Prix Ars Electronica


Ars Electronica Linz & ORF Oberösterreich

They are doing the Art of Tomorrow

Tina Auer, Horst Hörtner, Orhan Kipcak, Gabriele Kotsis, Daniela Pühringer

Selection criteria for [the next idea], a grant for art and technology, differ in one major way from those for other categories of the Prix Ars Electronica: none of the projects up for evaluation have been implemented yet.

The jury makes its selection based on ideas and concepts, and/or documentations on everything from developmental steps already taken to first prototypes. Crucial in this context is the impression given by the materials on the project to be implemented; in most cases, this inevitably leaves the jury room for interpretation. Moreover, [the next idea] has been conceived to cover the entire spectrum of the Prix Ars Electronica. This means the diversity of the individual entries is as great as the selection criteria for the grant. Once again, and this year in particular, elaborate research projects and artistic/poetic approaches converge to give a complex picture of a form of media exploration that illustrates the underlying concept of [the next idea] perfectly. From the many entries submitted by nineteen- to twenty-seven-year olds, who in 2007 were even more international than in past years, a concept of great promise was selected for implementation with the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz. The outcome of this collaboration will be presented at the Ars Electronica Festival 2007 – “Goodbye Privacy”.


[the next idea] art and technology grant 2007 goes to a Swiss project, Jonas Burki’s SUN_D. Together with fellow students Raphael Fach and Adrian Keller at the HyperWerk Institute of the University of Applied Sciences in north-western Switzerland, he explored a variety of models for displays based on sunlight. For his optomechanical constructions, Jonas Burki uses familiar materials and methods that enable viewers to grasp how these displays function. Hence, the project’s ingenuity was not seen in how it develops or uses complicated technologies, but in how it intelligently combines simple physical phenomena with mechanical approaches to solving a problem.

Sunlight is normally the natural enemy of displays that work with some sort of illuminant. SUN_D exploits this inherent weakness and, in keeping with its basic concept, explores potential uses of this free and inexhaustible light source. The project’s objective to use “(sun)light and shade as a medium of expression” carries on a tradition that goes far back into (art) history; this gives the proposal an even greater, and for the jury, irresistible charm.

Jonas Burki proposes three different ways to convert sunlight into pixel matrixes: a “mirror pixel system”, “a powder pixel system” and a “Plexi pixel system”. In the case of the “mirror pixel system”, mechanical mirrors are arranged in a matrix; they can be controlled individually and in the sum of their reflections merge into the visual information to be communicated. The “powder pixel system” reverses this principle: the information is engendered by dots of shade on a surface of light that has been produced by sunlight reflecting on a mirror. Magnetic particles either adhere to the mirror or are set free. In the “Plexi pixel” approach, sunlight illuminates a series of Plexiglas tubes; via a mechanical system, it is possible to control whether sections of the pipes are covered, in other words darkened, or not. All three of these approaches use materials and combine technologies in a way that is extraordinarily compelling. The solutions proposed were extremely well thought out and seemed to demand implementation.

The jury was also struck by another remarkably positive aspect of the project: the clarity with which it articulated its ideas for collaborating with the Ars Electronica Future Lab and for achieving the goals envisioned.

Sound-Finder / City (Spaces) Probe

The project Sound-Finder / City (Spaces) Probe explores mental images of the city, urban sound environments and critical interpretations of the invisible boundaries within cities. The project’s central component is round objects or balls (ROs) that are to be distributed around the urban area and serve a variety of purposes. Pawel Oczkowski, a Pole now living in Bremen, is a cultural manager and currently working for netzspannung.org and the eCulture Factory in Bremen. The jury has chosen Oczkowski’s concept for an Honorary Mention.

The ROs in his project are to be equipped with Bluetooth transmitters, microphones and loud speakers. Each RO is also to have a theremin module that turns it into a musical instrument. Oczkowski describes an RO as architectonic element, plaything, sound installation, interactive sculpture and sound probe (a “city sound collector”). Users will be able to select sounds and modulate them via the theremin interface. The second stage of the project involves designing and assigning the balls to different territories. On an accompanying website, the position of the ROs are to be posted on a digital city map.

The jury was especially impressed with how this project conveyed its plans. This entry was also deemed worthy of an Honorary Mention for its idea of enhancing the cityscape with intelligent urban objects.

Garden of Eden

In their project Garden of Eden, entrants Timm-Oliver Wilks, Harald Moser and Thorsten Kiesl, all students at the Institute for Interface Cultures at the Kunstuniversität Linz, focus on the problem of air pollution. Their elaborate concept envisions an installation with eight pedestals, each of which is covered with an airtight Plexiglas box. Via the Internet, the latest air pollution levels in the capitals of the G8 nations and Austria are obtained and sent to the control system of the installation. Based on this data, the system reproduces these levels artificially inside the boxes, each of which contains a head of lettuce that serves as an indicator of the quality of the air inside the capsules. The lettuce, exhibited in showcase-like containers, becomes an object, a sculpture that “speaks in nature’s own language about its state”. The jury’s decision to award an Honorary Mention to this project was influenced by its aesthetic - aspirations, its indicator – a head of lettuce – as well as its mature concept and approach to realtime control.

Wonderful World

Wonderful World is the title of a work by Takayuki Nakamura, who studied at the Tokyo University of Art and Design, and is currently attending the Graduate School of Global Information and Telecommunication Studies at Waseda University in Japan.

It is difficult to understand the qualities of Wonderful World – this year’s third Honorary Mention – if you have not seen the video of this project: A young Japanese woman is sitting in what looks like a very comfortable hammock-like seat that is attached to a device somewhat reminiscent of a playground seesaw. The main difference is that this device has buffers, rollers and joints that enable it to swivel in all directions. On the other side, opposite the girl, another young person is – quite zealously – keeping the entire installation in motion. The young woman in the seat is wearing a head-mounted display through which she sees a dynamic representation of bird’s-eye views of rural and urban landscapes.

According to the concept proposal, this installation aims at creating a feeling of “floating” and, judging by the test subject’s comments, it successfully does so. Sentimentally, though not awkwardly so, the artist points out how we have lost our childhood dreams of flying and floating as a result of ordinary real-world flight experiences, e.g. on airplanes. This installation attempts to counteract such developments and in doing so makes all comparisons to higher-tech flight simulators superfluous. The narrative dimension of the project and the overall ingeniousness and accuracy of its implementation underscore its open and positive approach to both the media and

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