more than memories
Opening Event Ars Electronica 2007
Imagine the following situation: You’re strolling through a beautiful garden, surrounded by more or less exotic plants that show you the way through a green sea of lush plant life. The variety of forms taken by these plants is at least as broad as the scents you encounter on your way through the garden. And the visual splendor of the garden is underlined by the songs of many different species of birds. But something is different. It’s not the sounds of the animals that catch your attention. You also hear human voices.Voices telling stories. Stories that shouldn’t be told ...
A little more than 70 years ago—in May and June 1933—students in Nazi Germany carried out book burnings as public demonstrations, ritualized as an “action against the un-German spirit.” The destruction of books is still today more than just a symbolic act displaying rejection of ideologically non-conformist content. The freedom of art is still at risk, but instead of books and paper manuscripts, censorship and control today affect digital recordings. And these mechanisms of appropriation and control of artistic expression are exercised today more or less in silence. Hardly anyone knows who is pulling the strings. Governments go so far as to deny the very existence of censorship, the limitation of freedom of opinion and the control over artistic expression.
So what is the status of art's basic right to freedom in the digital age?
The Ars Electronica opening ceremony, which will take place in Linz’s Botanical Gardens and so so-called Aktienkeller(1)—two places that during the Nazi regime were annexed to the nearby Mauthausen concentration camp as Secondary Camp Linz II—raises these questions using artistic means, with very individual thought, image and sound worlds created by international artists on the issue of memories.
The freedom of art is a basic right. Only where creative discourse is allowed to unfold freely can a more humane society come about—only where stories can be told and heard without restrictions or impediments.
Translated from German by Jennifer Taylor Gaida
(1) Aktienbrauerei: a brewery that carved storage rooms out of the soft sandstone of the Bauernberg mountain before the Second World War. Cellars had already been excavated under the corners of the Bauernberg for various civilian uses and the Nazis then made these into air raid shelters (both for personal use and as storage) connected by an underground tunnel network.zurück
Supported by Stadtgärten Linz/Abt. Botanischer Garten und Naturkundliche Station, ELAG Immoblien AG and ELAG Liegenschaftsentwicklungs GmbH and AREV Immoblien GmbH, Linz AG
“Pick up a stone and carry it to the room with the numbered parquet floor.” In January 2000, many visitors to the “...more than half a century ago”exhibition in Linz’s Landesmuseum – Museum of the Province of Upper Austria complied with this request. They each picked up one of the granite stones lying in the museum’s garden in commemoration of the victims of the Mauthausen concentration camp and carried it to a numbered spot on the parquet floor in one of the rooms. The result over the course of the exhibition was a stone-strewn field of remembrance inside the museum. After the exhibition closed, these stones were moved to the Botanical Garden, where they now lie directly above the air-raid shelter. The ventilation shafts lead up to this place that recalls what happened ... more than half a century ago ...