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Beyond the music at Eaux Claires Festival

This weekend, the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival takes place in the hometown of one of its curators, Justin Vernon. The festival aims to be more than the typical music festival. More of an experience.

“We at Eaux Claires have been driven by the idea that our festival would encourage music­genre­walls to melt away. That the barriers between the stage and the audience altered, and expression and experience put above all. We have put so much thought into who should collaborate atthis festival, from musicians to actors, filmmakers to visual artists. We will all share and revel in this collision of artistic force while performing in the arms of our own Chippewa River Valley.” — Justin Vernon


While music is obviously the main focus, the visual arts will also play a huge role at Eaux Claires. Spearheaded by creative director Michael Brown, there will be several art installations on the grounds of the festival. A recent Volume One (an Eau Claire magazine) article reported there will be light installations, experimental audio, endurance performance pieces, giant domes, and more.

Upon entering the festival grounds, the first art installation one will see is a rainbow-­colored piece by Minneapolis artist Eric Rieger aka HOTTEA. It was the first installation commissioned by Eaux Claires.

There are seven other installations that visitors can check out. Here are descriptions from the festival app and field guide.

The Banks of the St. Coix

The Banks of The St. Coix installation is a collaboration between PANASONIC, SENNHEISER, and UWEC events department The goal is to create an experimental performance space where festival-goers experience a live performance by viewing artists through translucent video elements and closed audio transmission via wireless headsets in a 270 degree environment.

The Big Eaux

The home team gone big. Antic Studios is a local production house based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, specializing in lighting and video displays. The team is creating a large canvas from our typeface to serve as a backdrop for their projection-mapped videowork. 

The Channel of the St. Coix

A collaboration of Chicago visual artists brownshoesonly and Radioedit with local Eau Claire tone-makers Dwarfcraft Devices. In addition to witnessing performances, festival-goers can interact with this experimental space to create intense audio reactive video in a minimalist performance environment.

Forever Love

This installation is the centerpiece of the festival.  Known for fascinating works of performance and endurance art, Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson premieres a collaborative song cycle commissioned by Eaux Claires. The piece was written with and will be performed by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National and Icelandic artists Gyða and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, formerly of the Icelandic band múm. 


LEAV is a site-specific mobile platform for placing, viewing, and sharing digital and audio art linked to variables like location, time, and other environmental factors. For Eaux Claires, LEAV has partnered with The National’s Bryce Dessner to create an interactive experience that allows individuals with an iPhone to discover the intricate rhythm and harmonies of Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings as they wander the festival grounds. LEAV has also collaborated with Eaux Claires narrator Michael Perry to create an idiosyncratic selection of site-specific audio works.




The Mouth of the St. Coix

Artist Astronautilus turns preacher for this installation. You are a sinner. We knows this. You want ablution, he has it. Yea, right there in his golden teeth. You can haz it. Come to the Mouth. On bended knee. Or call 715-575-3286. Confess.



PiBines combine credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computers, homemade turbines, and tiny sensors to detect local wind speeds. Each PiBine harnesses computer code that sonnies the wind’s force into lonely, wandering drones emitted from a speaker fitted in each turbine When the air is still, the PiBines burble in a stasis until a breeze ushers forth a frisson of wildly cascading glissandos and strange tone clusters.

Other interesting non-live music activities to check out include:

> The premiere of Phox’s short film about the recording of their last album. 

>The cult favorite Found Footage Festival will also show some special films that were found in places like garage sales and thrift stores.  

> Make sure you don’t miss the variety of impromptu performance from various artists like NO BS! Brass Band and others.  

> At 12:30 on both Friday and Saturday there will be a very special performance from the collaboration of artist Ragnar Kiartansson and the National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner.

Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee