“Most people haven’t been inside an 80-foot, inflatable, cloudlike structure.”
What Ken Farmer is saying is probably true. Farmer is the curator of Opus 1, a festival that will blend art, music, technology and nature near Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday. The structure he’s referring to — one of four stages at Opus 1 — is The Lightning Cloud, designed by architect Jesse Seegers. During the daytime, visitors can watch the sunlight stream through the puffy walls while enjoying musical performances; at night, artist Miho Hatori’s video work “New Optimism” will be projected on the inside (and will be visible from the outside). The experience will change hour by hour, if not minute by minute.
In fact, change is the only constant when it comes to Opus 1. “A key jumping-off point for us was this idea of stepping into the forest, stepping away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and being able to experience wonder,” Farmer says. While there are set performance times for workshops and musical performances, “there’s a level of a choose-your-own-adventure-type quality. You’re supposed to find your path in it, explore and stick around with the things that are of interest to you.”
That means wandering around and checking out various art installations, workshops and musical performances — on your own time and at your own pace. “If you’ve never heard Indian raga music [from Brooklyn Raga Massive] before, you may want to watch all 45 minutes of that,” Farmer says. “Or you might think there’s something else that catches your attention, so you go to that.”
“The important thing for us was this isn’t just a music festival — we wanted something that was one of a kind,” says Vanessa Rodriguez, marketing director at the Howard Hughes Corporation, the developer managing the ongoing overhaul of downtown Columbia, Md., which includes Merriweather. The corporation is presenting Opus 1 alongside Farmer’s New York-based production and design company Wild Dogs. “We wanted to take art and culture to a different level,” says Rodriguez.
The festival’s music acts are wide-ranging: There’s Hibridos Live, which explores Brazilian ritual dance and blends performance with live video mixing; Sophia Brous’ Exo-Tech, an improvisational jazz ensemble; and hometown standouts the George Mason Pep Band, which will open the festival.
While the 11 large-scale art installations that make up Opus 1 won’t move, the environment around them will. Since the festival begins in the daytime and goes into the night, the dimming light means the work you saw at the beginning will be fundamentally changed by the end of the evening.
“What we’re really intrigued by is the changing of light in the forest,” Farmer says. The installations “are designed to be able to accommodate changing light conditions. It’s not really something where you come in and you do a loop and you’ve seen it all and you’re done. The evening is really going to be transforming throughout.”
Merriweather Post Pavilion and Symphony Woods, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Md., Sat, 4.-11 p.m., free (tickets via Eventbrite recommended).