Dezeen Magazine

Esrawe spinning tops sculpture

Esrawe + Cadena installs spinning chairs at FORMAT Festival in Arkansas

Woven spinning chairs by Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena, and a hidden stage with entrances made from portable toilets were some of the highlights of FORMAT Festival in Arkansas.

FORMAT, which stands for For Music + Art + Technology, integrated a number of interactive installations directly into the festival grounds alongside the Momentary gallery in Bentonville.

Produced by C3 Presents and TRIADIC, the second iteration of the three-day festival was the first to take place at this location the city that is home to the headquarters of Walton Global, which owns shopping chain Walmart.

Stage and iridescent bubbles at format festival
FORMAT Festival took place in Bentonville, Arkansas. Photo by Roger Ho

A variety of sculptural work from international and local designers were chosen to fill the manicured grounds outside of the gallery.

"We never wanted to just be decorative, but we wanted to really be an integral part of the festival landscape," said the TRIADIC team, which curated the installations and includes Elizabeth Edelman, Roya Sachs and Mafalda Millies.

"We really are able to give a platform to art and music and have them collaborate."

Spinning wheels entrance gate
An entrance gate with spinning wheels was designed by Zach Springer. Photo by Roger Ho

Esrawe + Cadena, a collaboration between Mexican designers Eraswe and Cadena, staged a series of spinning objects with platforms for spinning, covered in colourful nylon straps.

Called Los Trompos (Spinning Tops) the work was first exhibited in Atlanta and has since travelled around the country. It is based on the spinning tops commonly used as playthings by children, according to the designers.

Atelier Sisu irredescent bubbles
Australian studio Atelier Sisu created massive see-through bubble sculptures. Photo by Roger Ho

Sydney-based design studio Atelier Sisu installed its Evanescent sculpture, a series of large plastic bubbles with iridescent sides that can be walked under.

To ensure local contributions, the TRIADIC team held an open contest for people in the surrounding area to design the entrance gate for the festival. This year's winner was an arch made up of discarded bicycle wheels by Zach Springer that spin and light up at night.

The sculptural walkway was intended to represent the region's position as a mountain biking destination.

Quonset hut with market
A Quonset hut held a market. Photo by Grant Hodgeon

Other large-scale installations included billboards with chalk-facing sides where visitors could record "complaints" by activist group Guerrilla Girls as well as a mobile photography lab that took portraits of visitors, printed them on large-format paper and then wheat-pasted them on plywood walls across the grounds.

New York installation artists Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman created a stage for the festival clad in the fronts of portable toilets. Through two entrances, one could walk through the portable toilet doors and enter a "psychedelic speakeasy" with six rooms and a dome structure in the middle where small concerts were performed.

Other stages and structures included a "disco barn" designed specially for the event as well as a large Quonset hut with open-ended sides that formed a marketplace for clothing and other goods.

Portable toilet entrance to stage
Portable toilet doors formed the entrance to one of the stages. Photo by Grant Hodgeon

The integration of the more standard music festival elements and installations with the gallery structure on the property was indicative of close ties between the different arts institutions in the city.

The Momentary is an extension of the Safdie Architects-designed Crystal Bridges Museum just a few miles away, which was founded by Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

"We take immense pride in the dynamic, cutting-edge work that is being done here, in arts and culture and beyond," said Momentary interim director Jill Wagar.

"We're all working together toward a common goal, underscored by the drive to create exceptional, inspiring, and accessible experiences."

The greater area has seen a flurry of infrastructure in the past decades, and one resident told Dezeen that the building reminded him of the "Sims City" in its speed and placement.

Marlon Blackwell Architects, based in nearby Fayetteville, has designed a number of structures for the city's Thaden School, a private arts-oriented school backed by the Walton Foundation.

Guerilla Girl billboard
Activist group Guerilla Girls installed billboards with a chalkboard element where visitors could leave "complaints". Photo by Grant Hodgeon

Other installations in the city include an architecture exhibition at Crystal Bridges called Architecture at Home, which featured experimental housing prototypes from a variety of international studios, such as Mexico City's PPAA.

Top photo is by Ismael Quintanilla III.

FORMAT Festival ran from 22 to 24 September 2023 in Bentonville, Arkansas. For more international events, installations and talks in architecture and design visit the Dezeen Events Guide