Last year Wonderfruit welcomed upwards of 20,000 people over five days. With numbers like that, it essentially becomes a pop-up city. And a festival like no other. This year, the organisers are taking their city and making it even more sustainable to inspire global citizens for positive change. Here is a bit of what to expect, and a lot of what you missed over the last five years.
We decided we want to live at Wonderfruit.
Returning to The Fields of Siam Country Club in Thailand for its sixth incarnation, Wonderfruit is known for reimagining the world into a five-day utopia that blends the best elements of responsible hedonism, sustainable architecture, ruminative art installations and really good music. Every December, The Fields come alive in a dramatic procession of “sustainable creative experiences” that dance around the festival’s many stages, and while music is the star attraction, sustainability is the beating heart of its ethos and weaved into every touchpoint at Wonderfruit.
Sustainability has always been at the core of what they do. Year after year, Wonderfruit has been building stages out of sustainable materials like bamboo and hemp, even constructing a stage from rice (twice). The festival also uses water that comes from a pond nearby to the site, single-use plastic has long been taboo in The Fields (this year the festival won’t even be providing biodegradable cups in an effort to eradicate more waste), and its carbon footprint is neutral. Impressive, isn’t it? But last year they had almost 20,000 people descend upon The Fields, and instead of celebrating, they reconvened (after a few weeks of sleep) and vowed to be better.
This year, they’re taking one #GiantGreenStep forward and building their own world they way they want to see it. With 20,000 people coming together in one place, Wonderfruit is essentially a pop-up city — so they decided to rebuild their city. They reengineered practices like waste management, water, transportation and logistics to energy, food, human interactions and social experiments, and designed a city that challenges the way society functions. At least for five days. But we’re pretty set on staying there forever.
To get you in the mood, and in case you’re a first-time Wonderer, we’ve recapped some of our favourite sustainable stages and art installations from years gone by. Some will be returning; some won’t. Some will be all-new, like the Living Village. Either way, it will be great. See you in The Fields.
In Wonderfruit’s inaugural year, Japanese artist Takashi Kuribayash erected an island made entirely of plants that resembled a large-scale world map. The island floated in the heart of Wonderfruit’s lake and over time the plants grew and shifted, eventually altering the borders between countries and reflected upon the idea that the boundaries of land and human are put up by ourselves.
2014: THE SOI STAGE
Inspired by the rural Thai farming life, two majestic buffaloes standing sentry to a bamboo stage were the iconic element that made up the Soi Stage. The scene itself was adorned with painted panels and hanging sculptures made from recycled materials found in old homes, reclaimed wood, and trashed metals and plastics. The structure was the work of Shrine On, an American artist and stage designer, who recruited Joel Stockdill to build up the animals out of locally sourced reclaimed wood sheets and frames.
2014: CCD RHYTHM
Often, the most exciting works of art aren’t apparent at first sight, and such is the case with Ruangsak Anuwatwimon’s large-scale living installation that demonstrated the connection between humans, nature and our food sources. The conceptual artist, whose passion is rooted in biology, constructed model cities that housed beehives along the fringes of the festival grounds. Several flowering plants were grown around the colony of sculptures to kick-off the bees’ feeding and pollinating.
2015: THE LIVING STAGE
Joel Dean Stockdill returned to Wonderfruit in 2015 to transform their Living Stage into a sculptural paradise. Using locally sourced recycled wood sheets and planks from the shipping industry, the American artist handcrafted giant forms of egrets to dance and swirl around the headlining musical acts.
2015: BLOSSOM POETICA
Aligna is a French Laotian artist who grew up making his toys from scrap metal, and now trash is his muse. His distinctive, colourful sculpted flowers are created entirely from upcycling things that people have cast aside to show that even from a piece of discarded material, you can derive something beautiful. During his art residency at Wonderfruit, Aligna grew a blooming garden on the festival site with florals hand sculpted from an array of salvaged metal containers. During event dates, he ran a workshop for festival-goers to try their hands at crafting metal flowers.
2017 – 2019: THE SOLAR STAGE
Coming all the way from Burning Man, Wonderfruit’s iconic Solar Stage first debuted in The Fields in February of 2017 and has since become the spiritual home of the festival’s sunrise and sunset music programming. Designed to be rebuilt and reformatted each year, the structure is a champion of sustainable and innovative architecture. Its modular geometric building system further uses interlocking wood panels, omitting the need for screws and nails. The stage is a work by Gregg Fleishman, a Los Angeles-based architect, designer, artist and inventor whose work is primarily informed by geometry and functionality. His acclaimed innovative architectural structures express both modern and futuristic aesthetics.
2017: THE FARM STAGE
Inspired by ceremonial architecture, the Farm Stage was erected in homage to Thailand’s rice farming culture — it was built of rice and covered in rice to mark a village’s annual harvest. Designed by PO-D Architects and built by Thor. Kaichon, the multi-disciplinary stage extended into rice paddies and offered Wonderers a functional element to the scene.
In December of 2017, the Farm Stage got a makeover by all(zone) and saw it redecorated with…rice (of course). Known for creating alternative living environments and experimenting with unassuming building materials and methods, all(zone) evolved the was evolved into a community space for Wonderfruit’s Scratch Talks and also for film screenings.
2017: RHIZOME COLONY
Leeroy New’s biomorphic installation explored weaving bamboo into a natural space and combined unique sculptural experiences with states of inhabitability. The Filipino artist-designer was first trained as a sculptor, which was apparent in this work. His immersive installation often uses objects directly sourced from the material culture of his current environment. At Wonderfruit, many of the building materials are subsequently transformed into wearable pieces that Leeroy was spotted wearing around The Fields.
2017: TREEHUGGER TOKEN
Buy a drink, plant a tree. This was the idea behind Wit Pimkanchanapong’s Treehugger Token art installation and workshop. In 2017, Wonderfruit announced that it would be planting mangrove trees at the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar with some of the proceeds from drink sales at the event. The Treehugger Token station tracked the number of drinks ordered and invited Wonderers to help fold paper dolls, inspired by spirited wooden figures traditionally made by the Akha hill tribe in northern Thailand, and install them onto the tallest tree in The Fields, to represent their progress.
2018 & 2019: ECO PAVILION
In 2018 Wonderfruit debuted the new home for its Scratch Talks program: the Eco Pavilion. Designed by Ab Rogers, the Eco Pavilion is defined by its relationship with the surrounding landscape. Built directly into the ground, a circle of yellow maize that acts as a living façade and an acoustic barrier for the pavilion. One hundred handcrafted, hand-painted, canvas umbrellas made by Chiang Mai Umbrellas lent the Eco Pavillion shade while casting a kaleidoscopic canopy of soft-coloured light. Within them stood a funnel that collected water to feedback into the land.
2018 & 2019: A SINGING SEA
Satit Raksasri’s art is rooted in community engagement and environmental activism, a mantra that followed him to The Fields where he built a bell-shaped installation covered with discarded materials collected from the beaches and seas of Thailand. The structure was designed to be a symbolic yet critical call for change by allowing Wonderers to enter the bell and see how various materials were reexamined while they interacted with their ‘sounds’.
2018 & 2019: PEARL & CELESTE
Pearl & Celeste is a puppet ballet of giant proportions. But it’s not your typical ballet. Instead, the external shells were created from plastic waste, and the inspirations for the designs came from many facets of motion, nature and the art world like Miyazaki, Bauhaus, and Bowie to name a few. The project was conceived by Nice Monster, a Bangkok-based animation and puppet specialists based in Bangkok, to raise awareness surrounding the current environmental crisis by getting people to think outside of the norm and change their routines to be plastic-free.
2017 – 2019: OFFERING HORSES
Designed by Attaphol Sudawannasuk, Offering Horses came to Wonderfruit from the historical precinct of Bangkok city where it was originally designed as an art activity. Returning for the third year, the roving horse cycles are sculpted from recycled and culturally significant materials used in the worshipping of the Great Thai King of Thonburi.
2018: THE LIVING STAGE
Conceived by visionary storyteller, designer and Marvel Comics artist Adam Pollina, last year’s Living Stage, also considered the main stage at the time, was a monolithic tribute to sustainability — it was the first time a stage had ever been constructed from hemp in The Fields. Standing at nearly 15 meters and stretched twice that in width, the Living Stage was made entirely from five tonnes of bundled hemp branches and was a minimalist monument to eco-design.
2019: THE LIVING VILLAGE
As you’re roving through Wonderfruit this year, take note of how sustainability is intersecting with your day-to-day life in the pop-up city that we’ll all call home for five-days: The Fields. As a jumping-off point, we’re pointing you in the direction of the Living Village: a new, living space that changes the perspective of what a main stage could be (note: in previous years the MainStage was the Living Stage). The Living Village will combine the human senses in one undulating landscape, broken into three areas shaped for the body: ear, tongue, and hand. In the ear, find the Creature Stage with Indorama Ventures adorned with vibrant fabrics spun from fibres created from recycled PET bottles. In the tongue, find Ziggurat with Singha, an upcycled beer garden made from dejected materials from the shipping process. In the fingers of the hand, find workshops and sustainable fashion activities. And finally, by Living Village landscape lays The Woven House by Trojans Collective, the winning pavilion from an open-call design competition initiative with Ab Rogers Design.
Wonderfruit 2019 takes places in The Fields at Siam Country Club from December 12-16. Tickets are available here.