Tickets went on sale this week for Glastonbury, leaving many attendee hopefuls in disappointment—they sold out in less than an hour. While the scramble for entry comes as no surprise to one of the world’s most acclaimed music and arts festival, for those that couldn’t grab a ticket, the V&A is currently offering a different sort of festival experience in its exhibit Glastonbury: Land and Legend.
Now home to the Glastonbury Festival Archive—an ongoing collection of materials aimed at documenting the five day event, both past and prospective—the V&A presents the cultural importance of the festival and a look inside its altruistic ethos in Glastonbury: Land and Legend, in which artist Zsolt Balogh has created a visual sculpture using footage from 2014.
Having attended Glastonbury once before, Balogh, who regularly creates installations and animated content for the likes of The National Theatre and The Sydney Opera House, pays homage to the Glastonbury experience through a multi-screen pyramid structure based around Maslow’s "hierarchy of human needs" theory. Using stretched projection material along all sides of a large triangle, a 15-minute film illustrates Glastonbury’s communal principles, where sleep is forgone but creativity thrives.
“Maslow's pyramid of human needs theory had the right, slightly mysterious, shape, the right colors, and as a theory, was a bit sketchy and floored so I thought it would be perfect, especially with the Pyramid Stage being the main one at the Glastonbury Festival,” Balogh tells The Creators Project.
American psychologist Abraham Maslow's theory suggests that people are motivated through levels of achievement, a system that can be broken down into five layers of a pyramid with the most essential needs (food and water are located at the base, for example). At Glastonbury, however, these needs are turned upside down in order to generate the festival’s unique atmosphere, equally employed to assist in the construction of the film on display at the V&A.
“Editing the huge amount of footage and populating the surrounding projection surfaces with content was quite an epic task,” says Balogh. “All major edit changes had a knock on effect on all other surfaces, often as many of 11 subdivided screens. The storytelling aspect of the display is also very interesting because you are not in control of what or where your audience is looking at any moment, you have to rely on more holistic ways of narrative, operating through synchronized but vague visual gestures rather than directing the audience on a carefully chosen path.”
The video, which was shot on a range of cameras, is projected onto three HD projectors, while several speakers spread throughout the installation, and comfortable beanbag chairs on the floor provide the full immersive experience for the viewer. The design of the pyramid structure takes this video footage into account but also both realizes the Glastonbury theme and V&A's exhibit space.
“We decided to use materials that will remind visitors of a festival atmosphere and also materials that are true to the video content, which is about the behavior of the visitors on the festival grounds,” says Balogh. “We went for scaffolding poles to create the main structure of a pyramid with a custom made triangle shaped front and back projection material stretched on all sides.”
Whether you’ve been or not, the result is an immersive snapshot of the Glastonbury Festival, an emotional memory project demonstrating the significance of the annual occasion, almost paramount in the global cultural calendar. “I think the festival is great,” Balogh says. “It is actually more like an experimental performing arts festival where everyone is chipping in to make it more fun and I always enjoy that.”
Glastonbury: Land and Legend is on at the V&A until February 26, 2017. See more work from Balogh, who is currently working on an installation for the opening ceremony of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, here.