Hurgo Mongolian Hang Drum

A festival in the Gobi Desert with art installations and electronic music performances

To increase the interest of Mongolian tourism, a new concept is born. It happen to be a festival in the middle of the Gobi desert…

The Gobi Desert, the fifth largest desert on the planet, is located between China and Mongolia. It is an endless landscape of rocks, sand, scattered shrubs, nomadic families, sparse camels and fossilized dinosaur eggs… Besides this, absolutely nothing. A big nothing on a surface of approximately 1.3 million of kilometers squared. But in the summer of 2020, something happened…

The story starts in March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading around the world and countries are shutting down one after the other. The virus still hasn’t landed in Mongolia but the cultural sector in Ulaanbaatar – capital city of Mongolia – is facing a massive lockdown. And everybody is bored. So bored that something has to happen. This is when some reckless organizers decide to organize something akin to a mini Burning Man. Not in Nevada, but in the giant Gobi Desert.

To do so, some of the key actors representing the contemporary art and electronic music culture in Mongolia gather and join their forces to organize a massive festival in the middle of nowhere.

This event is taking place to actually allow people to experience the Mongolian landscape differently from just traveling across it. It is the beginning of a long series and the following events will take place in different regions selected to display the essence of the location, embellished with music, art, and other surprises to make it magic.

Erkhes (Too Hype To Chill)

The electronic music label The Majesty Mongolia initiated the project and brought with them in the adventure the collective Too Hype To Chill, responsible for the best parties in town. And MN17, the art gallery representing the contemporary art scene throughout the country. The magazine Art Avenue and the Bodi Dharma Foundation participated as well in the organisation.

Caravanserai: A futuristic lodge in the middle of the desert

After sorting out the details, a destination is confirmed along with a long list of artists, musicians and deejays. All super excited to make it happen to say the least. The venue chosen for the event is Gobi Caravanserai, a luxury and futuristic resort 450 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar.

Gobi Caravanserai Lodge

One week ahead of the opening, the stakeholders and artists travel to Caravanserai to set up the event. During this time, they are working all together to make sure everything is ready. It is no easy task to set up tons of equipment and dozens of installations in such a remote location with electricity shortages, low water supplies and barely a road to reach the location. But after five days the festival started at last, filled with music, artwork, and enthusiastic crowds.

The art installations: between sculptures, paintings and immersive experiences…

The artists in Mongolia remain extremely sensitive to nature and regularly retreat out of the city to find inner peace and inspiration. The organizers chose installations based on what fit within the context.

One participating artist was Ayurzana Ochirbold. Considered as one of the most promising Mongolian artists, chose to reflect the social trends of human society with a large steel sculpture titled “Consciousness”. Which in his words aims to remember that “Humanity is not an abundance on the earth”.

Ayurzana Ochirbold - Degree - Art Installation
Sculpture of Ayurzana Ochirbold
Degree Sculptures by Ayurzana Ochirbold

A seven meters high installation titled “The Call” is created by Davaajargal Tsaschikher. Where the constant wind in the Gobi brings his artwork to life. Designed so that the wind blows through a pipe, a hanging stone moves and hits a mast, and bells tinkle in the breeze… creating a natural never-ending autonomous trio.

Davaajargal Tsaschikher - Art Installation

We spent one week together preparing the installations. This immersion gave us the opportunity to exchange and communicate between artists from different fields. Some of us created their artwork based on their feelings in this giant emptiness.

Davaajargal Tsaschikher

Bat-Erdene Batchuluun is presenting a mixed media installation with a range of strings joined on the top in triangles. In creating the work, his goal is to wrap a giant cube with cotton strings. Viewers are able to walk inside, framed with colored strings while standing in the desert.

However, the wind quickly destroyed Bat-Erdene’s first attempts and after some trials, the cube became a triangle. Still the artist remains faithful to his use of simple shapes to hypnotize the mind and transport everyone inside his view of the world.

Art Cube in the Gobi Desert

At night, when it’s getting dark, I want to give the feeling to the people that when you stand inside you will feel like you are framed. But Nature is strong—the wind is so strong that the square is falling down. So I am changing to a triangle without losing the essence of the experience.

Bat-Erdene Batchuluun
Artwork in Desert of Gobi - Mongolia

The German art teacher and artist Katja Brinkmann is participating as well. Her work is making use of the stones and the sand found in the desert to create her own color. She painted several canvases and hung the final artworks on the walls of the resort.

Artworks on the wall

The music: Acoustic performances and live electronic 

 The festival is starring key Mongolian musicians such as hang drum and multi-percussionist Hulgo. The Mongolian electronic music scene is also present. In two musical nights, deejays and electronic artists are performing for audiences in costume. People with eccentric masks and shamanic costumes dancing all night long to the tone of Majesty Records cream deejays starring Biliguudei or Anu Dol, among others.

Electronic music party

For me Gobi feels like ambient music. This set was so different than what I play in clubs. Because this time I carefully selected the songs to play for Mother Nature. The public were prepared nicely with cool costumes and crazy make-up. That was such a pleasure to be there, I felt something special and comfortable.

Anu Dol

The Gobi festival have a great potential for the future. The first edition is mostly private, but the organizers are ready to expand and promise that further editions will take place. Future events could be in different locations… so far the mystery remains intact. For now we can admire the beautiful emergence of a proactive generation of artists from different domains creating synergies by collaborating, working and innovating together.

Sculpture from H Sukhburen

Interview / writing: Adrien de Ville

Review: Gregory Greif

Pictures: Bat-Orgil Battulga

Credit cover picture: Ariunaa Suri