Prix Ars Electronica


Ars Electronica Linz & ORF Oberösterreich


Wilhelm Burger, Horst Hörtner, Gustav Pomberger, Daniela Pühringer, Christa Sommerer

[the next idea] addresses young designers who are exploring innovative, future-oriented media concepts. In 2006, the outstanding ideas of young creative men and women are being honoured for the third time, and one of these ideas has been chosen for implementation.

This most recent category of the Prix Ars Electronica has proven very successful. This can be seen in the diversity of the entries which reflect the great potential of the generation aged between nineteen and twenty-seven. The majority of the submitted concepts are about ideas for new interfaces. It would be premature to infer a trend, for the works cover a very broad spectrum of novel media technology.

The jury was assigned the difficult task of selecting just one idea for an artist-in-residence grant that would help make its implementation possible. Aside from financial assistance, the chosen project would also be able to use the infrastructure of the Ars Electronica Futurelab and work together with its specialists.

In addition to a pronounced artistic interest in technical and/or societal innovation, the criterion for the selection of the projects was primarily the originality of the idea—though only against the backdrop of its feasibility within the allotted time (i.e. in time for the Ars Electronica Festival in September 2006). Another consideration was whether a concept would benefit from being realized at the Ars Electronica Futurelab and from being presented within the scope of the Ars Electronica Festival.

A total of five projects are being honored in [the next idea] category. These five succeeded in convincing the jury that their ideas satisfied the objectives of the category. They also aroused the jury’s curiosity with respect to the results that could be expected. There was no way these projects could be meaningfully ranked against one another.

[the next idea] Art and Technology Grant

The jury has awarded this year’s grant of 7,500 euros to twenty-three-year-old Himanshu Khatri from India. With AQUAplay the artist submitted a new and ambitious idea for displays. Using controlled groups of rising air bubbles, Khatri attempts to generate 3D pixel graphics in a special fluid. If he succeeds in his endeavor, it will be a ground-breaking development in the field of media technology.

His project calls for a large fluid-filled container whose bottom has been equipped with a matrix of air vents. The user transmits the forms it would like to depict to the built-in computer. The processor uses this information to generate commands to the vents which emit precisely controlled air bubbles and these form the prescribed patterns or lettering in 2D or 3D. Diffused lighting makes the bubbles stand out in the fluid and gives the installation the magic which the artist intended.

With his concept, Khatri asks us to reflect and decelerate; he offers AQUAplay as an antithesis to society’s growing overstimulation. His position relates well to this year’s theme of the Ars Electronica Festival: “Simplicity—The Art of Complexity”, though it was in no way a criterion for selecting the project. A working prototype could turn out to form the basis of an innovative and impressive new class of displays, for which many applications are conceivable. Yet for Khatri, it is not primarily about producing an unusual display device, but about using technology in an installation to create an ambience for those who yearn for a return to slowness.

Honorary Mentions

An honorary mention in [the next idea] section went to the project Total Surveillance by Thomas Winkler from Austria. His concept outlines the use of video surveillance systems (CCTV) for a kind of scouting game. The only visual information available to the players would be via video stream. Equipped with non-transparent head-mounted displays, one group of players has to get its bearings exclusively via the external perspective of the cameras, while a second group observes what is happening via monitors. Avatars are added as virtual teammates to the real-world images.

This game is intended to raise awareness of the ever more extensive use of video surveillance. A particularly interesting aspect of this project is the fact that the players can adopt different observer perspectives within the system. In another context, Hachiya Kazuhiko had demonstrated with Inter Dis-Communication Machine in 1993 what happens when participants are equipped with HMDs and they swap perspectives with each other. Thomas Winkler’s far more complex structure promises to expand our impressions and experiences even further. We would also like to mention that Thomas Winkler has won Prix Ars Electronica awards in the past: he impressed the u19 jury with SMS-Notifier (Honorary Mention) in 2001, and with GPS::Tron (Golden Nica) in 2004.

With ShiftSpace, Dan Phiffer attempts to expand the Internet by creating a new layer for information. ShiftSpace stands here for a shortcut which activates an editable layer over a conventional webpage. As a consequence, this open-source program seeks to expand the space available for online communication. To illustrate his idea, Phiffer uses metaphors of urban architecture: he describes the Internet as a subway system. In this model, junctions or stations stand for webpages and the individual subway lines for hyperlinks. Since the system continuously grows more complex but is still subject to certain constraints, Phiffer suggests its extension “above ground”. As a concrete example, he mentions digital Post-its that can be created by users and placed quasi on top of a website. His vision goes as far as to evolve a new user-determined information architecture based on the existing WorldWideWeb. We hope this project will be implemented. It shows great potential for effective development—which is also why it has received an award.

Sandra Kroiss’ concept for Gaze proceeds from feminist theories which examined the male gaze. The installation which she submitted attempts to expose the gaze of those observing pictures of naked bodies: when an observer fixes his or her gaze on specific body parts, they become larger. This idea has also been awarded an Honorary Mention. Its realization calls for a rather sophisticated system of eye tracking via video recording, and would certainly not be easy to implement during an exhibition. Another coponent are the photo-realistic, dynamic 3D models of human bodies which would in themselves require much time and effort if they were to be convincing. They also give greater priority to artistic realization than to the underlying concept.

Another favorite was the project Parasite, which clearly stood out in content from all other contenders. This concept by Frédéric Eyl describes an independent, mobile projection system that can be attached to subway cars with suction cups—and, mind you, without the operating authorities having to give their consent. A video of a prototype drew many reactions on the Internet and was hotly discussed. The submitted idea involves developing the prototype further, from a suitcase-sized projector to a miniature model that links cell phones to LED technology. Undoubtedly, a brilliant idea, one that is, however, only modified by being miniaturized. Nevertheless, the concept presented to us is outstanding and will be followed with great interest. Remembering A-Line (a concept by Christian Möller from 1991), the jury would be delighted if this project were also brought to fruition.

© Ars Electronica Linz GmbH, info@aec.at