CURRENTS New Media Festival is Santa Fe's most can't-miss contemporary art event of the year. What started out as a straightforward—albeit ground-breakingly rad—new media art show now includes workshops, electronic DJ sets, partnerships with Meow Wolf and galleries like Axle Contemporary and so, so much more.

This year, CURRENTS partners with Futurition, a new citywide event comprising panel discussions, live music and art demonstrations, multimedia performances, docent tours and even educational programs for local schools during the regular school year.

Phew. See? It's a lot.

Thankfully, the main show, which opens Friday, still occupies the darkened, cavernous-yet-cozy interior of El Museo Cultural, a space which invites meandering, and has plenty of little rooms and private-feeling areas that lend themselves to prolonged, private contemplation with art that's not always immediately approachable.

The show now spreads out over more than a month (its first official event, Inner Orbit, was in partnership with form & concept Gallery; it opened in late May and runs through July 21.) To help you navigate all the action, event organizers built an app; download it for an at-a-glance guide to highlights of an event that can get a wee bit overwhelming.

One of the neat features of the show is its mergeing of local art all-stars like Tony Abeyta with others from around the world. CURRENTS is also a slam-dunk for kids. Seriously, they love it! The air-conditioned spot in the middle of the Railyard is a great respite after a trip to the farmers market, and though it isn't remotely billed as a kid's event—after all, this is an art show, not a children's museum—I promise it's one ostensibly grown-up event that your kids won't want to leave.

I've long called CURRENTS my favorite art show in Santa Fe because there's just so much mind-bogglingly cool stuff to see, from dozens of artists who push both creative and technological boundaries. California-based artist Sung Jae Lee, for instance, presents two new media installations this year, both on multi-channel video, which explore themes of impermanence and loss. The event also features outdoor performances, like "Aquarium," a VR piece which assigns digital avatars to participants, exploring how we interact with those around us based on our outer appearance.

But what is new media art? The definition of the genre changes frequently, just like the technology behind it. Some of last year's show highlights were dazzling, large-scale VR environments, an interactive and slightly creepy ogre head and a collaborative video work about honeybees by local artists Bruce Hamilton and Susanna Carlisle. This year's overlap with the InterPlanetary Festival, powered by the Santa Fe Institute, sounds like a mix between science conference and block party; summer festival vibes come courtesy of local beer, food and live music, but an Ideas and Innovations Expo should offer some weightier food for thought.

I'm not entirely sure what to expect from the InterPlanetary Festival, "which will explore through a range of experiences and mediums the potential and possibility of forging an interplanetary civilization," according to a press release. With lectures and workshops, and also screenings of vintage sci-fi movies, the festival is a first, and hopefully introduces even more people to this wildly awesome art bonanza. Any way you slice it, CURRENTS seems poised to have its best year ever.

Currents New Media Festival Opening:
6 pm-midnight Friday June 8. $5.
El Museo Cultural,
555 Camino de la Familia,
992-0591.
Other events through June 24 at various locations;
full schedule: currentsnewmedia.org.

Interplanetary Festival: 
11 am-11 pm Thursday and Friday June 7 and 8. Free.
Various locations; full schedule: interplanetaryfest.org.

Ilustriously Illustrated 

Graphic novelist Jeffrey Wilson has blended compelling narrative with beautifully rendered illustrations by Eliseu Gouveia for The Instinct for Cooperation: A Graphic Novel Conversation with Noam Chomsky. Wilson's specialty has been social justice for some time. In the novel, which is based on conversations between the author and Chomsky, the latter comes across as approachable and fearlessly honest. His fierce criticisms of war and corporate greed have made Chomsky, who has taught at MIT since 1955, one of the country's most well-known public intellectuals. In easy-to-follow, plain English discussions of issues like Occupy Wall Street and book-burning, a necessarily fascinating dialogue emerges, almost like a documentary set to page.

Graphic novels are typically much more nuanced than their comic book cousins. Epic showdowns of good vs. evil, though, come in many forms, and putting themes of social justice into an illustrated format is ingenious, a way of making big concepts both accessible and surprisingly entertaining.

An Instinct for Cooperation: A Graphic Novel Conversation with Noam Chomsky: 
6:30 pm Thursday, June 7. Free.
Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse,
202 Galisteo St.,
988-4226.