Ars Electronica Festival 2017 Linz

AI – The Other I

Ars Electronica Festival – an International Festival for Art, Technology and Society taking place from September 7 – 11, 2017 in Linz, Austria. For more than three decades, this world-renowned event has provided an annual setting for artistic and scientific encounters with social and cultural phenomena that are the upshot of technological change. In Ars Electronica’s inimitable fashion, elaborations in the form of symposia, exhibits, performances, and interventions will proliferate beyond the confines of conference halls and exhibition spaces, and take them out into the public sphere and throughout the cityscape.

The years topic AI – The Other I (Das andere Ich) deals with artificial intelligence as it has made it back to the top of the hit parade of hot topics. The Big Four of the Internet shift research from the military and elite universities into the private sector and establish it on a broad basis. Gerfried Stocker, the director of the festival addresses several interesting questions related to the topic:

How to deal with ethical principles for these super robots when we are unable to accomplish this among our fellow human beings?

Will we ever even be able to accept the fundamental otherness of such an artificial intelligence, considering how difficult this is for us in our interactions with other people with a different skin color or of another religion?

Perhaps we should resist obsession with the frisson of conceivable Terminator scenarios a century hence; maybe we should stay focused on how we want to configure technology’s upcoming quantum leap.

Looking with the eyes of future archaeologists our time can be called the CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION OF DIGITIZATION so let’s check out what it brings:

Day 1 at Ars Electronica Festival

Postcity

I arrive by train from Vienna at the main station in Linz and head right to the POSTCITY, the heart of the Ars Electronica Festival. The entrance of this space is always special to me, like a bit of a walk in space, I enter the property climb the ramp that used to deliver all the mail coming to Linz and enter the space ship.

The festival tries to combine a lot of different approaches and gives space to all kinds of visitor groups, from professional media arts collectors to first graders who want to engage in Minecraft. I like that.

I like the unpolishedness of the halls that open up space for the artist’s works and give freedom to try things out you usually cannot.

The first two works I see immediately struck my attention: Nyloïd by Cod.Act and Robot, Doing Nothing by Emanuel Gollob. The first one is a huge sound sculpture in the shape of a moveable tripod consisting of three six-meter-long nylon limbs moving through space.

Nyloïd by Cod.Act (c: Christina Gruber)

The second deals with our constantly-being-busy attitude, pushing us into constant presence, which ultimately leads to nothing as studies show that doing nothing is way more productive. This meditative robot sculpture interacts with its viewer by mainly forming patterns. Doing nothing can be so beautiful.

Robot, Doing Nothing by Emanuel Gollob (c: Christina Gruber)

Robot, Doing Nothing by Emanuel Gollob (c: Christina Gruber)

But there is a multitude of exhibits and installations to explore in the Postcity, so we can only give a short and ery personal insight:

Feminist Climate Change

The exhibition Feminist Climate Change: beyond the binary is hosted by the UCLA Art / Sci Center & voidLab. The show addresses gender and environmental issues and shows innovative approaches to teach media art and media culture. As well the potential to shape the future is explored. The faculty driven research labs and centers enable students and faculty to work collaboratively across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Besides artists also the work of female climate change scientists are featured.

Concerts

Other highlights of Day 1 were especially music wise was the Sempookin Quartette of Ai Wada with the fan (ventilator) band and the public festival opening in the Postcity.

Turnton Docklands by Time’s Up

Besides the Postcity there are numerous other venues spread over the whole city of Linz. One of my favorite shows this year was in the basement of the Lentos of the artist duo Time’s Up. The installation is called Turnton Docklands and travels with you into a small coastal village in the year 2047. This physical narrative imagines the future and lets you be part of it, I really encourage everyone to go there the show is running until October 22, 2017.

Gluon Session

Aside from all the events also conferences, lectures, and workshops take place. At this year’s Opening Symposium the Gluon Session was held, the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, art historian Paul Dujardin and Gerfried Stocker were discussing the future role of art and science and active collaborations. In this case that scientists deliberately choose to collaborate with artists to make junctions. These can be between objects, non-objects, people and placement.

Manthia Diawara per Skype during the Gluon Session (c: Christina Gruber)

My day at the Ars Electronica ended after a short intermezzo in the Mariendom at L’Enfant with a collaboration between Breaking The Wall and Chris and Didi Bruckmayr in the Train Hall. And OFF.