Videblog of Ars Electronica 2010 on “Die ZEIT ONLINE”.

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REPAIR – ready to pull the lifeline


There’s no time left for warnings. We’re in it up to our necks right now—in the climate crisis, Surveillance Society, the bankruptcy of the financial sector … We’ve passed the points of no return. The dramatic consequences are looming on the horizon today. And there’s no excuse for our lethargy since we already possess ideas, tools and techniques to initiate a change of course. We just have to take action! Roll up our sleeves and get to work on a job that can no longer be avoided. We have to mend our ways and get things moving in the right direction.

In search of ways out of this mess we’ve gotten into, the 2010 Festival for Art, Technology and Society turns to the pioneers of our age. Not the adventurers who’ve sailed forth because they wanted to find out what awaits them on the other side, but rather the visionaries who are bringing expertise as well as a great deal of creativity and idealism to bear in their work on an alternative future. repair is the title of a festival designed to pursue the paths opened up by these trailblazers and to show why it’s imperative for us to follow their lead …

“Where there is danger, the rescue grows as well” / Friedrich Hölderlin, Patmos (1804)

“It is too late to be a pessimist” / Yann Arthus Bertrand, Home (2009)

REPAIR – ready to pull the lifeline

It’s said that all human beings on Earth put together weigh about as much as all the world’s ants, which is estimated to be no more than half a percent of this planet’s biomass. There are already 6,815,500.000 of us, and the world’s population is adding an additional 2½ persons each second.

During the approximately 200,000 years since Homo Sapiens first appeared, we have been recklessly and thoughtlessly altering the Earth. This really got going in earnest about 10,000 years ago when we settled down and began pursuing agriculture, but it hasn’t been until recently that we’ve passed critical points of no return in many areas. So it no longer does any good to warn of dangers looming on the horizon. We’re already in it up to our necks. And that applies just as much to climate change and environmental destruction as it does to the naïve trust with which we’ve invited digital Surveillance & Control Society to come on in and make itself at home in our lives.

Sometimes the only way to repair is to restart

We can’t go back to the beginning. We have to proceed from where things stand right now. But under different premises. With the courage to do things totally differently, to rebel against entrenched systems and modes of behavior and to radically change them.

We have to change ourselves!

The knowledge, techniques and tools to accomplish this are already at hand (after all, that’s something humankind has always been good at), but the social and political consensus is far from finally starting to take the steps that we already realize are unavoidable. Let’s face it: in the wake of the failure of our politicians and public administrators as demonstrated so impressively at the outset of the year in Copenhagen, about all that’s left is our hope in the rationality of individuals and the wisdom of the masses. Our only choice is to finally roll up our sleeves and get started on the job of repair.

Repair – Rethink – Reinvent

Repair is the process of getting a damaged object back into a shape in which it can again carry out the function it was meant to perform. The Latin word reparare from which it was derived means not only to restore and rectify but also to renew. Inherent in a repair is a high degree of innovative power since, in contradistinction to recycling, this isn’t a matter of returning things to their original state but of also being able to develop them further. It’s a sustainable concept, inherent in which is displaying respect and appreciation for the things around us. This is a source of powerful creative and economic forces. And of no small importance is the fact that repair is a skill that makes those who acquire it a bit more independent.

Do it yourself – Repair it yourself!

Nevertheless, for us to be able to continue motoring on down this road, we must not only repair our vehicle this time; we also have to change our driving style and revise our destination.
“Repair”—the readiness and the capacity to repair things—is an alternative model to the still prevalent concept of primarily growth-based progress and the accompanying belief that this can assure prosperity for all. But now we see that the continuity of career and pension that we had come to take for granted was apparently just a brief historical episode (as well as one that was played out in only a very small portion of the world).
In order to extricate ourselves from the profound crises of our age, we need models of the future that also encompass the readiness and the ability to make repairs, and not just when it’s already too late. This calls for courage, ingenuity and the willingness to think and act differently. This is a willingness that hasn’t yet arrived on the decision-making levels of politics and business but that has more and more backing among the people on the street.

Repair = Regeneration

Repair also means making amends and healing, taking matters into our own hands and believing in our capacity to develop in a positive direction. Those who repair have a future.
Before the backdrop of this thematic orientation, the unique opportunity to stage this year’s Ars Electronica on the grounds of the Tabakfabrik, a former tobacco processing plant that is now a historic landmark, will make the site itself a determinative programmatic element of the 2010 Festival. This manufacturing facility, which was constructed long ago to create jobs and ultimately became a victim of globalization or, rather, the fallacious conclusions drawn from it, is now a very valuable piece of centrally located real estate that has been declared the nucleus from which the new future of this city will emerge. Right now, though, it would be hard to imagine a better and more exciting setting for artistic encounters with the state of our society than this site.
Ars Electronica will thus once again serve as a proving ground, as a workshop for testing novel ideas and new possibilities to take action, and for assessing the viability and sustainability of visions and utopias. This is a process in which art and science, design and engineering can encounter each other on an equal footing.

ready to pull the lifeline

Ars Electronica 2010
Festival for Art, Technology and Society
Linz, Thu. 2. – Sat. 11. September 2010

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