Ars Electronica 2005
Festival-Website 2005
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'Karin Ohlenschläger Karin Ohlenschläger / 'Luis Rico Luis Rico

between basic research and cultural impact
The thesis of American physicist William Day that motion generates space and structure provides us with a simple explanation for the development of medialabmadrid. An international exhibition and series of lectures on art, science and technology (http://www.cibervision.org) (http://www.cibervision.org) created so much “motion“ in early 2002 in Madrid’s otherwise solidly established Conde Duque Cultural Centre that the creation of a permanent meeting room and a programme structure was the natural next step. Indeed, not long afterwards, a small, outward-looking laboratory became a fractal for production, research, training and exhibitions across a full range of disciplines.

A narrow corridor covering just 50 square metres, a dozen computers, a wealth of ideas and know-how and even more enthusiasm were the basic ingredients of what has since developed into one of Spain’s most dynamic, cross-disciplinary media centres. Supported by the Área de las Artes of Madrid City Council, the experimental nature of medialabmadrid (http://www.medialabmadrid.org) essentially serves as a catalyst for projects and people with local connections and international perspectives. The modular, open-plan structure where its activities are based now encompasses a 300-square-metre lounge, workshop and production area. The parallel exhibition programme occupies up to 3,000 m 2 of the Conde Duque Cultural Centre, a former military barracks dating from the 17 th century, which is now one of the city’s largest exhibition forums.

Research and Production is one of the goals of the three-year old media centre, which aims to reveal the complex relationships between biological, social, technological and cultural systems. In this context, three of the centre’s diverse development and co-production projects spring to mind. Algorithmic Echolocation, was designed by Spanish biologist Ramon Guardans. Its first version was produced jointly with the ZKM Centre for Art and Media and a group of computer scientists and artists. The project aims to develop a tool where biogeophysical data from 420,000 years of the earth’s history can be experienced interactively through image and sound.

The current development project Gnome by young Colombian mathematician and media artist Santiago Ortiz is also a co-production, organised in conjunction with the Protein Design Group of the National Centre for Biotechnology (CSIC—Spain). This interactive programme visualises the links and re-combination of genetic code, with a view to giving us a closer insight into genetic language and its multiple variations.
Bordergames by Spanish group La Fiambrera Obrera, on the other hand, is quite a different kettle of fish. It involves the development of open-source software, which makes it possible for young immigrants—often living in Madrid illegally—to design their own video games. The aims of this game includes not only the promotion of autonomous forms of communication and expression, but also the long-term social and cultural integration of young immigrants.

The development of all these projects, particularly over the last two years, has been accompanied by an extensive workshop and lecture programme, in addition to talks of a spontaneous and open nature.
Large exhibitions like Cibervisión_Fluid Dynamics, banquet_metabolism and communication or banquet_communication in evolution (http://www.banquete.org) have brought a host of international figures to Madrid. Roger Bartra, Fritjof Capra, Lynn Margulis, Otto Rössler, Dorion Sagan, Vandana Shiva or Ingrid Volkmer are among the scientists who have analysed and adopted a critical stance towards the issues tackled, as have artists like Marcel.lí Antúnez, Ricardo Domínguez, Peter Fend, Daniel García Andujar, Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman, Cesar Martínez, Neokinok TV, Platonic or Ken Rinaldo, to name but a few.

The exhibition and seminar entitled Cibervisión_fluid dynamics covered a wide spectrum ranging from fluid physics through to the dynamics of complex, autopoietic social, economic or even communication systems. Artistic contributions gave concrete expression to context-related considerations regarding the structures, processes and behaviour of flows, not only of thought and perception, but also of capital and global communications.
After this first event had steered us from physics to sociology, the next exhibition banquet_metabolism and communication dealt with the transformation of matter, energy and information, examining the interactions between substances and ideas, the synergies of emotions and the transformation of image, sound and signs. Whilst seeking parallels between metabolistic process and communication, banquet _ also prompted us to reconsider our habits of consumption, forms of communication and relationship with the environment.

A walk through banquet _ evoked a cross-disciplinary space, linked by dynamics operating on different scales and in diverse contexts: in a bacterial community or human body, in the dialogues between a kitchen, an indoor market and a table, and in the flows that run through urban fabric, telecommunications networks and eco-systems. Put another way, from the first exchange of information between micro-cell systems—in the language of chemistry—to the production of today’s collective world of images, information and communication flows have an effect on metabolic processes and constantly affect the behaviour of living things.

The latest edition of banquet_communication in evolution analysed the origin and development of life from a communication perspective. This event was based on the premise that communication is one of life’s inherent processes therefore showing that our biosphere is also an infosphere, in which constantly exchanging signals interact with one another. All life is hence, part of a continuous flow of information, which winds its way through labyrinths of membranes and projection surfaces. Thus, bacteria and bits, seeds and neurons, words, bodies and machines produce morphologies and behaviour, and communication networks of a biochemical, genetic, verbal or high-tech kind, which are more closely interwoven than we might at first have believed. In this context, theses like those of Lynn Margulis are particularly instructive.

In one of her latest lectures in Madrid, the renowned biologist described the anthropocentric division between nature and technology as superseded, claiming that the technological development of our society is part of the evolution of living processes. We are therefore on the brink of a new development which, in our dichotomic systems of thought and perception, has already begun to open up new paths in complex open structures. These and other things can be made perceptible to us through new technologies and processes of visualisation.


Ecolocación Algorítmica EA05b (Algorithmic Echolocation EA05b)
Ramon Guardans, Adolf Mathias and Enrique Tomás

The construction of projections to describe remote events is an age-old activity. Maps, astronomical tables and the multiple variants of the almanac have always helped humanity to find pathways in space and time.
Algorithmic echolocation is a tool for exploring the dynamics of signals of diverse form and origin. It digests a set of data on a micro and macroscopic scale spanning different space and time magnitudes, and transforms it in a process of harmonic analysis. This process allows connections to be made between such diverse knowledge fields and contexts as the response of organisms and ecosystems to pollution and environmental change, the confining of free radicals in molecular biology processes lasting thousandths of a second, or the analysis of economic data.

Its applications run from scientific research and visualization to virtual, interactive installations in the art and communication spheres.
The project is based on the analysis of an important record of global metabolism, the Vostok series. These data were obtained from an ice core in the Antarctic and contain information about changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere over the last 420,000 years.

La Fiambrera Obrera

Bordergames addresses the myriad problems faced by the immigrant teenagers living in inner-city neighborhoods in “First World” countries. It explores the causes and consequences of these problems and what the alternatives could be.
Bordergames is a work environment; it is a platform available to young Maghrebis attending workshops so they can decide the stories they want to tell, the injustices they want to highlight and the aspects of life they would like the future players of Bordergames to experience.

The main goal of the project is the construction of a tool, in videogame format, that helps young people in an environment that mixes their cultural traditions and the urban context in which they are now living to develop the self-expression and organisational self-reliance to represent their own lives and the present reality of their communities. At the same time, Bordergames will serve as an instrument for political, social and cultural coordination and communication, so users can build a sense of community and pool information through the medium of the game.

Q + G (Quiasma project and GNOM / genetic networks from within)
Santiago Ortiz

From conflict and celebration to genetic networks
From Colombia to Escherichia Coli

Q + G is the history of the evolution of two projects that are thematically very far apart but structurally very close. Both installations share a similar construction such as two digital interfaces with almost identical interactive behaviors. Nevertheless, the contents of one present celebratory rites from the length and breadth of Colombia fragmented by violence, while the other reveals the structure of genetic interactions in the genome of a Escherichia Coli
Both projects use two interfaces for the exploration of a social and genetic network. The first one, called Oracle, is a formally circular interface with a high level of control over the selection of nodes, allowing a complete visualization of the network of relationships. The other one, called Landscape Interface, is a formal three-dimensional tool for spatial exploration based on the metaphor of a journey through a flat and infinite landscape in which the user travels between interrelated nodes.