Grindfest is named for grinding, a subculture I might describe as medical punk. Less than a decade old, it is the anti-establishment fringe of a biohacking movement that’s increasingly in the zeitgeist, in the form of health and fitness trackers, “cognitive enhancing” coffee and vitamins, and billionaire-backed schemes to outwit aging. Grinders, too, aim to optimize the body — with scalpels more often than seed funding. Now in its fifth year, Grindfest isn’t on the radar of the cowboys at the rodeo ground down the road, much less the wider public. But that might soon change — people like Louis hope it will. “Building your own computer used to be really niche,” he says. “Now everyone does it. ”
Louis — who talks at a speed he calls “2x,” for the YouTube videos on cryptocurrency he watches when he’s not winning science-fair prizes — is at Grindfest on business. By the end of the weekend, a biocoating of his invention will be attached to a glowing wire under the forearm of Hylyx Hyx, a self-described “submissive for science” who met Louis in a Slack group. Yes, glowing. That is, if all goes according to plan.
Hylyx is happy to serve as a test subject. “I’m used to having weird feelings about my body,” says the pink-haired 35-year-old. “I use ‘they’ pronouns. I don’t care about most of my meat, so this is a way to have control over a part that I chose.”