Tonight, DJ Spooky (aka Paul Miller) kicked off Transformations, MICA's third annual conference on African-American art, with a sprawling and engaging keynote lecture that touched upon digital technology, hip-hop, bungee jumping, Sun Ra, D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, Shepard Fairey, the purchase of Manhattan, Immanuel Kant, changing perceptions of what constitutes art, recording ice in Antartica, the sins of the Bush administration, and a new DJ app for the iPhone.
Miller's unique blend of hip-hop aesthetics, academic musings, and political critiques framed with unabashed humanism made for a thoughtful and big-hearted evening at the Brown Center. He even handed out free CDs to everyone in attendance, though his lecture was the real gift.
Hats off to Leslie King-Hammond and MICA's new Center for Race and Culture for bringing Miller to town. The conference continues through Sunday.
[Above: DJ Spooky discussing his recent recording expedition to Antartica.]