A Look Back: Paradoxos and the Future of Durham

This week, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic as I start my new position at the American Underground. The space is one I’m quite familiar with, having worked here since 2014.

When I started, I was writing more frequently for Clarion Content. My employment at Runaway was in its infancy stage so my status in the downtown scene was unknown. The piece below is about Paradoxos, a “collision of ideas” that preceded both AOCFest and Moogfest. This was a significant milestone in what downtown Durham would become.


Paradoxos and the Future of Durham

April 17, 2014

It is growing…

The energy in Durham is escalating at a pace unseen for many generations. Whether we are ready for it or not, it is swiftly approaching, like the bull’s horns towards the matador.

Could Paradoxos be the muleta?

Since their establishment in 2001 and 2013, respectively, the American Tobacco Campus and American Underground have created a large blip on the national radar for Durham, resulting in a rapid influx of creative, successful business ventures. This surge in business is coupled with a rich history of music, arts, and culture from the blues and jazz highlighted by North Carolina Central University and the recently founded Art of Cool Project, to the Durham Arts Council, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which took place earlier this month, and The Carolina Theatre, among many other nationally recognized organizations and events.

A synergistic relationship has grown between the two forces. Now, the goal is taking both business/tech, and art, as well as the city of Durham, to the next level. In only its second year, Paradoxos is a festival symbolic of that marriage, through the combined talent and resources of organizations including Shoeboxed, The Art of Cool Project, Durham Chamber of Commerce, Windsor Circle, and a swell of individuals invested in Durham’s future.

For those who could not make it to Paradoxos, “It is a maximum collision of people and ideas celebrating technology and culture in Downtown Durham,” says Ellie Gamache, Community and Events Associate at the American Underground. She, like many attendees, believes that Paradoxos is about much more than tech. The question is, what exactly IS Paradoxos?

Saleem Reshamwala, a cinematographer who has worked extensively with the Durham arts culture’s high rollers, recently moved in as a tenant at the American Underground. The weekend left Reshamwala feeling enthusiastic, but dubious, about the future of the festival. “Paradoxos has to figure out what they want to be. Stating they were a ‘collision of people and ideas’ was a great branding tool, but now how do they execute?”

What does such execution look like?

At Paradoxos, the festival sponsored both the painting of the green wall and the playing of classic video games on the green wall with electric currents in cups of water as the game controllers.

There were arts and tech entrepreneurs alike sharing the stage and showing off their many, diverse talents. Mercury Studio’s Katie DeConto and her band, The Pinkerton Raid, performed as part of the weekend festivities. During the talent show, a packed tent witnessed Relevant Games own Josh Mills perform a coordinated dance routine no one saw coming.

You could even make margaritas pedaling an Organic Transit ELF.

As many of us did perhaps too many times…

Rather than accepting the old paradigm’s never the twain shall meet bifurcation of arts and tech cultures, Durham has recognized a new approach. And the people thought both were dope. They did not think, “Why were they done together at the same event?” The thought instead was, “Naturally, they were done at the same event.” Those hopeful about the events’ future would say, “They ARE the same event.” The millennials weaned on computers do not see art as outside the realm of technology, let alone in tension with it. Neither should Durham.

In a nutshell, Paradoxos was a demonstration of the coexistence of ideas more than a collision. It was an introduction of Durham to itself, but not enough of itself. It was a community celebrating unity, but not everyone was there to rejoice. The festival has a chance to pioneer innovation and integration not only for the arts, or tech, but for the entire community. The question that Reshamwala, myself, and many other are anxious to answer:

How do WE execute?

The community is behind our ambitions. Now, let us get them standing next to us in conquest.