Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich


At high speed and with more or less original ideas, the under-19s are well on their way to the next level of electronic lifestyle.

The U19 entries included just about everything in the way of original productions that young minds can come up with to whip through a processor: the spectrum ranges from the digital children’s drawings by the 6 to 11-year-olds through school children’s first homepages and self-produced games all the way to sophisticated micro-mega productions by entire 3D teams and the comprehensively designed digital package by the outstanding winning crew.

Although the jury might have sometimes wished for more experimental daring and a bit more audacity, the award-winning products are certainly strongly indicative of the creative and expressive potential of young people in Austria. However, the fact that works were still entered primarily by boys is disturbing. The jury hopes that girls will have more courage to participate in the U19 competition in coming years.

Over the course of three days, the jury examined, tested and discussed a total of 600 freestyle computing productions in several runs. With this many entries, the competition is already at the top of the list of comparable competitions in the second year of its existence. The large number of participants shows that young people are taking advantage of opportunities for working digitally. In 1999 U19 is supported again by the Austrian Postal Bank (P.S.K.) and the Austrian Culture Service (öks). What the contents of the entries involves is a representation of the entrants’ own very personal worlds, satire, violence, a presentation of practical information, pure aesthetics, self-presentation or a documentation of school activities, although the latter sometimes showed more of the teacher’s hand than that of the young people who carried it out. It was notable that outstanding submissions were entered in the area of animation, which were created by young people between the ages of 15 and 19.The themes ranged from 3D animated construction plans to parodies and flamboyantly humorous adaptations of fairy tales, like The Tortoise and the Rabbit by Patrick Toifl (18).The 3D animation Good Morning by Alexander Kvasnicka (19) from Vienna is a parody of a complicated alarm At high speed and with more or less original ideas, the under-19s are well on their way to the next level of electronic lifestyle. clock machine for a sleepy head. Each of these two talented render-men was awarded an Honorary Mention.

In comparison with last year, there was an enormous increase in the number of entries in the music sector. One senses the positive influence of internationally recognized Austrian musicians in the experimental electronic and DJ scene.The funky Mio topo by Benedikt Schalk (16) and the kinky Drum ‘n Bass track Scream by Stefan Trischler (18) were also awarded Honorary Mentions for their quality.

Among the 6 to 11-year-olds, the exploration of the computer was mostly restricted to first attempts at graphics or simple experiments with Power Point. One outstanding product in this age group is the work by Sebastian Endt (10), who modeled his idea of a bright pink Schweineherd (“Pig Herd”) in a simple 3D program. Another Honorary Mention was awarded to 8-year-old Stefanie Mitter for her graphic work Clown.

With the exception of the especially distinguished project safe:reality, the Net sector is still in an early phase of development. Notable here is the entry SOS - Simple online Security by Armin Weihbold (15): encrypted HTML files can be decrypted online using his Java script. In this way, he addresses a topical problem that is important to Internet users and implements it in a way that is thoroughly adapted the Web.

Among the many school homepages that were entered, the site by Franz Berger (18) for the HTL (secondary technical school) Braunau was awarded an Honorary Mention by the jury for the up-to-date and service-oriented presence of the school.The site demonstrates a useful Net application by young people. In general, however, neither the extent nor the implementation of contents and graphics among the submitted Web sites met the jury’s expectations. In comparison with last year, there was a lack of innovative and humorous sites.There were unfortunately only a few entrants, who dared to go beyond private and fan homepages. Many of these sites left the jury with a somewhat isolated and reserved impression.

As a young talent, Markus Strahlhofer (19) is notably outstanding in the field of games. His continuing work, distinguished this year for the second time, indicates hope for more high quality games in the future. His VRML game Area 51 - Back to the Surface sets a high technical and graphical standard.

Among the many entries for interactive applications, the Matura CD-Rom from the classes 8a and 8b of the college preparatory school Akademiestrasse in Salzburg is remarkable for the reductive graphical design, text design and original navigation. Unlike many CD-Rom productions, of which the contents would be better placed on the Internet, the complete digital representation of a final year newspaper makes sense in this medium.

The driving force behind Unser Tag (“Our Day”), an interactive reading book, is Takuya Nimmerrichter (10).This is the second time that this young media freak has drawn attention to himself with a work that is remarkable for his age. Another of the 15 Honorary Mentions goes to Projekt Leben (“Project Life”) by Simon Oberhammer (18), as an outstanding hybrid between interaction and simulation. Very simple graphical signs representing living creatures are given the task of finding food and developing intelligence.

G o l d e n N i c a

(conspirat). On test flights through countless freestyle bytes, the jury repeatedly ran into this trademark of a young crew from Linz. The ten music tracks that were entered by this supposed band on CD set off the first rush of adrenaline on the second morning of the jury meeting: Digital Noise, it says on the CD cover. “An exciting mixture of digital interference noise and distorted voices— the Einstürzenden Neubauten of hard disks. At last, a digital act far removed from the technoconstruction- set principle,” was the tone of a statement from the jury. And wasn’t there this strange device, a kind of flow heater, which was quite conspicuous as the only hardware object in the competition at a first general survey of the submissions? As it turned out, this satirical sabotage device with the promising name “Fuse Killer” also comes from the development department of (conspirat).When the device was first secretly tested in the basement of the ORF building in Linz, it did indeed “kill” a large section of the electricity supply in the broadcasting building. Finally the kind of freestyle kick the jury had been hoping for. Creative minds, throwing away the manual and starting, in their own way, to mercilessly maltreat and alienate the computer and technology, yet very purposefully and skillfully “misusing” it for their own stories. That was only the beginning: the breakthrough finally came with the (conspirat). computer animation Personal Factory by Raimund Schumacher and the experimental digital video Bestanker on Tour by Jürgen Oman. Personal Factory, the most professional and aesthetically assured submission in the U19 category, would stand out even in the flood of VIVA clips. In the end, the jury was not even surprised that they also have a Web site to promote their “label” (www.besu.ch/Phantomschmerz). (conspirat).was a hit at every level: artistic, multimedia, experimental and, most especially, very independent.The jury came to the conclusion that the team as a whole, with its ability to cover so many facets without becoming the least dilettantish, clearly deserved the Golden Nica. Their overall concept of open teamwork corresponds to the working methods of new media workers and makes fantastic use of the synergies thus created.

A w a r d s o f D i s t i n c t i o n

In addition to the Golden Nica, two Awards of Distinction, in the form of a multimedia Pentium Notebook, were also awarded in the competition. Aside from the group (conspirat).

18-year-old Alexander Fischl and Gregor Koschicek were the closest runner-ups for the prestigious Golden Nica. His overwhelming computer animation Von Ignoranten, Betriebssystemen und Atomraketen (“Ignoramuses, Operating Systems and Atomic Missiles”) is outstanding for its nearly perfect depiction of a four-minute thriller about the Y2K bug, in other words the critical problem of changing the date in the year 2000.With this animation he met all the criteria that were especially important to the jury: original idea, humor, elements of surprise, power and use of individual components, and a strong feeling for his medium, the computer or computer networks respectively. In this case the criteria also included the high-quality sound design, the figurative language and the narrative strategy requiring no representation of persons and yet able to maintain the narrative tension until the very last moment. Equally persuasive were the adept use of the means available to him and the brilliant direction that gave the product as a whole its effectiveness. At the closing presentation, the quality of this complex 3D rendering project even impressed the computer animation and sound experts from California.

Among the many Web entries, safe:reality (www.cactis.org) by Philipp E. Haindl (18) emerged as a first-class work in terms of content and graphics and was deemed unequivocally worthy of an Award of Distinction.The high degree of “Webness” in his project is convincing, and thus it meets all the criteria that are important to the jury for an Internet work: the project can only be done on the net, in other words it is entirely designed for this medium, it involves the users and visualizes the users’ participation, its aesthetic is based on the functions and limitations of the Web, and it makes use of the advantages of being non-local.

Haindl was one of the few entrants who proved able to combine digital processes, reflection and style in one product. For example, scripts running on the server in the background generate graphic elements from the user statements in the background.

Like many complex Web sites, safe:reality is not easily comprehensible, but a closer look reveals that it is outstanding for a number of reasons, not only because of its political topicality. Philipp Haindl takes the war in Kosovo as a starting point for reflecting on perceptions of reality in an anonymized abstract space—the Web—and has created an Internet site, where people interested in discussion and passing Net tourists can leave a statement about the war. This results in a dialogue that is intended to open new perspectives by being disconnected from the actual location of the respective user.

Looking back again at the best products, it may well be said that Hollywood’s dinosaurs will have to come up with something good, if they want to avoid early retirement. The monopolies of the mainframes, expensive studios and mammoth companies are coming under increasingly determined attack.

© Ars Electronica Linz GmbH, info@aec.at