The much-anticipated art and technology festival known as Moogfest takes over downtown Durham May 19-22. We're updating regularly during the festival with photos, stories and other updates. Here's our recap of day two.
Tech Jobs Under the Big Top
The 12th circus-themed reverse job fair (#BigTop12) went down in a huge tent outside Bull McCabe's during Moogfest, and it was as lively as ever. Attendees listened as companies pitched to the audience why jobseekers should work for them. There were circus performers and as is typical, an orange-panted, top-hatted Chris Heivly as ringleader. Scenes from Big Top here:
American Underground Rooftop Party
Daytime sessions are done and American Underground is celebrating. A party for its partner organizations across the Triangle took over the rooftop patio at American Underground @Main, and the startup campus also recognized its new entrepreneur-in-residence Doug Speight, who is focused on minority inclusion and other diversity initiatives in the Durham startup community.
Time Travel with Hip Hop
In typical Wu-Tang fashion
, GZA arrived to the stage a half hour late. Audiences didn’t seem to mind, however, as evidenced by gushes of applause at every joke or made on the stage.
GZA or The Genius of the Wu-Tang Clan took the stage in the Carolina Theater to a hall at capacity, with Mark Anthony Neal of Duke University acting as moderator. While the title of the seminar was “Time Travel with Hip Hop”, the pair spent most of their time talking about life in the Bronx, GZA’s fascination with science, and why he chose Liquid Swords as an album title (answer: It’s from a Kung Fu movie and he thought it was “cool”.).
GZA’s new album is all about the sciences, or in his words “space, planets, black holes and quasars… an epic poem.” A less skillful artist might just have some interest words to rhyme, but The Genius is taking this seriously.
He explains that this idea came from several sources. One of the major sparks was giving his first university lecture, which just so happened to be at Harvard. This kicked off a dialogue with young minds that spiraled into a series of conversations and lectures which convinced him there might be something to creating an album more about telling a story about the sciences than a story about the streets.
From what I could gather, this didn’t seem like a cheap concept album or a diversion. Despite being a man who’s motto is “half as short, twice as strong”, he waxed poetic about the cosmos. Here’s a snippet of a song
that will supposedly appear on the album for those who want to doubt his commitment to the subject matter.
He’s paired up with composer and fellow admirer of the sciences Vangelis (of Chariots of Fire fame) for the upcoming album.
So how did a kid from the Bronx during what some may consider the golden age of hip hop find himself interested in science and and dropping bars on sperm cells or interplanetary travel?
Apparently when he was a child, his cousin stuck a pair of tweezers into an electrical outlet and “his hand was burned on the flesh and doctors said that it was his sneakers that saved his life… Why does electricity travel through metal but not wood or rubber?”
Fast forward to the present day and he’s dishing on the universe with StarTalk radio host Neil Degrasse Tyson.
Dr. Martine Rothblatt on A.I., U.S. Education, Prolonging Life & Stardust
The world's highest paying female CEO, who happens to be a transgender woman, took the main stage at Moogfest as a chance to rail on the U.S. education system, promote transhumanism and efforts to prolong life, and encourage the crowd to nurture naysayers.
More on the keynote by our writer Jon Mareane, here.
Texan Guitarist, Philosopher Embraces Merger of Tech and Spirituality
Ethereal music rang through the PSI theatre today at The Durham Arts Council minutes before “Technoshamanism: A Very Psychedelic Century.”
A screen behind the stage displayed colorful, trance-like patterns that danced on a loop, which I saw as a sort of non-verbal representation of the concepts discussed in the talk.
Garfield is a paleontologist, cyber-acoustic guitarist and psychedelic performance philosopher. An Austin native, Garfield praised Moogfest for immersing itself in innovation. He admitted that it was refreshing, in contrast to some music festivals in Texas.
There was a silence and then he joked, “Alright, now we’re going to spend the next hour in meditation!”
He began by paying tribute to philosopher William Irwin Thompson, quoting his book Evil and World Order:
To understand contemporary culture, you have to be willing to move beyond intellectual definitions and academic disciplines. You have to be willing to throw your net out widely and be willing to take in science, politics, and art, and science fiction, the occult, and pornography. To catch a sense of the whole in pattern recognition, you have to leap across the synapse and follow the rapid movement of informational bits.”
Garfield then gave a brief history of human expression through the cosmos. He noted that, in today’s “remix culture,” we’ve moved out of the hierarchical structure of a set system that balances peer-to-peer exchange into a “bacterial model” where information is being exchanged rapidly.
His main point seemed to be that the modern world has begun to resemble a version of the cosmos that existed before us. And our responsibility is to channel that primitive strength toward something higher than ourselves—something spiritual.
That’s where “technoshamanism” comes in, where shamanic tools like psychotherapy and synthetic drug use, can be interwoven with computers and the Internet in a productive and interactive way. The two can even compliment each other.
Garfield concluded with another Thompson quote about the importance of humanizing technology and “appreciating the machine for what it’s worth.”