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Moogfest tackles protest, empowerment this weekend


May, 16 2017, 8:30 AM

Moogfest will seek to empower and explore creativity through a variety of concerts, workshops and events this weekend in downtown Durham.

The annual festival devoted to art, music and technology has designated its main stage on opening night on Thursday as a Protest Stage with performances, talks and technology experiments. The festival runs through Sunday.

When deciding which themes to expand on each year, creative director Emmy Parker said the festival always looks at what the future of creativity looks like.

"There is a long history of music and art being used to foster resistance and nurture organization and to protest various injustices," Parker said. "When you add technology into that to explore it as a powerful tool, it becomes very easy to look for artists today who use their creative mediums to protest."

Local performers playing the protest stage include Raleigh native Mykki Blanco, a noise rap poet and performance artist, and Raleigh-based punk band Pie Face Girls. Also on the bill is British DJ and producer Bearcat, who is known for making politically-charged bass-heavy mixes. Bearcat is part of Discwoman, a collective showcasing cis women, trans women and genderqueer talent in electronic music.

In addition to live music, there will be developers presenting new technology, including a demonstration of a new counter-surveillance armor for citizens in direct response to the debate over police accountability. Gan Golan and Ron Morrison of New Inc will showcase the amor, dubbed The Argus Project, a head-to-toe mobile suit embedded with cameras that allows the wearer to monitor and record what's going on around him and to broadcast it to an audience of remote viewers. New Inc. will also be hosting a protest sign-making workshop.

The MIT Open Doc Lab will present the Land Marking app, which mixes music and activism. The app goes inside protest events and features location-based audio contributed by event participants in real-time. Land Marking will be teaming up with the Protest Stage to allow festival attendees to contribute their thoughts on protests and tune into a mix of commentary and field recordings from others throughout the city.

Vivan Thi Tang has created a customized beta of her irlbb app specifically for Moogfest 2017. The app helps connect people after their real-life interactions and creates a community for them to continue collaborations. The beta version of the app will be revealed at the Protest Stage.

Keynotes focus on biology, 'space art'

This year's keynote speakers delve into particle physics and molecular biology.

Physicist Dr. Kate Shaw of ATLAS, an experiment designed to explore the secrets of the universe, will talk about her work to create access to particle physics studies in developing countries, including Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, Vietnam and Nepal.

Artist and scientist Joe Davis of MIT Media Lab will discuss his work in molecular biology, bioinformatics, “space art" and sculpture. Davis' work has included the Earth Sphere sculpture, a fog fountain near the MIT campus.

"What's interesting about him is that he is an artist that works in collaboration with scientists," Parker said.

Another notable speaker this year is R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, who will also be creating an exclusive audiovisual installation that explores desire and movement.

The installation, which will be outside American Underground, will feature footage he shot in New York City of artist and fellow Athens, Ga. native Jeremy Ayers, who passed away in October. Stipe created the soundtrack for the installation using Moog gear. It is a rare solo composition for Stipe. Moogfest pass holders can experience the installation from inside the American Underground storefront throughout the festival.

Another installation to check out is one at Duke's INE Building. Moogfest has teamed up with Duke University students for a special virtual reality installation. Students will be filming a performance by Nona Hendryx in 360 degrees during the festival and using it to create the installation.