Art State of Mind

4 European Events Harmonizing Art, Nature, and Techno Music

Celia Leiva Otto 30 May 2024 min Read

Techno and electronic music have always shared an intimate relationship with art, intertwining rhythms, beats, and melodies with visual expressions and creative concepts. This symbiotic connection forms the backbone of many cultural movements and events across Europe, where music transcends mere auditory experiences to become a conduit for immersive artistic expressions.

Events Connecting Nature, Music, and Art

In this era marked by sprawling multitudinous festivals, there’s a refreshing shift towards more intimate gatherings that harmonize with nature while celebrating the fusion of techno, electronic music, and art. These smaller events serve as vital hubs where like-minded individuals converge to explore the intersection of sound, creativity, and environmental consciousness.

Amidst the bustling landscape of mainstream festivals, these smaller gatherings offer a more sustainable alternative, fostering deeper connections between attendees and the natural world. They provide a platform for cultural exchange, artistic experimentation, and community engagement, paving the way for a more holistic approach to music festivals.

Art and nature: Section of the website announcing the 2024 edition of Refractor, graphics by Organic Signs

Section of the website announcing the 2024 edition of Refractor, graphics by Organic Signs

1. Refractor (RFRCTR), Madrid, Spain

At Refractor (RFRCTR), bodies become one with the rhythm of nature as they dance within the enchanting embrace of a bucolic Spanish forest. Nestled approximately 50 kilometers from Madrid, this private gathering unfolds within a serene setting, surrounded by lush forests and tranquil lakes. On June 1, 2024, for the second consecutive year, Refractor invites attendees to embark on a 24-hour journey filled with love, camaraderie, and liberation. Organized by Organic Signs, a visionary platform bridging the worlds of record labels and cultural curators, Refractor (RFRCTR) serves as a convergence point for sonic innovators and aficionados of interdisciplinary arts and avant-garde culture.

Art and nature: Refractor 2023. Photo by voided999. Courtesy of Organic Signs.

Refractor 2023. Photo by voided999. Courtesy of Organic Signs.

Both Organic Signs (2022) and Refractor (2023) emerge from a shared mission: to fortify the musical bonds between communities and generations, drawing inspiration from the 90s rave scene to the forefront of contemporary avant-garde. Catering to a community of forward-thinking enthusiasts, hungry for musical experiences transcending the confines of traditional club culture and are conscious of their surroundings, these private events emerge as a beacon of artistic expression and environmental stewardship. Refractor (RFRCTR) stands out not merely as an event, but as a sanctuary for exploration and connection, focusing on artistic integrity, sustainable practices, and immersive environments—qualities that Refractor embodies with unparalleled finesse.

Art and nature: Refractor venue. Photo by voided999. Courtesy of Organic Signs.

Refractor venue. Photo by voided999. Courtesy of Organic Signs.

Bruce Riley

With the aim of creating a unique gathering where rave culture, nature, and art engage in dialogue, a collaboration has emerged between Refractor and the North American artist Bruce Riley. Renowned for his transcendent psychedelic paintings, Riley lends his visionary brushstrokes to Refractor 2024, crafting a kaleidoscopic visual identity that mirrors the pulsating rhythms of its musical lineup. The artist’s work has given birth to a new graphic identity for the 2024 edition.

Art and nature: Refractor 2024 poster. Poster art by Bruce Riley. Courtesy of Organic Signs.

Refractor 2024 poster. Poster art by Bruce Riley. Courtesy of Organic Signs.

Born in 1954, Bruce Riley hails from a working-class tradition on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Indeed, during his childhood, he was always surrounded by woods and creeks, exploring a fantasy wilderness—a connection that shines through with Refractor. His works, filled with mysteries and unexpected turns, pave the way to psychedelia and experimentation, guided simultaneously by accident and intention in artistic practice. His art, intertwined with Refractor’s ethos, serves as a gateway to an immersive experience where sound and vision converge in harmonious synchrony, inviting attendees to explore the depths of artistic expression.

Art and nature: Bruce Riley, Burning Heart, 2022. Artist’s website.

Bruce Riley, Burning Heart, 2022. Artist’s website.

2. Mo:Dem Festival, Primišlje, Croatia

From August 5th to 11th, the idyllic setting of Primišlje, Croatia, will host the eagerly awaited Mo:Dem Festival, drawing in art and music enthusiasts from far and wide. Standing for Momento Demento (moment of derangement), Mo:Dem Festival is an annual psychedelic music and art event hosted by an international collective of the same name since 2012. Inserted in the serene backdrop of nature and crystal clear waters, away from the hustle and bustle of urban life, this festival (which aims not to expand but to maintain and enhance the event’s quality and content year after year) welcomes around 15.000 local and international visitors every year.

Art and nature: Mo:Dem Festival Main Stage. Photo by Ivan Sardi.

Mo:Dem Festival Main Stage. Photo by Ivan Sardi.

If something characterizes this event, it is the dedication to break technical and artistic boundaries while upholding high ecological standards. Because Mo:Dem Festival doesn’t just entertain; it educates, inspiring visitors to leave the land untouched and fostering ecological awareness and nature preservation. Attendees immerse themselves in a sonic experience with a steadfast commitment to love, passion, and dedication.

Art and nature: Mo:Dem Festival venue. Photo by Les Camionautes, 2016.

Mo:Dem Festival venue. Photo by Les Camionautes, 2016.

Jolene by Daniel Popper

The Hive is the festival’s main stage, which serves as the beating heart of the event, where art, creativity, and the spirits of the forest converge in a mesmerizing dance. Yet, it is the stage known as The Swamp that hosts a monumental sculpture sure to enrapture: Jolene, crafted by the South African artist Daniel Popper.

Unlike previous art installations at the festival, Jolene has become a revered landmark in its own right. As festival-goers wander the grounds, Popper’s creation stands as a silent yet commanding presence, seamlessly interwoven into the immersive tapestry of Mo:Dem’s experience, enticing all who encounter it with its mysterious allure. Moreover, projection mapping makes Jolene appear almost alive, thus creating two separate stage experiences in a day and night time.

Art and nature: Daniel Popper, Jolene, 2019, Mo:Dem Festival, Slunj, Croatia. Festival’s website.

Daniel Popper, Jolene, 2019, Mo:Dem Festival, Slunj, Croatia. Festival’s website.

However, this monumental sculpture, a testament to the festival’s ethos, is now shrouded in secrecy. Organizers have announced significant changes to the stage where Jolene has stood for years, leaving festival-goers pondering its fate. With Daniel Popper himself overseeing the modifications, the looming question remains: Will Mo:Dem bid farewell to Jolene, or will she continue being an icon of the festival? The answer awaits, poised to be unveiled on the festival’s opening day, adding an air of intrigue and anticipation to the event’s atmosphere.

Art and nature: Daniel Popper, Jolene, 2019, Mo:Dem Festival, Slunj, Croatia. Festival’s website.

Daniel Popper, Jolene, 2019, Mo:Dem Festival, Slunj, Croatia. Festival’s website.

3. Draaimolen Festival, Tilburg, the Netherlands

Based in Tilburg, the Netherlands, Draaimolen is an event organization that epitomizes independence and innovation, weaving together electronic and acoustic music, art, and nature since 2012. Through a myriad of events, including the annual Draaimolen Festival and the free Holy Pink event during Tilburg Pride, Draaimolen fosters a culture of experimentation and collaboration. By embracing diverse musical and artistic expressions, Draaimolen continually pushes boundaries, creating unique and transformative experiences for attendees while spotlighting emerging talent and established luminaries alike.

Art and nature: Draaimolen Festival, The Chapel Stage. Photo by RDimiioniatis.

Draaimolen Festival, The Chapel Stage. Photo by RDimiioniatis.

Kévin Bray

Starting with this year’s graphics, the festival has had the collaboration of the French artist based in Amsterdam, Kévin Bray. Drawing inspiration from popular culture and in harmony with the festival’s ethos, Bray fearlessly experiments with tools, pushing them to their limits and igniting our imagination in the process. Through surrealistic digital figures, his work makes us reconsider our relationship with reality and materialism while beautifully encapturing the essence of the festival by combining technology and natural imagery. This collaboration is not the first Bray’s venture with Draaimolen, and it’s evident why. His artistic vision perfectly complements the festival’s spirit.

Art and nature: Draaimolen Festival 2024 poster. Artwork by Kévin Bray, 2024.

Draaimolen Festival 2024 poster. Artwork by Kévin Bray, 2024.

Fenna Schilling

Fenna Schilling is another talented artist (and DJ) who has previously collaborated with Draaimolen to create the festivals and other events visuals. Her compositions evoke a fantasy atmosphere, intertwining elements of nature, photography, and organic shapes with a distinctly romantic flair. Utilizing soft tones, a retro-inspired aesthetic, and sensual forms, this Amsterdam-based artist describes her collages as “painting without paint,” drawing inspiration from her lifelong passion for collecting photographs from books.


4. Terraforma, Milan, Italy

Last but certainly not least is the Terraforma Festival, one of the most influential in the industry. In addition to featuring a top-notch lineup, the festival offers a fantastic program of lectures and workshops. Until its 2023 edition, this festival has been held at Villa Arconati. In fact, one of the main goals of the organization is to restore Villa Arconati’s historic garden. However, this year, in line with their commitment and dedication to pushing boundaries and fostering sustainability, they decided to change the venue. Indeed, the festival’s reputation has been built on its commitment to sustainability and environmental care, making it a priority for them to change the location of the event.

Art and nature: Terraforma 2019. Photo by Francesco Margaroli.

Terraforma 2019. Photo by Francesco Margaroli.

Terraforma Journal

In addition to this mission towards nature and sustainability, the festival is known for its involvement beyond the music scene through contemporary visual culture. A testament to this is the Terraforma Journal, a meeting point of art, ecology, sound, and contemporary culture. This publication with 4 different editions, delves into topics through photography and essays, providing insights into intersecting realms of creativity. ‘Today, one might ask, what is an impression?’—ask the authors of the 4th issue of the Journal‘—As with everything nowadays, the term got mystified and segregated within the sphere of marketing jargon: impressions are, de facto, the currency of social media algorithmic predominance.’

These are just a few of the many events we could have mentioned. There are countless gatherings (not only across Europe) where the primary goal is to cultivate communities dedicated to a particular way of experiencing music, art, and any form of culture in harmony with nature, and above all, in harmony with sustainability and ecologically responsibility.

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