Convergence (Floating Point Collective + RTP) installation at Moogfest

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If you were in downtown Durham any time during Moogfest last month, you may have passed by a giant tent sheltering an assortment of LED rods. 

Even though it was officially part of the festival, the neon display had no barriers to entry for the curious passerby, with or without a wristband. Visitors could touch the sculpture and trigger colored light patterns to explode toward the rods’ apex and, when multiple people interacted with the sculpture at once, the colors would merge into a sort of dancing animation. There was also a location-based Snapchat filter that appeared when visitors stood in front of the piece. 

Snapchat filter for Convergence (Floating Point Collective + RTP) installation at Moogfest
Convergence had its own custom Snapchat filter at Moogfest. Credit: Shannon Cuthrell/ExitEvent

The free and inviting aesthetic exuded by the installation was one of the festival’s most engaging activities. 

Los Angeles curator Megan Steinman, who helped organize Convergence, remembers seeing a group of kindergartners cheering, “Energy! Energy! Energy!” as they touched the rods and watched the colors change. 

She also recalls a night when about 15 people gathered inside the installation to enjoy a live freestyle by American Underground’s rapper-in-residence, Professor Toon, who was warming up for his performance the following night. 

Julie Terry, Research Triangle Park’s manager of marketing and special projects, worked with Steinman to develop the concept for Convergence. She says one of the goals of the piece is to encourage interaction. 

“People often think you can’t touch art, but with Convergence, you can,” Terry adds. 

The sculpture was designed by Brooklyn-based Floating Point Collective, which has a comprehensive portfolio of pieces that motivate out-of-the-box audience engagement. One project involved connecting Twitter, Soundcloud and Instagram to antique typewriters, guitars and still cameras via Raspberry Pi technology for Levi’s Station to Station cross-country train tour. Another was a motion-activated, ocean-themed memorial for labor leader and social rights activist James R. Herman

Steinman discovered Floating Point while curating an exhibition about artists who use software as a medium. And, after initial talks with RTP about creating a piece about collaboration, she knew the collective would be a great fit for the project. 

In the early stages of planning the project’s direction, Steinman says she, Floating Point and RTP always came back to the word “convergence.” 

“It had such a perfect synergy with both Moogfest—a converging of brilliant minds and makers, from music, art and technology,” Steinman says. “And RTP, where some of the biggest ideas in science and technology have come to life.” 

RTP commissioned this video to show the STEM programming at Moogfest 2016. Convergence was a key part of it. Credit: FanBase via YouTube
Floating Point’s artists were inspired by the RTP foundation’s every day work—combining corporate, nonprofit and university innovation and fusing together fields like biotechnology, the humanities, IT and health sciences on one sprawling research campus. 

But Convergence was influenced specifically by the interactions and density RTP aims to bring with its new Park Center project, a mixed use development that creates a 24/7 community at the Park for the first time in its decades-long history. 

A microcosm of that is The Frontier, RTP’s testing ground before construction begins at Park Center. The space opened last year to kick off Park Center and has been a place where the Park experiments with new leasing arrangements (including its free coworking space), event strategies and community building activities. 

The Frontier is also the Convergence installation’s new home. 

Now located in the building’s atrium indefinitely, the piece will live on as a symbol of the very activity that produced it—human collaboration.