Beakerhead offers speakers along with spectacle

Beakerhead kicked off September 11 with ambitions and machines that reach sky-high. But before robots can rock food can be engineered or catapults can pelt all of these projects must begin as ideas. In order to celebrate and delve into that creativity Beakerhead complements its performances with its Speakerhead series offering a concise conversation with the people behind the magic.

“Even in the very beginning when we knew that we wanted to attract people to it through spectacle there has to be an intellectual hub so there has to be a core of ideas that supports the activity” says Mary Anne Moser president and co-founder of Beakerhead. “We want to have a conversation between Calgarians and the world.”

This isn’t an etiquette-ridden conference at the core though. “In keeping with the Beakerhead spirit of innovation it’s going to be a different kind of encounter” promises Moser. “It’s not experts standing at a podium delivering a lot of information… [we’re] having a conversation about ideas that are in some way informed by art science and engineering.”

That Beakerhead ethos means an inclusive approach to their programming so the Speakerhead series is eclectic and works within flexible parameters. Hanan Chebib Beakerhead’s director of creative experiences explains that the principle constant of the Speakerhead series is limiting speakers to 6.28 minutes each (two times pi… get it?) and “making sure that it was delighting entertaining and engaging our audience in a way that’s not common.”

You’ll find Speakerhead in unusual places: in the street on walking tours delivered from lifts or cherry-pickers. Find out how an architect-cum-fashion designer uses buildings as an inspiration for clothing; explore sonic art installations; learn how to turn an old clunker into a head-turning art car; or explore new perspectives on the possibilities of gaming.

With such a short time limit you can be sure that speakers are going to stick to the most compelling points. You may be fascinated to hear their personal stories and be inspired to follow in their footsteps; you may have your mind changed; and most likely you will have questions that will deepen the conversation.

Speakerhead may be full of tightly time-bound thoughts but the ramifications can go as far as you’re willing to take them. “I think that we also have our own perspectives on what things are and Speakerhead is really meant to go a little bit deeper so you can get more information on what it can be” says Chebib.

For those who like lengthier forays into interesting topics Beakerhead presents The Walrus Talks: Experimentation on Saturday September 14 at Theatre Junction Grand. This series will include 60 minutes packed with information and ideas from: poet Christian Bök on Xenotext; jazz musician Steve Kirby on improvisation; author and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin on music and creativity: constraints and innovation; rocket scientist Natalie Panek (pictured) on the next generation of (space) explorers; Arts & Crafts record label president Jeffrey Remedios on collaboration; and University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera on leaps in learning and discovery.

“Walrus and Beakerhead were pretty aligned in the motivation to have sparkling conversations about things that matter” says Moser.

What can you take away from Speakerhead? According to Chebib “Recognizing that the barriers are self-imposed and that it is possible to join in to do to build and to create based on what your interests are — and people will be excited about that for you.” And don’t forget: “There’s some amazing people doing some amazing things right here in our own community.”