a bit hedonistic in the wee morning hours. Thriftworks, whose dome sets have become a staple in Art Outside culture, had a moment that perhaps summarizes the vibe of the late night dome hours best. In the midst of dropping his unique, glithy and exotic soundscapes paired with his custom creepy Halloween-esque visuals, Jake stopped the music to say, “your mothers would be so disappointed right now,” with a sneaky smile. This statement really got the audience moving and even more excited.
The Face Instillation
The Face was the first instillation that immediately caught my attention, as it was rightfully placed next to the entrance gate. The giant golden instillation possessed two captivating eyes that drew in passers-byers to take a closer look and discover its controllers. The instillation provided several different controllers for different sections of the face, such as “upper right eye” and “lower mouth left”. Not only was it interesting to play with the controllers and make the face move by myself or with a group, it was also just as amusing to sit back and watch people play with it.
It wouldn’t be Art Outside without a complete wooden art gallery to showcase the exquisite work of both local and traveling artists. The walls of the gallery were carefully curated by Austin local, Happy Happy James – Happy also played a set at the dome, as he is a man of many hats. What made the gallery a truly stand-alone all-encompassing experience is the fact that it showcased a plethora of different types of art: from psychedelic, to realistic to abstract, the walls of the gallery had something for every kind of art enthusiast to admire.
Jumpsuit Records Takeover
The Jumpsuit Records crew was reppin’ hard at Art Outside on the main stage this year. Saqi started the Jumpsuit takeover out on the right funky note Friday night, then the evening segued perfectly into a fulfilling and uplifting Wildlight set. Per usual, The Polish Ambassador brought a perfect blend of funky fun and inspirational performance to Art Outside. What was truly touching about his set was at the end, he actually took the time to reach down and hug several of his fans in the audience. For being such a big name on the Circuit, TPA is truly as humble as they come.
Anthony – Dancing floral arranger
I first discovered Anthony Ward, the sassy dancing floral arranger during the Jumpsuit Records takeover on the main stage. He accompanied The Polish Ambassador with a simultaneous interpretive floral arrangement dance routine that perfectly complemented the funky sounds of TPA. I saw him arranging flowers while dancing on stage several more times throughout the weekend, especially in the dome stage.
Musical Scavenger Hunt
Two unexpected flight delays, one for Random Rab and one for Pumpkin, forced the true “show must go on” spirit of Art Outside to reveal itself. Pumpkin and Random Rab were both scheduled for Saturday evening dome sets, but locals had to fill in when the delayed flights left those set times open. No one was completely sure of when the two would actually make it to the festival, and it became an exciting late night scavenger hunt of roaming around festival grounds to discover where and when the two’s sets would be rescheduled. Fortunately, Art Outside added a new stage named the Midway Stage this year, and that is where the two played impromptu sets. Pumpkin took over the Midway Stage around 3am, and got the crowd of people who were able to find him moving to his notorious upbeat sound.
Random Rab took the stage shortly thereafter. It was truly an interesting turn of events that he ended up playing a near sunrise set at 4am. Much of the Art Outside community was surprised when he originally appeared on the lineup for an evening set, and it was a really beautifully fated surprise that he actually did end up being a calming lullaby at the end of Saturday night’s madness.
The Tesla Coils instillation has become a staple within Art Outside culture. A truly electrifying experience, onlookers are aesthetically treated as they witness twelve foot long electrical arcs strike the instillation’s middle piece in synchronicity with the music. This is all DJ’d live, as the lightening zaps in rhythm with the music. A robotic drum set comes with the spectacle, and it’s bright flashing LED lights strike with the rhythmic zapping melodies. It’s like watching a man made electronic lightning show.
The Pachamama Portal is an elaborate and interactive burning man instillation, which was created by Miguel Angel and his team. This year was it’s first and hopefully not last appearance at Art Outside. The portal was created with the noble intention of becoming a community temple, consisting of visionary art, holographic sound, light, vortex based mathematics, orgone power and sustainability consciousness. The instillation’s centerpiece is a 9’ tall earth ball, which sits on top of a 6’ tall dodecahedron. The dodecahedron has several interactive facets, such as a sound chamber and other percussive instruments attached to its sides.
The instillation is also surrounded by 8’ lotus flower hammocks for festival goers to rest their weary heads; I found myself lounging in the hammocks while taking in the festival atmosphere on a few occasions at Art Outside this year. The beautiful instillation truly made an impact on the festival community this year.
While some festivals are draining, Art Outside is one that leaves attendees recharged and ready to take over the world. The festival is here to stay. Naturally, the 10th anniversary of Art Outside was full of just as much magic, entertainment and community as ever. The number of festival attendees greatly grew this year along with several more art instillations and an additional stage, but the grassroots family vibe remained strongly intact throughout the larger realm of festival attendees. I’m excited to continue growing with the Art Outside festival community in years to come.
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