Prix Ars Electronica


Ars Electronica Linz & ORF Oberösterreich

Squaring the Circle in the World of Pixels

Sirikit Amann, Gerlinde Lang, Christopher Lindinger, Thomas Köner, Tereza Szente

The jury convenes: four days in which only one thing matters—viewing and discussing hundreds of works by young adults, delving into the worlds they’ve created, and making decisions.

Due to their great breadth, variety and divergent qualities, the entries always pose a challenge to the jury. Its members are inevitably forced to asked themselves what the entries have in common and how they differ.

Primary school classes and college preparatory school graduates, techies and tinkerers, dabblers, players and inventors, tight-knit teams and lone warriors, communities and supporters—and among all these entrants, a remarkable amount of girls. This is truly a noteworthy development, for although the number of participating girls and young women has been on the rise over the past years, this year is the first time the trend has made itself so evident. Faced with this profusion of explosive creativity, a question arises: how can so much diversity be reconciled? Animations alongside school homepages, digital music alongside robotics, computer games versus CMS, and many other uncategorizable projects—yes, freestyle, in the truest sense of the word.

But then again, quantity or not, do the entries display the kind of quality that can withstand scrutiny several times? Quality that can survive the initial euphoria and bear fierce dispute?

And what should be evaluated? The idea and the course pursued? But what if the product has still greater, unexplored potential for development? Or should the jury only evaluate achievements which can stand on their own and are attractive, both in content and technology?

Sooner or later another question surfaces, one which is debated every year—is u19 the tip of a digital iceberg or the base on which it builds up? Once again we have succeeded in squaring the circle in the world of pixels: u19 is both the tip and the base. High motivation and a great deal of ambition are necessary to be able to achieve what is actually a bit beyond a person’s skills at any one moment. Though u19 also needs those unmistakable, offbeat and seminal works that distinguish it both nationally and internationally.

The spirit of u19 involves more than an (almost) perfect command of technology. It calls for a good dose of wit, imagination and solutions that have not been blueprinted in advance.

And of course each year, when the jury members take up their work, they hope for that magical moment when everyone will cry out in unison: “There’s no doubt, this is the Nica!”

Yet we had no such experience this year. There were two contenders for the title and in each case there were reasons why the other entry should win the Golden Nica.

The one contender’s work was surprisingly subtle. The quality of Rennacs Studies by Markus Sucher (19) did not become evident till we looked at it a third time. What is more, it raised a number of questions: Should the jury judge the idea or the product? And what is this product? The plot or the idea? And what’s new about it? Essentially, there’s nothing revolutionarily about scanning films. Though the special way in which Rennacs Studies scans films is definitely different. Or have we somehow got it wrong?

The other contender—the animated work Möbel (“Furniture”)—was singled out for its choreographic deconstruction of a wide range of chairs. The elegance with which simple articles of everyday use, like chairs, were turned into an experience of moving forms, lines and surfaces, opened up a new way of seeing ordinary objects. Thanks to its lightness, subtle choreography—in part reminiscent of modern dance—and its excellent and precise sound composition, Möbel is riveting. It hows a great sense of rhythm and of visuals: the animation breathes.

The clincher to award the Golden Nica to Rennacs Studies was the great developmental potential seen by the jury in the idea behind it.

Since 1998, the year of u19’s inception, the jury has always awarded the Golden Nica in this category to a finished product. So this year’s decision is a first: with it the jury has pinned its hopes on the prospects for developing an idea. Moreover, with this Golden Nica, the jury wants to show its support for what has been pursued in this work to date. Hence, the first of two Awards of Distinction goes to the fifth year pupils of the Multimedia Department at the School of Graphics in Vienna for their excellent animation Möbel.

The second Award of Distinction goes to 10 MKK Jubiläumsfun (“10 MKK Anniversary Fun”), a computer game developed by Creative Minds (Viktoria Buchberger, 11; Ute Greiner, 11; Hanna Gruber, 11; Prisca Heim, 12; Sara Wilnauer, 12) from BRG Hamerling, a college preparatory school in Linz. In an unusual presentation, 10 MKK Jubiläumfun portrays the entrance exam for a special field of study at school. Players must listen and use their knowledge to prove their playing skills. For the second time, we are awarding two u19 prizes based on the age of the entrants:

Since there is a growing number of entries from primary schools or children under the age of ten, a special prize has been awarded for this age group. Most of these works revolve around digital image editing and include small stories thought up by the children themselves. However, nine-year-old David Haslinger took a different course in Herr der Ringe – eine gescannte Geschichte (“Lord of the Rings—A Scanned Story”). Even though J.R.R. Tolkien’s work was considered more or less unfilmable until recently, Haslinger has succeeded in presenting the essential elements of the story in less than five minutes. Using simple technical means, he depicts the tale with great humour.

Pegasus X7/222/12 by 11-year-old Sonja Vrisk has been chosen for the prize for children aged 11 to 14. The casing of a computer is transformed into a completely new object. Made over and equipped with a kind of oracle, it can report at random how it feels. By singling out this work, the jury would like to show that u19 is about more than just having a command of technology. Pegasus X7/ 222/12 reflects this concern and carries on a tradition which has established itself over the past years: to honour somewhat “zany” applications.

The ten Honorary Mentions are exemplary for different age groups and fields.

Miro 1
Miro 1, developed by Christof Barth (15) and Thomas Müllegger (16), revolves around a car which is remote-controlled by computer. With humour and creativity, functionalities have been added that could not have been implemented without a PC.

Kulturhauptstadt 09
The website Kulturhauptstadt 09 by the pupils of the 7c/8a at the BORG Bad Leonfelden, a college preparatory school, is a detailed and, above all, critical socio-political investigation of the periphery of their town—a town which has applied to become Capital of Culture in 2009. At the interface between regionalism and a European capital of culture, an extraordinarily wide range of clever visions are presented, and these attest to both the fictions of the region and its self-image.

Robotic Angel from Another Sky
With its very personal style and mood, Paul Rauch’s (16) work stood out from the many other animations submitted. The jury was struck by the confidence and sophistication with which virtual space was constructed, as well as how the colour effects were finely nuanced to dramatically accentuate the dark mood of the story.

Speed Trials
Lena Goldsteiner (17) and Sebastian Wedl (19) created different levels for experiencing speed and time—and these were symbolized by a creeping snail and racing traffic. They are set in contrast to time-lapse effects. These impressions are intensified by the growing density of the lines in the drawings over the course of the animation.

With just a few lines, 5-year-old Philip Narovec has succeeded in creating an illusion. “Dot, dot, comma and slash … my tennis court in a flash!”

The strength of Ondrej Pokorny’s (18) work lies in the user-oriented configurability of this wellknown children’s game. It can be modified to fit individual needs, whether these be pictorial elements or textual components.

The work of 5-year-old Sarah Lene Shirin Fürst reflects a world of colours, forms and patterns—and produces some astonishing results.

What impressed the jury about this entry was how poetic texts and pictures were fused into a whole. These 8- to 9-year-old pupils successfully agreed on a story and graphically achieved a unity of form for it.

The jury was especially taken by Lilly Maier’s (13) website and its goal to make reading a pleasurable experience. Children can write their own reviews and short stories, as well as read those of others.

obscura Expertensystem
Andreas Reh, David Liftinger obscura expert system by Andreas Reh (19) and David Liftinger impressed the jury with its algorithmic approach. The application demonstrated that an intense exploration of contents can lead to practical solutions for photography.

© Ars Electronica Linz GmbH, info@aec.at