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If you’re looking to make the most of your Moogfest experience, be sure to go beyond the evening performances and delve into the diverse daytime conversations. I was lucky enough to attend Moogfest with RTP in 2014, and spent each day experiencing talks from literal cyborgs and festival performers that had an interest in extraterrestrial communication. (I also got to sit in on a panel with the man that leads the Google Doodle team, and designed the GChat poop icon!)

Admittedly, if I hadn’t been at Moogfest with work, I would have likely skipped these talks that I ended up enjoying. Don’t make that mistake! There will be plenty of time in the evening to check out Durham’s breweries and soak in some tunes. To make navigating the packed schedule a bit easier, I’ve outlined my top 12 picks of conversations and art installations that sound most promising. 

*Note: Pre-registration is not required for any of the sessions below. Ticket holders can just show up and enjoy!

  1. RTP Convergence
    Entire Festival | CCB Plaza
    (Free) Convergence is an art piece that requires your input. Touching its LED columns triggers animated patterns that grow from your fingertips, up towards the sky, and converge at the apex of the pyramid. When touched by multiple people at once, colors merge and unique light systems are created. Think of the photo ops!
  2. Future Cities
    Thursday | 4:00pm | Carolina Theatre, Fletcher Hall
    (FREE) As our cities continue to become more connected – both through technology and transit – what will they look like in 10 years? To kickoff Moogfest, RTP’s president and CEO, Bob Geolas, will be participating in a free community panel centered on these issues. His fellow panelist all have varied backgrounds in the issues of city planning and urban issues, and the discussion will focus on both local and national trends.
  1. A Cyborg’s Synaesthetic Pedicure
    Thursday | 4:00pm | Durham Arts Council PSI Theatre
    If you’ve ever wanted to see colorblind cyborg Neil Harbisson give a singer a pedicure, this is your chance! According to the website, “Harbisson paints Pau Riba’s toes, and amplifies the sound of the colors on Pau’s nails. Pau sings in concert with the sound of the colors on his toe nails.” Yup.
  2. Musical Language, Musical Brains
    Thursday | 5:30pm | Durham Arts Council PSI Theatre
    Researchers have been looking into how humans can make music using only their mind. Onyx Ashanti has created a technology that allows for a full-body music system. During the presentation, he will explain how his invention works to connect the brain and body in the creation of music.
  3. Realiti – Inside the Music of Grimes
    Entire Festival | 2:00pm – 8:00pm |
    (FREE) This interactive exhibit allows festival goers to remix the Grimes track ‘Realiti’ using Microsoft Kinect technology. Do note that this isn’t an opportunity to simply fiddle with turntables or synthesizers, but rather a built environment that responds to touch and movement. Definitely worth looking into!
  1. The Future of our Species
    Friday | 10:00am | Carolina Theatre, Cinema 1
    In 2014 I watched this panel’s moderator, Neil Harbisson, describe how he had a piece of equipment permanently attached to his skull to help him “hear” colors. This year he’s back, and leading this panel on the ways humans can make themselves bionic. If you’re not able to attend #3, be sure to check this out.
  1. Technoshamanism: A Very Psychedelic Century!
    Friday | 12:00pm | Durham Arts Council PSI Theatre
    I’ll be honest on this one, I don’t really have a good idea what this is about, but the name is just too intriguing not to include on the list. Presenter Michael Garfield says that as our technologies continue evolve and get smarter, the next frontier of otherness will move towards the distinction between born/natural/artificial. He suggests that this departure from what our society currently knows, could push us towards a world reliant on more indigenous traditions to help balance the world.
  2. The Future of Creativity with Dr. Martine Rothblatt
    Friday | 2:00pm | Carolina Theatre, Fletcher Hall
    Before she was the Chariman and co-CEO of RTP company United Therapeutics, Dr. Martine Rothblatt founded a little company called Sirius Satellite Radio. At Moogfest, her keynote will center on how automation might impact creativity in the future, and how all of this will play into how humans interact with one another.
  3. Time Traveling with Hip Hop
    Friday | 4:30pm | Carolina Theatre, Fletcher Hall
    GZA will be joined on stage by Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal to discuss how hip-hop can challenge our ideas about everything from science fiction to the future. If you can’t stay awake long enough to see GZA perform at 1am, this is a great alternative.
  4. Arts & Smarts with Google Doodle’s Ryan Germick
    Saturday | 1:00pm | Durham Arts Council PSI
    Held in talk show format, this session includes Emma Coats from Pixar, Google Cardboard’s Manuel Clement and cartoonist Scott McCloud. With these three having such creative backgrounds, the conversation is sure to be anything but boring.
  1. Electronic Music for Children & Experimental Adults Bootsy Collins, DJ Lance Rock & Yo Gabba Gabba, and Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO
    Saturday | 4:00pm | American Tobacco Campus
    (FREE) Yo Gabba Gabba, Bootsy Collins and Mark Mothersbaugh on one stage? Is there really anything more to say here? This is surely one of those performances that will appeal to kids and adults alike.
  1. The Language of the Future with Laurie Anderson
    Saturday | 4:30 | Carolina Theatre, Fletcher Hall
    Laurie Anderson served as NASA’s first ever artist-in-residence, and has made her being an experimental performance artist and musician. At Moogfest, she’ll take audiences through her newest exhibit focused on the Language of The Future, which centers on the ongoing American narrative.