Who are the alchemists of our time, actually? The way we see it, they’re the creative ones whose hybrid working methods are overriding the borders between art and science, opening up completely new prospects thereby and drawing trailblazing conclusions from they’ve seen—the interdisciplinary, international teams of artists, scientists, designers and engineers who are now at work on the future of 3-D printing, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, nanotechnology and lots more. The “Alchemists of Our Time” exhibition at this year’s Ars Electronica Festival spotlights a new generation of artists and researchers—what they’re working on and how they’re going about it. This show will be running in the spacious halls of POSTCITY on the grounds of Linz’s main train station.
“Alchemists of Our Time” is a sprawling exhibition that features an inspiring mix of artistic takes on futuristic technologies. Multiple “Artists Labs” showcase works by individuals or interdisciplinary teams to provide fascinating insights into their concepts and methods. A high-profile eye-opener fronts this array: “Sculpture Factory” by Davide Quayola (IT) demonstrates how easily an industrial robot can morph into a journeyman sculptor. Right on site in POSTCITY, it will serially replicate meter-high sculptures by Michelangelo. Close by is a presentation of the projects singled out for recognition with this year’s STARTS Prizes awarded by the European Commission: “Magnetic Motion,” a futuristic fashion collection by Iris van Herpen, and “Artificial Skins and Bones,” several projects produced under the aegis of Berlin Weissensee Academy of Art, Fablab Berlin and Otto Bock, the world’s leading manufacturer of prostheses. Awaiting visitors a few steps further on are projects by Yasuaki Kakehi, Jussi Ängeslevä, Joe Davis, Marjan Colletti, Yoichi Ochiai, Lucy McRae, Masaki Fujihata, Shiho Fukuhara and Georg Tremmel. Here, festivalgoers can also partake of the works created by artists who’ve just completed an Ars Electronica residency—for example, the artists collective Quadrature that recently spent time at the European Southern Observatory’s facilities in Chile and Germany. Other participating artists: Tomotaka Takahashi (JP), Eric Dyer (US), Helene Steiner (UK), Daniel Boschung (CH), Thom Kubli (GER), Annouk Wipprecht (NL), David Benjamin (US)
Sculpture Factory is the latest iteration of Quayola’s ongoing research on classical sculpture.
Inspired by Michelangelo’s technique of “non-finito” (unfinished), the installation explores the tensions between form and matter, real and artificial, old and new.
Luka Mustafa & Boštjan Vihar
At the IRNAS institute, young people from various backgrounds have found each other with the common goal applying the advances in science and technology to everyday reality and creating efficient, affordable systems, available to everyone.
The goal of the ASSISIbf project is to establish a robotic society that can develop communication channels between animal societies (honeybees and shoals of fish).
The Institute of Isolation is a short film exploring the body beyond Earth’s edge, following Lucy McRae as she tests the effects that extreme experience might have on evolving human
Beyond Prototyping is a research project looking at the dynamics between the designer, manufacturing process and the consumer in creating everyday products in the age of digital fabrication.
The diversity of leaf shapes, sizes and structures allows plants to adapt to nearly every environment. The precise molecular switches that control this process are being discovered. Research on plant morphology is putting together the genetic blueprint that controls plant structure and shape.
Trāṭaka is an interactive installation based on a brain-computer interface. Trāṭaka is a Sanskrit term meaning “to gaze” and it refers to a meditation technique for concentrating one’s attention on a flame.
Introducing the Drinkable Book by Folia Water: no pipes, no pumps, just a lightweight, long-lasting, inexpensive paper filter that kills bacteria and viruses while removing parasites, algae, cryptosporidium, giardia, cholera and other waterborne pathogens. Pour dirty water in and clean water comes out.
The Living Language is a bio-design project exploring the boundaries between culture and nature. It is a suggestion for a new evolution process of the Hebrew alphabet during the 2000 years it was considered to be a dead language.
In 2015 Ei Wada started a project called Electronicos Fantasticos! where he recycles used home electronics and turns them into electronic musical instruments.
Charlotte Furet, Catherine Ka Hei Suen, Andre McQueen, George Philip Wright
Skin is our interface with the physical world. Sound and vision allow you to observe and understand, but touch allows you to interact. In the digital environment to go from the position of an observer to that of an active participant, a person must be able to feel the virtual world they are entering and the transition into it.
Iris Van Herpen
Iris van Herpen explores the interplay of magnetic forces. By thoroughly examining the representation of dynamic forces of attraction and repulsion, the designer fuses nature and technology.
Neffa / Aniela Hoitink
The purpose of MycoTEX was to create a textile out of living material and to develop a real garment out of it. Aniela started by combining mycelia with textiles, in order to create flexible composite products.
Interface I by Ralf Baecker investigates the boundary between two interacting systems rendered into the physical.
The project was built around the idea of uncertainty. Both garments are activated by the spectator’s voice. Through the motion of the pins, the garments engage the spectator on a conversational level, which is filled with misunderstanding(s) and uncertainty.
Helene Steiner, Paul Johns, Asta Roseway, Chris Quirk, Sidhant Gupta, Jonathan Lester
Nature has many languages. Project Florence takes advantage of the sensibility of plants to different light frequencies and uses it to trigger electrical responses by a plant and compares the similarities between plant signals and natural language processes.
Implant is an imaginary medical device that fits into a blood vessel, neuron, etc. It is super-enlarged, making the viewer feel microscopic. With a genetic retinal disease in his family’s DNA, Dyer has closely followed developments in gene therapy, including the insertion of healthy genes into the body using viruses.
Hybrid Basketry is a medium where 3D-printed structures are shaped to allow the growth and development of hand-woven patterns.
What if our outfits could recognize and respond to the gazes of others? Caress of the Gaze is an interactive 3D-printed garment which can detect other people’s gazes and respond accordingly with life-like behavior.
Gina Czarnecki, John HuntWhen human materials are stored, grown and used outside the body it can be hard to say exactly who is being cared for, to say where, between us and our cells, identity lies.
Heirloom grows living portraits of Gina Czarnecki’s two daughters using cells collected from inside their mouths using a buccal swab.
Yoichi Ochiai (JP), born in 1987, is a media artist, an assistant professor at the University of Tsukuba and head of its Digital Nature Group. He has a PhD in applied computer science from the University of Tokyo. He is working on new inventions and research through a mixture of applied physics, computer science and art. He has received the Innovative Technologies Prize from METI Japan, the World Technology Award from WTN, and many more.
Yasuaki Kakehi is a media artist and HCI researcher. An associate professor of Environment and Information Studies at Keio University. He develops interactive media that extend the human body, tools and communication by multiplying the five senses, affecting the properties of physical materials.
Anarchive˚6 is a book containing almost of all of Masaki Fujihata’s artworks from 1972 to 2016, which can be seen as video documentaries and interact with a reconstructed installation as a 3D model by using AR (augmented reality) technology with iOS devices.
The Artificial Skins and Bones Group
The Artificial Skins and Bones Group is an interdisciplinary group of young designers from Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin. Their expertise ranges from textile, surface and product design to fashion and visual communications.
Anatomy of Frozen Genesis is an art project developed after a lengthy and complex process in 2011 in situ and in collaboration with the Institute of Anatomy at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana. The final output was then documented by photo and video documentation of the technical and creative process.
In his project, Dragan Ilić executes a ten-minute performance/gestural action with an advanced robot, Kuka K210+DI, which allows his body to rotate at a speed of up to two to three meters per second.
Agent Unicorn is an accessory that logs the wearer’s observations through EEG that can help with understanding ADHS.
Amit Zoran, Jennifer Jacobs
As digital makers, we see value in learning from non-digital craftspeople. In this work, we explore how collaborative making with non-digital makers can provide insight into traditional craft practices and values.
The works of Joe Davis show how alchemy and the search for the miraculous can survive, even in this day and age. For “Bombyx Chrysopoeia,” he raised genetically engineered silk moths whose woven silk fibers can incorporate metals like gold or platinum. In “Astrobiological Horticulture”, the organisms bred here could theoretically survive even on Mars.
A kinetic light installation consisting of five, for Korea very typical, fluorescent lamps. The artist connects these lamps to a custom-made rotating system.
An ABB industrial robot controlled by specially customized software cartographs faces to create hyper-realistic portraits.
The Modular Body is an online science fiction story about the creation of OSCAR, a living organism built from human cells.
Kazuma Suzuki, Asturo Ueki, Masa Inakage
Fog Pixel introduces a method for controlling the fog stream shape, direction and wind velocity, to go along with light and sound.
Photosynthegraph combines photosynthesis and photography to print graphic images on plants.
Naotaka Fujii + GRINDER-MAN + evala
How do we build a social relationship with others? How will technology interfere with the building process? The immersive art performance Neighbor visualizes the subjective process and will predict the future pattern of social bonding.
The sight and sound of the water vortex CHOZUMAKI that is constantly changing shape will remind viewers of crossing the boundary between the physical world and the psychological world.
Dr. Ivan Poupyrev
Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave interactive touch and gesture into any textile using standard, industrial looms.
Akiko Nakayama brings life to her Alive Paintings by letting different liquids, each with their own special characteristics, blend into each other.
Julia Körner explores biomimicry in 3D-printing fashion garments through her interest in nature and architecture.
Steffen Armbruster, Antye Greie-Ripatti
In this installation the artists create complex soundscapes that can be explored individually, that connect with the space the users are in and let them dive into the sonic wildness.
Moss Voltaics is a proposal for a green façade system that aims to explore how moss might be used as a source of renewable energy.
This project explores the design and control of modular robots, called Roombots, to be used as building blocks for furniture that moves, self-assembles, and self-reconfigures.
Amino One teaches bioengineering with self-contained desktop systems instead of bulky multi-user lab equipment.
The future of procreation? (Im)possible Baby develops possible family scenarios using the DNA of same-sex couples.
In this installation, over 700 casts of human tongues line the inside of a fridge, illustrating our dependence on domestic technology.
In his artist lab, Marjan Colletti shows how to print with concrete.
Matthew Gardiner is an expert in the field of Oribotics, having coined the field, and pioneered the fusion of origami, folding and robotics with his generations of Oribotic artworks.
Black Hole Horizon by Thom Kubli is a meditation on a spectacular machine that transforms sound into three-dimensional objects and keeps the space in a steady state of transformation.
Pentatonic Permutations is an algorithmic piano composition by Benjamin Heidersberger that started 14 billion years ago and will continue another 16 trillion years.
In this “biologically-augmented analog-machine poem”, mussels are lashed into an electro-stimulated design apparatus to make a vase.
The artistic research framework BCLexplores the relations, congruences and differences of biological and cultural codes through artistic interventions and social research.
Machines are usually completed by assembling parts which are manufactured in different ways and from different materials. In additive manufacturing (AM) it is possible to make several parts in an assembled state as one machine.
Michael Kugler, Sebastian Wolf
In the collaborative work Brume fog emerges from and self-organizes on the surface on a sculptural element, congealing with light into an elusive stratum. The installation utilizes a series of ultrasonic transducers that generate thick clouds of dense, yet extremely lightweight water vapor.
Michael Montanaro, Navid Navab
Aquaphoneia is an alchemical installation centered around the poiesis of time and the transmutation of voice into matter.
Shinoda & Makino Laboratory
Haptoclone creates 3D visual images of objects and produces haptic interactions with the 3D images. The system has two small workspaces and they are completely symmetrical. A person’s hand or an object in a workspace is cloned to the other workspace and two people in front of the two workspaces can touch each other through their 3D images with haptic feedback.
This is the place where experts can meet and discuss in small groups about alchemistic solutions for our world. It is an open place, where festival visitors can participate in the discussions. Here, you can break the barrier of key panels and formal lectures and discuss directly with visitors and other experts in small groups. You can choose the time, date and the topic of your speech – no rules, no restrictions.
Hy-Fi offers a captivating physical environment and a new paradigm for sustainable architecture. In this project we tested and refined a new low-energy building material, manufactured 10,000 compostable bricks, constructed a 13-meter-high tower, hosted public cultural events for three months, dismantled the structure, composted the bricks, and returned the resulting soil to local community gardens.