Tech

Bon Iver, Miguel Partner With New Platform for Immersive Art Exhibition

Bon Iver
Gus Stewart/Redferns

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver performs as headliner on the North stage during the All Points East Festival in Victoria Park on June 2, 2019 in London, England.

The six-week event, which opens Sept. 9, will highlight the climate crisis through a series of artist-created installations.

Undercurrent, a new cause-oriented experiential platform merging the worlds of music, technology and the visual arts, will launch its first-ever event on Sept. 9, 2021, it was announced today. To be housed in a two-story, 60,000-square-foot space in Brooklyn, the inaugural climate crisis-themed exhibition will feature a series of immersive, interactive exhibits developed by musical artists including Bon Iver, Jorja Smith, Miguel, Actress, Khruangbin, Aluna, Jayda G, Mount Kimbie and Nosaj Thing, with more to be announced.

Established by music industry veterans Steve Milton and Brett Volker, Undercurrent was designed to offer a new way for audiences to experience music while also inspiring them to get involved with social causes, the founders tell Billboard.

"We see it as a new medium for which artists and musicians can create, and hopefully new ways that they can engage with their audiences and their fans,” says Volker. He adds that the event will raise awareness and funds for three main environmental non-profits -- Kiss the Ground, Ocean Conservancy, and/or Global Forest Generation -- all of which created their own installations to spread awareness of their specific causes while offering ways for attendees to donate.

The event’s impressive artist lineup can be chalked up to the relationships Milton and Volker have built over the course of both their careers in the music and technology industries. After meeting through mutual friends in London, the two formed a business relationship and went on to co-found two companies: the sonic branding agency Listen, and Ada, which helps artists and brands incorporate emerging technologies such as AI and VR into their physical experiences. Their client list with both has included such heavy-hitting artists as Bjork, St. Vincent, Childish Gambino and Brian Eno and major brands like Microsoft and Spotify, among others.

For Undercurrent’s first project, Volker and Milton sought out artists who were not only interested in new vehicles for creative expression but had taken on climate change as a pet cause. After signing on to the project, each artist got to work with the Undercurrent team on creating installations which would serve to illuminate the issue in their own unique ways. The installation created by Miguel, for example, is described as an interactive way to experience the destruction of the coral reef; it will include an original music composition designed to be reactive to each individual who enters the space. Bon Iver’s, meanwhile, will feature a "re-composition" of one of the singer’s existing songs and is described by Volker as "an audio-video meditation on the climate crisis, but in a more abstract way."

Once admitted inside, guests will have the ability to explore all of the installations at will. "Think about it as kind of like a museum art gallery meets music festival," says Milton, while Volker describes it as "a kind of playground approach," adding that they were partially inspired by the areas of music festivals "where the stages aren’t playing, where there’s a lot of stuff going on that you can go and interact with." Like a music festival, there will also be "sustainable" food and beverage options living alongside the various installations. (A publicist for the event notes that due to the nature of the indoor space, any COVID-19 restrictions still in existence at that time will be followed to ensure the safety of all guests.)

All of that said, attendees shouldn’t expect actual live performances; though all of the artists involved will likely make an appearance at some point during the exhibition’s six-week run, "ticket buyers shouldn’t expect to come and see the artist in person," Milton says.

Aside from showcasing Undercurrent’s work, the goal of the fall event is to inspire attendees to think more deeply about the climate crisis while donating money to its non-profit partners (Undercurrent is making direct donations to the organizations, while guests will be given multiple opportunities to donate on-site). Long-term, Milton and Volker hope to use it as a launching pad for future exhibitions with a focus on other important causes. “There are so many different ways that we could evolve this,” Milton says.

Tickets for Undercurrent start at $45 and go on sale today. You can find more information here.