When Catalina Pulido and Leo Vilar formed Sonic Design Studio in Bogotá, Colombia, they knew they couldn’t produce a Burning Man-sized spectacle without a great team. So they formed a collective, and with a hive-mind attitude, the group started creating massive installations that carry humanitarian messages worldwide. One of those is Jaguara — an art car on steroids raising awareness about climate change — which made its debut at Burning Man in 2018.
Jaguara is a monumental stage and flashing light show riding atop the backbone of a Bluebird school bus; the rolling extravaganza will now make an appearance before a larger, more urban audience during Denver’s Biennial of the Americas 2019, which is now under way.
Why "jaguara"? The symbol of the endangered jaguar, they say, emotes the plight of the disappearing rainforests where the big cats once thrived. As the centerpiece of Cósmico Americas, BotA’s closing community party in Civic Center Park, the installation will spread its message with a roar of music and a call to action on Saturday, September 28.
“It’s really a concept and a collective: us, with many others coming together, wishing to make a message from our jungle to the world,” Pulido says, describing the nature of Sonic Design. “We put our talents together with many other artists: sound and laser designers, musicians, biologists, many different people from Colombia and other places around the world.”
The focus of Jaguara is on the rapidly disappearing Amazon rainforest, which still makes up more than half the Earth’s remaining tropical forest lands and is essentially the key to balancing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “Now it’s become vulnerable,” Vilar notes, “and through the news, the world becomes aware, so more people get involved in the protection of the rainforest. That was our initial intention, when we first put the project together.
“We hope more people get involved,” he continues. “There’s lots of worldwide preoccupation with climate change, but it goes deeper than that.”
Vilar views our overall understanding of climate change as skewed by the media’s negative spin. “The media focuses on the term 'climate change,'” he says. "We are worrying too much about the temperature, when it’s not really about the temperature; it’s about the lack of connection to nature — the human experience. All of us as a community on the same planet need to be more connected to the ancestral nature of our world."
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Pulido and Vilar are excited to bring Jaguara to Denver, though the installation will arrive by container, in pieces, from various parts of the globe, to be reassembled. The dimensions of Jaguara are daunting, to say the least: The vehicle measures about 60 feet long by 16 feet wide, stands 25 feet tall and weighs approximately 25,000 pounds.
And it will be spectacular, Pulido promises. “The piece itself is a new version of Jaguara, but it will carry a symbolic and profound rock/art message for our society, using the City and County Building as a background transmitting the energy and colors of the jungle.
“Jaguara had a positive impact at Burning Man, but the Biennial reaches out to a broader audience touching on more cultural sectors, private enterprise and education,” Pulido says. “People know that terrible things are happening, but usually that information is brought to us by the media in a negative way. We are taking this beautiful jaguar to spread a more positive message of connection and hope through art and music.”
Jaguara will serve as the centerpiece of Cósmico Americas, a closing party with live music headlined by Colombia’s Systema Solar, with Jackie Mendoza, Kiltro, Los Mocochetes and Mucho Indio; there will also be food trucks and cocktails. The free event runs from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, September 28, in Civic Center Park; learn more and RSVP at biennialoftheamericas.org.