2014 Ars Electronica Festival. Creativity and Innovation; focus on Artists as catalysts

«C … what it takes to change» is the theme of this year’s Ars Electronica in Linz, where the C stands for change and for confidence but also for creativity, collaboration and catalysts. The fascinating concept of artists as catalysts of change has been intensely scrutinized at this festival edition, where creative thinkers from all over the world convene to consider the framework conditions conducive to social innovation. There were several hundreds of projects to discover in Festival City, many exhibited in courtyards and passageways that are normally off-limits to the public.

Grinder-Man, Mariendom

Grinder-Man, Mirage, Performance Art with Substitutional Reality system, Mariendom, Linz austria

Festival artists show how things really could be: people and users are not limited to the role of consumers; instead, as DIYers they are taking responsibility for their own needs and full advantage of all their options. Ars Electronica was once again a forum in which perspectives and opinions are presented and discussed not only in exhibitions, artistic installations and performances but also in symposia, panel discussions and workshops in the four-day Future Innovators summit.

James Coupe, OK Center Linz

James Coupe, Swarm, Video installation, CyberArts 2014, OK Center, Linz. Credit the artist

CyberArts 2014 showcases Prix prizewinners at OK Center for Contemporary Art. This exhibition is Ars Electronica’s centerpiece, the featured showcase of excellence in media arts. Media art is a hotbed of critical inquiry into social and technological changes or work on actively designing our environment. The CyberArts exhibition, curated by Christine Schöpf and Genoveva Rückert, brings together works singled out for recognition; the 2014 Golden Nicas go to Universal Everything’s “Walking City” (in Computer Animation), Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan (in Digital Communities), Sarah Oos (in u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD), and Roy Ascott (in VISIONARY PIONEERS OF MEDIA ART). This year’s recipients of [the next idea] voestalpine Art and Technology Grant are Markus Schmeiduch, Andrew Spitz and Ruben van der Vleuten.
Paolo Cirio’s “Loophole for All” won the Golden Nica in Interactive Art. This project’s attention is focused on the Cayman Islands, the world’s fifth largest financial center and offshore tax haven. “Loophole4All” is a clever artistic intervention in our global tax system that empowers ordinary people to avoid taxation the same way as these companies do. Using the identity of a company registered in the Cayman Islands, anyone can in principle invoice from this tax haven and consequently avoid taxation. Cirio’s work provocatively questions the transparency, secrecy and anonymity of global financial industry, institutionalized illegality and the inequality of globalization.

Paolo Cirio, OK Center

Paolo Cirio, “Loophole for All” Installation, CyberArts 2014, OK Center, Linz. Credits the artist

The first of the Visionary Pioneers of Media Art to be singled out for recognition with a Golden Nica is Roy Ascott. The British artist, theoretician and visionary thinker has been active since the 1960s. This prize was launched this year to recognize an artist’s lifework and impact on the international media art scene. In Ok also takes place a solo retrospective exhibition of Bill Fontana, one of the most renowned audio artists, who has been using sound as a sculptural medium since the late 1960s. Since then, he has created over fifty sound sculptures and twenty – partly intercontinental – radio sculptures. His new production centers around the steel works of the voestalpine AG in Linz. Visitors are  taken on an acoustic journey by means of a live transmission of sound and image. In his latest work Desert Soundings, which was created in 2014 in Abu Dhabi, his practice of making hidden sounds audible is also recognizable. With the aid of buried accelerometers he records the movement of every individual grain of sand and, as a result, makes it possible to hear the hidden voices of the desert. In contrast to the images of the dunes, the sounds of the wind-blown grains of sand are reminiscent of sea waves breaking onto the coast.

Bill fontana, OK Center Linz

Bill fontana, Desert Soundings, CyberArts 2014, OK Center, Linz

A more lighthearted approach is taken by Device Art in the Ars Electronica Center, an odd collection of equipment featuring sophisticated technology and whimsical design. The device exhibition spotlights exemplary objects that put a fun, playful exterior on a serious, high-performance core. The items on display are, at least potentially, suitable for use in everyday life, and some are already on retailers’ shelves. Content and device are inseparably linked; art, design, technology, science and entertainment blend in a unique way. It features works by 14 artists from Japan, the USA and Europe, each project a blend of high-tech and elements of traditional Japanese culture.

Jaehyuck Bae, Ars Electronica Center

Jaehyuck Bae, Inside Out, Device Art, Ars Electronica Center, Linz. credit the artist

The Ars Electronica Animation Festival showcases 140 works submitted for prize consideration to the 2014 Prix Ars Electronica. They’re divided into 10 programs that offer a cross-section of the outstanding creative work that animated filmmakers are currently doing in very diverse areas in this field—applications in art, science, R&D and industry.

579 artists, scientists, technologists, musicians and sound artists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and much more from 59 different countries were actively involved into 2014 Ars Electronica. They all have shaped and realized 427 individual events. Art/Artists as catalysts is for sure a concept that is worth considering more thoroughly, as art plays a big role on renewal projects and as appeal interface to technological transformation.

Sašo Sedlaček, Ars Electronica

Sašo Sedlaček, beggar 1.01, Device Art, Ars Electronica, Linz

Device Art, Ars Electronica Center, Linz, through the end of June 2015.
2014 Ars Electronica Festival, 4-8 September, 2014.

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by Bruna Esperi
in Focus on Europe

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