Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

The Golden Nica Award in Interactive Arts was given to Monika Fleischmann and Wolfgang Strauss, Germany, for their virtual reality art work "Virtual City: Home of the Brain". The artists have created an imaginary museum which the viewer can see and explore in an "eyephone" virtual reality system. This is the first year the Golden Nica for Interactive Arts has been awarded for an artwork using a virtual reality system of this kind.

The second prizes were awarded to William Seaman (USA) for his interactive videodisc installation "The Exquisite Mechanism Of Shivers", and to Joachim Sauter and Dirk Lüsebrink (Germany) for their interactive painting "Zerseher". These two works show very different directions in interactive artmaking that are dependent on different kinds of technologies.

In "The Exquisite Mechanism of Shivers", the American artist William Seaman has created an interactive multi-media videodisc installation where the viewer creates a poem combining words, images and sound.

In "Zerseher", Sauter and Lüsebrink have created an installation which exploits eyetracking technology. A painting is presented to the viewer on a monitor. As the viewer looks at the painting, the painting begins to change in the exact places where the gaze of the viewer is pointed. At one level the artwork is a direct demonstration of a new technology. However the context of the technology created by the artist immediately raises the piece to a conceptual level with rich artistic implications.

In the distinctions the jury consciously sought to identify the best works representing different artistic tendencies. The prize winners all made use of very sophisticated technology that is not available to most artists. Yet interactive artwork can make use of simpler electronic technologies. The distinctions were awarded to work that included sculpture installations as well as robotic works. Many of the distinctions were awarded to hypermedia work. These demonstrated how the computer can be used effectively by the artist to integrate image, language and sound. The Jury noted that this year some aspects of interactive artmaking were not well represented. These include works involving the use of telecommunications, online computer networks, as well as interactive work involving multiple participants, and also sound installations.

Again this year the jury acknowledged the large number of nationalities represented in the entries. This year artists from Brazil, Mexico and Hong Kong submitted work. Often artists working in these different cultural contexts bring with them new artistic ideas and concerns. This year most of the artwork selected for prizes and distinctions were presented in an interior gallery type context. This is clearly the dominant context for interactive artmaking at this time. The one exception was the work of Robert Mulder and Kristi Allik. Their work was an outdoor installation which focused on monitoring natural phenomena and making these visible to the viewer. Given the importance of environmental issues it is perhaps surprising that more of the artworks did not deal with outdoor installations and the natural environment.

This year a much smaller number of works dealt with political or social issues. Some entries reflect on the Gulf War. Perhaps the easing of East/West tensions has changed the focus of the work of artists. There is also the possibility that since advanced interactive technologies are more developed in scientific, entertainment and commercial sectors there is a bias in the type of artmaking.

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