Moogfest 2017’s Futurist Line-Up

Physicist Dr Kate Shaw, MIT Media Lab's Joe Davis and an art installation from Michael Stipe take the stage at this year's boundary-pushing celebration of technology

Each spring in the United States you’ll find a flock of futurists from myriad disciplines migrating to North Carolina for discussions and celebrations surrounding boundary-pushing technologies. The gathering officially began in New York in 2004, when Moog Music created a one-night tribute to namesake synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog. After growing in popularity and with a desire to expand the platform, Moogfest moved south in 2010; today the four-day affair takes place in Durham and is wildly revered for its awesomely nerdy program that fuses engineering with artistry across exploratory workshops, keynote speakers and experimental music performances.

This year Moogfest has tapped particle physicist Dr Kate Shaw of ATLAS @ CERN and artist-scientist Joe Davis of MIT Media Lab to lead conversations about how technology will be used to change the future alongside creative thought provokers like Marc Fleury, Zoltan Istvan and Michael Bierylo. Additionally, this year sees musician Michael Stipe release a never-before-seen art installation comprised of years of video footage shot in NYC, which he uses to explore desire and movement. Stipe used Moog gear to score the piece, and it’s his first-ever solo composition.

With such an enlightened line-up, we caught up with Moogfest creative director Emmy Parker to learn more about the 2017 program.

For the unfamiliar, what can attendees expect to take away from Moogfest?

Moogfest is a concentrated experience in exploring how technology enhances the way we create art, music and how we design our future communities. We bring together creative technologists like musicians, coders, scientists, filmmakers and inventors to present their unique perspectives through workshops, keynotes, conversations and performances. We try to build an experience that exposes both participants and attendees to new ideas, and empowers them to take those ideas back to their communities to create something new.

How has this year’s program grown or changed from last year?

Each year, we try to expand on the impact Moogfest programming has on equipping participants and attendees with tools to design the future they want to create. This year’s program more strongly reflects recent sociopolitical events. As announced in February, we will have a dedicated Protest Stage at this year’s festival in response to discriminatory policies in our home state of North Carolina and around the world. In keeping with Moogfest’s essence, we’ll look at how technology will enhance the way we resist, organize and protest.

Between Zoltan Istvan’s path to immortality and Marc Fleury’s Church of Space, would you say Moogfest also explores some aspect of the future of spirituality in a science-driven world?

Absolutely. The beauty of Moogfest is that the understanding of the “Future” has no limits. Spirituality is a pillar of human experience—it, along with science, plays a fundamental role in how people understand what this life is all about. Plus, scientists and artists are using technology to enhance their spiritual lives which makes it a fascinating point of exploration for us.

What can we expect from the Michael Stipe installation, and how did that come about?

We know Michael Stipe as an accomplished musician, but this installation is a platform for his long-time work as a multimedia artist.The sound and visual piece is a unique presentation of film shot by Stipe and projected on storefront windows along a main street in downtown Durham, scored with a never-before-heard solo composition by Stipe featuring analog synthesizers. The installation can be seen and heard from both the inside and outside of the space, and beautifully explores movement and desire by an integral member and supporter of the south east’s music and art community—Moogfest is a celebration of beautiful minds like his.

How do you define futurist?

A futurist is a person that actively seeks to know the unknown, and who shares their findings so that we can collectively enhance how we design the future. Musicians, artists, comedians, scientists, sound designers, inventors, researchers, coders, teachers and even pre-schoolers engage in showing us the way to design a more equitable future. We are all seeking answers for what tomorrow will bring, not just technologists.

Images courtesy of Moogfest