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Scenes From Symbiosis Gathering 2013

Tour the Woodward Reservoir with these exclusive photos

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Tom Tomkinson

Last weekend, the Symbiosis arts and music gathering took place at a new location: Woodward Reservoir Park in Oakdale, California – about an hour-and-a half east of San Francisco. The objective remained the same. "A driving impulse behind Symbiosis is to create a space for music lovers interested in art, permaculture, organic foods, yoga, indigenous wisdom and workshops of all kinds," one of the event directors, Kevin KoChen, told Rolling Stone. "The genres on each stage change during the course of the day, so that people voyage around the entire experience while getting exposed to new music and ideas. . . Symbiosis is a gathering and our goal is to create community."

By BENJY EISEN

symbiosis

Tom Tomkinson

Climbing the Cove

A girl sporting dreads looked fully locked into things at the Cove stage. Like most other structures and stages at Symbiosis, the Cove was meant to be both interactive and climbable. Tall bamboo structures on either side of the dance floor were not the easiest to climb, or the safest to dance on top of, but anyone who dared was more than welcome to try.

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Tom Tomkinson

Music Makers

With all the workshops, yoga, lectures, craft vendors, swimming and other attractions present, some might have forgetten that Symbiosis was also all about the music. This particular dancer certainly did not as she got lost in the sounds coming from the Cove stage on Sunday. Symbiosis wasn't all electronic DJs, though: full bands like Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) performed as well. Dark cabaret ensemble Rosin Coven performed on stringed instruments with the Edwardian Ball Roadshow, which is almost exactly what it sounds like and based very loosely on the works of author Edward Gorey.

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Tom Tomkinson

Animal Natures

A Symbiosis audience participant dressed up as an animal in front of a 25-foot climbable art sculpture in the shape of a coyote. It wasn't unusual over the weekend to see someone dressed up in odd costumes.

Symbiosis also strives to incorporate a First Nations element. One of the festival's partners, Kevin KoChen, explained to Rolling Stone, "In a sense, the world has become very fragmented. People get categorized by nation, creed, color of skin, language, etc. What we all have in common is that everyone in the world was at one point indigenous."

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Tom Tomkinson

Hello, New Friends

"The Coyote" was a big hit, having just come from Burning Man by truck and reassembled piece-by-piece at Symbiosis on top of a hill overlooking most of the festival grounds. At 25 feet tall and 24 feet wide, it was an impressive structure, and many Symbiosis participants were up to the challenge of trying to climb it. Once they got on top, the fully articulating, kinetic head created potentially perilous conditions. But people helped each other and, in the end, it proved a great spot for strangers to become friends. It also was a natural make-out spot. . . possibly amongst some of those who met as strangers.

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Tom Tomkinson

Yoga Paradise

Yoga was big at Symbiosis. While there were domes and other dedicated spots throughout the grounds that featured ecstatic dance, flow and other workshops, the Movement Shala was a sacred space where yoga, dance and movement arts took center stage during daylight hours. It was not uncommon to see participants taking moves they learned inside this space and applying them elsewhere on the dance floors, open spaces and even back at the campsites shortly afterwards.

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Tom Tomkinson

Saul at Symbiosis

Poet, writer, activist and MC Saul Williams took in Symbiosis after his performance. The festival boasted five stages where the music never stopped at night, making it easy to dance from sundown to sunrise and still find distractions to fill the days.

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Tom Tomkinson

Feed Your Brain

While most festivals have a hard time getting fans to sit still, Symbiosis' emphasis on educational workshops, lectures, dance instruction, yoga sessions, history lessons, poetry readings, philosophical rants, scientific exchanges and more were well-attended and well-received.

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Tom Tomkinson

Mermaid

A mermaid took in the "Swim-biosis" side of Symbiosis, relaxing in the water. Given the warm weather and relaxed, spread-out vibe, many fans took the afternoons "off" to go swimming in the lake.

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Tom Tomkinson

Empire of Love

D-Nox performed at the Empire of Love stage on Sunday afternoon. The stage was constructed by artists Shrine and Joel Dean Stockdill using all recycled materials. At night, a series of ascending white lights created a Jacob's Ladder effect, while daytime dancers felt like they were at some kind of temple. Shrine told Rolling Stone that the concept was to create "a soundstage within a massive shack, designed to inspire the artist and creativity in others using tin cans, recycled scaffolding and other found items."

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Tom Tomkinson

Repeat Offender

Simon Posford performed a Shpongle DJ set on Sunday at the Cove stage. Posford is a Symbiosis repeat offender, having performed at the gathering throughout the years in different incarnations of his various projects.

"Symbiosis has really come of age now," Posford said. "The stages all looked incredible with fantastic attention to detail in the construction. It's a scaled-down Burning Man but with electronic music. . . I was thrilled to play as the sun set over the water and the psychedelic light shows kicked into action."

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Tom Tomkinson

Funky Looks

Symbiosis fashion exists in its own universe, but not in a vacuum: it's a distinctive mix between West Coast raver, modern hippie chic and leather Burning Man gear. There was plenty of gypsy garb, steampunk costumes and frayed edges straight from Mad Max. . .  and those who may have been recycling their outfits from when the Renaissance Faire rolled through town.

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Tom Tomkinson

Howling at the Moon

A couple practiced yoga while others figured out how to climb the Coyote installation. The artist, Ben Tedrick, hailed from Glen Ellen, California; he hauled the sculpture from Burning Man by truck and reassembled it at Symbiosis. Stairs climbed into its belly, but getting into its mouth and exploring its other outer parts proved to be a sometimes terrifying independent adventure.

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Tom Tomkinson

Gateway to the Party

This arch was a portal installation named Starport, created by Bay Area designer and artist Carey Thompson. At night, it lit up in myriad ways, creating constantly evolving eye-candy. But during the day, many Symbiosis participants – ranging from burners and steampunks to small children – were attracted to its gateway properties and felt the need to cross underneath it.

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Tom Tomkinson

Elaborate Acts

Here, two members of the Vau De Vire Society, Raphaele and Featherpistol, perform in corsetry from the Dark Garden collection at a cabaret tent on the Big Island.

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Tom Tomkinson

Tainted Love

Members of the Vau De Vire Society, Jacob and Leah, act out Edwardian Ball Roadshow fantasies as living statues, representing characters from author-illustrator Edward Gorey's The Evil Garden. 

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Tom Tomkinson

All Done Up

Vau De Vire Society are veteran performers at Symbiosis, but fans may also recognize them from Burning Man or the Edwardian Ball Roadshow in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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Tom Tomkinson

Starport

A nighttime view of Carey Thompson’s Starport, which seemed to support a different spontaneous scene whenever you walked by it. Thompson first displayed this installation earlier this year at Lightning in a Bottle and his work has been commissioned by both Burning Man and Portugal’s Boom Festival.  

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Tom Tomkinson

The Pantheon

The Pantheon was in a central location inside the venue, creating a gathering spot where lectures, spoken word, poetry readings and other demonstrations took place during the day. After dark, it transformed into a dance nightclub. Built by Adam Christoph, the Pantheon has appeared in various configurations at Symbiosis events since 2006, but the current incarnation was truly next-level.

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Tom Tomkinson

Year of the Water Snake

Symbiosis 2013 billed itself as the “Year of the Water Snake,” with almost all of the stages surrounded on three sides by water — the Woodward Reservoir in Oakdale, California. While many chose to float lazily during the daytime, the waterfront was also a popular spot at sunset and again at sunrise. Various art installations, such as the structure seen here, provided premium seating to the best show in town: mother nature.

 

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Tom Tomkinson

Constantly Evolving

Symbiosis is a constantly evolving art experiment that visually changes by the hour. Assisting and propelling that aspect at this year’s incarnation was a secondary stage called the Front Porch, which moved from spot to spot, pulled by a tractor. In the background is a giant psychedelic sailfish that you could walk inside of as it led you down into the water.

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Tom Tomkinson

Ever-Changing Scene

A third and totally evolved use of Carey Thomspson’s Starport installation, seen here on the final night of Symbiosis 2013. The portal encouraged an ever-changing scene throughout the festival, ranging from children playing under its arch to parade route stops to the drum demo that appears to be going on here.

 

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