Between nights punctuated with the vibrant lights and sounds of LUMA, speakers David Sloan Wilson and Paul Schleuse spoke at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival’s “LUMA Talks” on Saturday, held at the Broome County Arts Council.
Wilson, distinguished professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University, spoke on “The Evolution of Storytelling” and invited audience members to share their own stories of culture and history.
“LUMA is a big deal in Binghamton, and I am quite involved in this community — it was sort of natural that we should cross paths, since LUMA is all about storytelling,” Wilson said. “Storytelling is really a form of evolution, the stories we tell that influence how we make sense of the world and how we act.”
Wilson started “EvoS,” BU’s evolutionary studies program that teaches evolution in the biology and anthropology curricula.
“I teach evolution in a very broad way which includes all things human, not just genetic evolution but also cultural evolution,” Wilson said.
Wilson presented his research on sacred texts as cultural genomes within a cultural inheritance system, comparing the diversity of a single text in religious practice to a collection of genes. These genes and their expression provide a multitude of differences, as seen in Wilson’s example using the different interpretation of bible verses between liberal and conservative churches as demonstration of cultural changes in the evolutionary process.
According to Wilson, the presentations by LUMA are telling stories that affect present and future culture in several ways.
“To think of these sounds as not just entertainment, but actually inspiring us to act in certain ways, is what makes LUMA so meaningful,’’ Wilson said.
Following Wilson’s presentation, attendees discussed the evolution of personal stories, culture and social identity in Binghamton.
Schleuse, an associate professor of music at BU, also was a featured lecturer. He discussed the work of American composer Steve Reich, whose music is featured in one of this year’s LUMA featured exhibitions, “Phasing Rain.” “Phasing Rain” is a sound and light installation by Onionlab and Xavi Bové that centers its audience in a rainstorm-like multimedia exhibition. According to the LUMA website, the installation used 26 channels of audio to give attendees an immersive experience.
“It’s an uncanny landscape both expansive and claustrophobic, with a ghostly acoustic,” Schleuse said.
Wilson said he envisions LUMA acting as a space to answer important questions about Binghamton. He asked attendees to consider where Binghamton began, where it’s culture and people came from and finally, “What do we want Binghamton to become?”