How FORMAT Festival Featuring LCD Soundsystem & Alanis Morissette Injected Art Into Music Festivals

This innovative Arkansas festival blended eye-popping art installations and musical headliners like never before.

Alanis Morissette performs at FORMAT Festival (Grant Hodgeon)

FORMAT Festival’s second edition in Bentonville, Arkansas remixed superstar sets with the powerful voices of contemporary art. Only here will you enter a frosted Barbiecore wonderland by Moline-born multimedia artist Yvette Mayorga, who applies acrylic using pastry ping, while LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy croons in the distance—proving he isn’t losing his edge.

Only at The Momentary, a contemporary art and performance campus in the heart of this growing cultural destination, lorded over by the art loving Walton family, stewards of Walmart. It was the fest’s first year here after debuting amongst the Sugar Creek Airstrip’s forests in 2022. 

Attendees we overheard remained mixed mostly about the merits of either location. Everyone loved the efficiency of this fest, from coordinating Uber drivers to the amenities within. Even looming storms couldn’t silence Alanis Morissette on Saturday, the fest’s penultimate night—though lightning strikes across the southern sky did shut FORMAT down ten minutes before her finish time. Big bands and house DJs entertained rowdy throngs at a disco barn by Maurizio Cattelan’s TOILETPAPER Magazine. Sudan Archives entranced an indoor black box theater called The Røde House. Elsewhere, a trippy indoor speakeasy disguised itself as Porta-Potties.

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(Grant Hodgeon for FORMAT Festival)

Art, however, set FORMAT apart—alongside an informed and punchy curatorial vision. However, International creative house TRIADIC (who first conceptualized FORMAT three years ago) told Maxim they avoid curatorial themes each year. Community proved important across the fest’s many art installations, centered around an opalescent stack of inflatable bubbles perched right in the middle of the scene, designed by acclaimed Sydney-based studio Atelier Sisu. Art accounted for even the smallest details. Arkansas-based multi-disciplinary artist Danielle Hatch crafted ruffled textile tents for the bar station, a profound reference to refuge.

(Roger Ho for FORMAT Festival)

“Every installation is placed in a certain way to provoke a certain interaction or engagement, with the hopes of inspiring, feeding enjoyment, and also educating,” the TRIADIC team told Maxim.

(Roger Ho for FORMAT Festival)

Attendees made art history of their own. The Inside Out darkroom by French photographer JR was there snapping portraits and wheatpasting them throughout the fest. Legendary art collective Guerrilla Girls marked their first music festival, and their first project in Arkansas, with workshops and a lecture at the nearby Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (another Walton vision, and parent institution to the Momentary) alongside an installation at FORMAT featuring an interactive societal  “Complaint Department” where attendees exercised free speech with colorful chalk. 

(Roger Ho for FORMAT Festival)

FORMAT marked the last chance to see Dominican Republic-born artist Firelei Baez’s largest sculptural installation to date—a powerful immersive experience plunging viewers under the sea, amongst a shipwreck and echoing voices. Mega gallery Hauser & Wirth has since signed her. Mayorga’s exhibition opened last October and closes this October 15. She just opened another at The Aldrich Contemporary in Connecticut, on view through next March.

Jamie XX performs at FORMAT Festival (Grant Hodgeon)

As for the fest, it was just barely possible to see it all in three days. There’s always next year.

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