Moogfest 2017: Who Owns the Future? | Festival Guide | Indy Week

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Moogfest 2017: Who Owns the Future?

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Is Durham a city of high-tech wealth, privilege, and progress or a city of oppressed communities, tradition, and protest?

Of course, the answer depends on where you stand, and Moogfest, in its second year in Durham, is trying to have it both ways. With its Protest stage and other progressive themes, the festival promises a space where artistic expression can be channeled to incite action for social justice.

At the same time, Moogfest is eager to be a beacon for the affluent, tech-minded entrepreneurs flooding Durham's rapidly expanding start-up community.

The festival deserves some praise for its efforts to meet the community on its own terms—it does seem, at least, to be trying. But make no mistake: Moogfest errs on the side of money. The festival treats the fact that more than half of its attendees have an annual household income of $100,000—nearly double the city's median household income of about $52,000—like a selling point, not a missed mark.

As Moogfest grapples with Durham's complexities and contradictions, there is a danger of the rubber not meeting the road. The festival claims to make space for the voices of marginalized people while hawking tickets for what amounts to a full week's earnings for a minimum-wage worker. Its marketing and programs are rife with lofty ideas about how to apply technology and thought to alleviate oppression. But on a practical level, why should those who are struggling to feed their family care about something like "the disruption of linear time?"

As soaring skyscrapers quickly rise from all that cherished old brick, Moogfest, like the rest of downtown, is trying to figure out what the future looks like. Can the festival leverage its cultural—and actual—capital in service of leveling playing fields for artists and attendees? Or is Moogfest, a manifestation of New Durham's aspirational self-image, eclipsing the needs of the Durhamites who aren't wealthy, white, and well educated? Here, we explore some of the festival's big ideas—techno-shamanism, protest, Afrofuturism, and more—to try to move toward an answer.

Moogfest 2017:

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