Friday, Aug. 5, marked the opening day of the first Escape to New York music and lifestyle festival, as well as the coming of Guerilla Science to the US. The festival was modeled after The Secret Garden Party, a music festival of the UK, and shared both its general premise and its core components; one of which was Guerilla Science.
The grounds of the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton, N.Y., were overtaken by stage setups, dance tents, DJ booths, food and jewelry vendors, art exhibits and, most significantly to this particular piece, a tent under which audiences could sit on bales of hay to learn a little bit about the world outside of it.
Guerilla Science is a UK-based organization whose proclaimed goal is to integrate science into the arts world. Known for bringing thought-provoking scientific demonstrations to The Secret Garden Party, held every summer in London and throughout the English countryside, the organization’s true aim is to bring science to unexpected places, like music festivals.
The tent hosted a slew of speakers of varying areas of expertise, including a taxidermist, a journalist with a background in zoology, a Coney Island strongman, an astrobiologist and others.
Rogue taxidermist Robert Rich Marbury was among the speakers presenting his knowledge of the scientific world. As a rogue taxidermist, Marbury, in essence, makes stuffed animals. Known as “vegan taxidermy,” his particular craft does not involve using real animals (though he has used real animals before).
Marbury sees much benefit in the Guerilla Science program, in that it brings science to a party-like setting.
“I think people want to have that duality of ‘I’m going to party, but I also learned something,’” Marbury said.
According to Marbury, the presentations make for a well-rounded environment, and they give people something to take away and remember.
“I honestly think that for the most part people feel like, we also want to be able to bring something out of the experience, and you might remember seeing the skinned squirrel more than a party frog,” Marbury said, referring to the photograph of a skinned squirrel that was shown during his presentation and a giant synthetic frog with a DJ setup within its hind quarters.
Jon Mayes and Joey Reichert, who work in classroom support and education outreach at Rutgers University, also presented at the festival.
Mayes affectionately called the merging of science and arts “edutainment” — a term which he felt described his and Reichert’s hour-and-a-half-long performance. The pair takes audiences through three semesters of Rutgers physics, displaying both their skills and the majesty of science through their eyes. They set fire to hydrogen-filled balloons, make sound visible using a propane-filled tube with holes through which flames rise and fall depending on the length of the sound wave, freeze flowers with liquid nitrogen and smash frozen bananas with a hammer (among other feats).
The duo’s intent, said Mayes, is “to show [people] that science is real, it’s all around us, it’s relevant, and it’s fun.”
Though the two admitted that a music festival is not the typical residence of a science show, Mayes said that he thinks there is definitely a place for science amongst the fun. According to Mayes, he and the other speakers can effectively show people that science is fun in the atmosphere of a music festival because people are generally open-minded and having fun anyway.
“I think it absolutely fits,” Mayes said. “I mean, when you think science, you think, you know, classroom, you’re sitting, and you’re sleeping and texting and on Facebook and not listening to the old guy who’s lecturing to the board about stuff you don’t understand. Here, [at the festival] people are here, they’re drinking, they’re having fun, they’re cutting lose, right? So you get to see that science is all around you. Science, you know, science just is.”