david byrne

On Neurosociety and Meeting Idols

The other week we got to see David Byrne(!!) and collaborator Mala Gaonkar talk about their new project Neurosociety. The discussion took place in a 100-person lecture hall at Stanford, and started off with David giving a short presentation about the exhibition. (Side note: I’m inexplicably delighted by the fact that I got to sit 20 feet away from David Byrne as he stood at the podium with his glasses on, clicking through powerpoint slides and explaining each one in earnest. If only I’d gotten to attend this lecture.)

The project takes various scientific studies and adapts them into a more theatrical, interactive setting. You’re taken through three different rooms in groups of 10, and basically become test subjects, although in a less clinical, more entertaining way. We learned more as the discussion went on, but David’s first explanations were perhaps the best (“…and here, you’re in the body of a doll…”). Apparently the first iteration that just opened in Menlo Park is a bit of a test run, with more locations and experiences to open in the future.

After a discussion between David, Mala, and two Stanford professors, there was a Q&A with the audience. I knew after the first question that there was no way I was going to embarrass myself by trying to speak up, even though part of me desperately wanted DB to acknowledge my existence. These audience questions were thoughtful, academic statements about cognitive biases, data analysis, science as theater, theater as science, etc. Given the chance to talk, I would’ve just blurted out something like “DAVID WHERE’D YOU GET THAT COOL VEST?”

photo-gabriella-angotti-jones
Either this picture was taken that same day, or DB just really likes that vest. (Photo: Gabriella Angotti-Jones)

I also had the realization that I’m terrified of meeting people I greatly admire. I could’ve very easily gone up to DB afterward, given him a handshake, and said a polite hello. But as a sweaty, awkward fangirl in a room full of scholars and scientists, I was verrrry intimidated.

I’m a little miffed at myself for not being more brave in a once in a lifetime (see what I did there) opportunity, but part of me prefers to not ruin the fantasy. I mean, instead of having the meaningful, eloquent conversation that I’d carefully concocted in my head, I’m pretty sure I would’ve mumbled something unintelligible and completely blown it (this is why I write words, not speak them). So for now I’ll keep admiring my idols from afar, dreaming about hanging out with them at the mall, hoping for the eventual chance encounter on the street where I might actually have the courage to say hello.

And as for Neurosociety, I was super excited to go to the opening weekend in Menlo Park, but received an email last week that my ticket had to be rescheduled to after November 22nd. :( So now we’re going on December 10 in case anyone else wants to join!

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