[Interview] An Exploration of Protest with Moogfest Co-creative Director, Emmy Parker
Cover photo by Tim Robinson
In anticipation of the upcoming Moogfest 2017, we reached out to Emmy Parker, the Brand Director of Moog Music and Co-creative Director of Moogfest. She’s an enormously creative planner and we couldn’t wait to learn more from her about this upcoming event and her vision for how it fits into the Moog brand and a larger vision of electronic music, technology, and the political power that artists have. Up til now, we at Bullet have been nothing but impressed with Moogfest’s preparation and lineup announcements. If you’re still on the fence about attending, we hope you will be inspired to attend by the words of Emmy Parker.
What can attendees expect at Moogfest?
Moogfest is a concentrated experience in exploring how technology enhances the way we create art, music and how we design our future communities. We bring together creative technologists like musicians, coders, scientists, filmmakers, and inventors to present their unique perspectives through workshops, keynotes, conversations and performances. We try to build an experience that exposes both participants and attendees to new ideas and empowers them to take those ideas back to their communities to create something new.
Why do you feel it is important to create a protest stage this year?
Moogfest is a conversation about the future of music and technology, and we can’t explore the future without discussing the problems we face today. Art and music have always been among the most potent forms of expression, allowing humans to express the deepest truths and most profound connections. Modern technology has immense power to connect people, to redefine how we express ourselves and reshape the world we live in. By incorporating the concept of protest into the celebration of arts, technology, and future thought, we can go beyond the basic format of a music festival and encourage participants to envision and ultimately help design future communities that work better for everyone.
The Protest Stage program will be led by local and international artists Talib Kweli, Omar Souleyman, Mykki Blanco, BEARCAT and Pie Face Girls, MIT Open Doc Lab, NEW INC, and app developers at Goldsmiths University of London. It will include performances, talks, and participatory technology experiments.
How does Moogfest see the role of protest playing into the future of art, music, and technology?
Our struggles as human beings have always given rise to new uses of technology, as well as to new art and music that meaningfully addresses the human rights issues we face. Protest is about giving voice to the unheard, it’s not just about signaling the misuse of power, but it’s also about discovering and amplifying the voices of those that are suggesting solutions and inventive alternatives to the status quo. The most innovative ideas are not necessarily expressed in politics, but as DIY participatory acts of creative expression and resistance that are largely powered by technology. Protest, in the sense of a positive instrument for change, is one of the most vital functions that music, art, and technology can serve.
How is this year's festival different from last year's Moogfest?
Moogfest is a reflection of our times, so this year’s program explores how technology can enhance sociopolitical action. As announced in February, we will have a dedicated Protest Stage at this year’s festival in response to discriminatory policies in our home state of North Carolina and around the world.
This year, for the first time, we will debut a never-before-seen multimedia installation created by world-renowned artist Michael Stipe. The installation will inject downtown Durham with a unique public art experience by a cultural figure. This is the type of artwork you would expect to have debuted in New York or LA, but it’s free and accessible to all in Durham first. Moogfest hopes to continue to create these memorable experiences for Durham locals and its visitors.
Moogfest is a unique blend of music festival and technology conference. What could a casual music fan learn about the intersection between music and technology?
As synthesizer designers, we are abundantly aware of how technology enhances the way human beings creatively express themselves. The invention of the first portable electronic keyboard, called the Minimoog Model D, was the catalyst for the bass lines in the seminal 1970s funk band Parliament Funkadelic. Those same bass lines and that same keyboard were what Dr. Dre used 20 years later to create the sound of West Coast hip-hop. That very same keyboard also inspired the industrial music pioneered by Gary Numan in the late '70s, which directly influenced a young Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails ten years later.
All human activity is interconnected, all of it shapes and is shaped by the decisions we make and what we choose to create. Through a program featuring cutting edge music and technology presentations, Moogfest participants realize that these things don’t exist in a vacuum or purely for entertainment. Hopefully, participants will be inspired to find and engage with these powerful connections in their own lives.
One notable participant on the protest stage is Taeyoon Choi. He is “an artist and educator based in New York and Seoul. His art practice involves performance, electronics, drawings and storytelling that often leads to interventions in public spaces. He has published books about urbanism and is currently working on a book of drawings about computation. Choi cofounded the School for Poetic Computation in 2013, where he continues to organize and teach. Recently, he's been focusing on unlearning the wall of disability and normalcy, and enhancing accessibility and diversity within art and technology.”
He says: “Handwritten signs are personal, compelling interfaces between people and the city. A sign can also be a device for intervening into public space or a tool for introducing counter-narratives to the mainstream media. If we consider protest signs as a poetic medium for social engagement, a sign making workshop is a space to develop your message by learning from people whose views and priorities may differ. In the Sign Making Workshop, participants will be invited to make their own signs and join a conversation about the artistic intervention.”
Another participant, who goes by Flatsitter (Kyle Marler), says in his statement of protest, "we're beyond thinking in terms of protest or incremental change. The time has come for a massive revolution on a scale that this country hasn't experienced yet. It is sad and pathetic that the vast majority of the global tech community AND the global creative community believe in a progressive, inclusive future, and yet these demagogues and corporate shills have hijacked the system."
We feel confident that there will be a wide variety of opinions and viewpoints to explore at the festival, and that we’ll have a lot to unpack from our experience when we get home. We are so excited to experience Moogfest for ourselves and to share the story of Moogfest 2017 with all of you when we return. For all the latest updates, stay tuned to Bullet Music on all our social media channels, and check back here for the full review after the conclusion of Moogfest 2017. Tickets are still available, and you should probably get them now, as no description we can offer will come close to the real experience. Plus, we’d love to see you there so we can all learn and grow together!