For a good start, each day began with walks, yoga and dance classes. For the dance classes, I can say they gathered a large group of people from the first day (meaning Day 2) and it was a reminder about how simple movements can change your perspective about being in your body and in the physical surrounding when you engage – a few stretches and bending and then up again and it feels like you’re on a rollercoaster. You can read more about Hiie Saumaa, the dance instructor here.
The first talk of the day was given by photographer Angélica Dass who used many food references to describe the colors of her family members’ skin and hair, colors as varied as the portraits in her project. It was disturbing though to find out that large companies that use automation algorithms to sort people’s resumes or to shape a database of some sort, have to reference dogs or monkeys because the algorithm does not recognize people of color as humans.
Speaking of AI and the interaction between humans and artificial intelligence, the next day the discussion continued with questioning if letting a machine take decisions for us would be wiser, given that it would be more aware of the objective data of our bodies than we are (when it comes to eating for example). Shared experience, empathy, and creativity were also talked about in the context of creating a chatbot and the interaction it has with humans, leading then to Reid Blackman’s talk about ethics embedded into the algorithms and how to build more inclusive, nondiscriminating AI.
Art was covered by artist Daniel Horowitz and street artist Luca Zamoc, the later preparing a big art piece that will be painted soon on the University’s building at ground zero in Bucharest. We also got to be artists ourselves when we painted our portraits after finding our skin tone by mixing paint at Angélica Dass’s workshop, but that is a different story. Music was sung and played by Jake Troth (the album cover was painted by him too, he said), Faraj Suleiman, Jurgis Did, cellist Gaspar Claus and The Wanton Bishops from Lebanon. And we all had a little moment of glory when walking outside the Auditorium, at the end of the talks on Sunday, on the rhythm set by Did, Lopez and everyone else, clapping and dancing.
Speaking of Lopez, Manolo Lopez is a chef native to Puerto Rico who started the food shop MofonGo in New York, as a way of bringing the emblematic food from back home as comfort food for the Puerto Rican community. Then, in 2017, when the hurricane hit his home island leaving most of it destroyed, in the dark and hungry, he went back to help with what he was doing – cooking – then slowly found ways to help the local restaurants (almost half of the restaurants on the island closed after the hurricane) get back on their feet. Now he is speaking around the world, bringing the Puerto Rican food (plantains are a key ingredient) and the culture of Puerto Rico, known as the oldest colony in the world.
Rukmini Callimachi is a Romanian born New York Times foreign correspondent covering Al Qaeda and ISIS and four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with a silky voice that tells the most chilling stories. Her work documenting the terrorist organization brought a new perspective on just how organized this organization is, with thorough reports and accountants and schools with textbooks where ”A” stands for ”army” and ”B” stands for ”bomb”, far from the general perception that this terrorist organization is something smaller and weaker than it actually is, with chaotic, bloodthirsty illiterate criminals. She feels that documenting the ”other side” is just as important as fighting terrorism and might even help the fight.
To end on a high note, as Logan Ury suggested is best, the magazine announced at the beginning of the festival was distributed in the Auditorium at the end of the day and people were delighted to spot themselves in the group photo, in front of the museum, or among the portraits across the large size, newspaper-like magazine. Drinks followed and even some dancing.