“WE GUIDE YOU” through the festival jungle

WEB_Spotlight Tour_JürgenGrünwald, Spotlight Tour, Photo: Jürgen Grünwald

Ars and the City, CREATE YOUR WORLD, Human Limitations – Limited Humanity, Big Concert Night, Ars Electronica Campus, Nightline, Unboxing the Festival, History Summit, Expanded Animation, AIxMusic in Sankt Florian, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the University of Art and Design Linz, the Ars Electronica Center, LENTOS, Bruckner University are only a small selection of what you can expect from more than 1.000 artists at more than 500 events at more than 10 locations during the Ars Electronica Festival 2019. In order to maintain an overview here, the WE GUIDE YOU program – made possible by the WKOÖ group of specialists for management consulting, accounting and IT – has been in existence for several years now. It offers a comprehensive range of different tours that bring visitors closer to the various exhibitions and works. Spotlight Tours provide a first insight, free Community Parcours are designed to connect local and international communities, and Experts Tours are intended to promote exchange with and between experts. Sonja Schachinger has been responsible for the conception and implementation of this mediation format for three years now. She gave us details about this year’s program in an interview.

More than 1.000 artists, more than 500 events, more than 10 locations, on 5 days! That sounds confusing at first sight if you have never been to the festival before. Do you have a suggestion where to start and does WE GUIDE YOU offer orientation possibilities?

Sonja Schachinger: The Ars Electronica Festival is one of the largest media art festivals in the world and opens up new paths for innovative themes. When you visit the festival for the first time, you can first inform yourself in advance on the homepage and browse through the program. Once you’ve arrived, the multitude of projects and locations is nevertheless overwhelming for many and can definitely not be consumed while passing by. WE GUIDE YOU, which has become a popular educational format in recent years, offers a wide range of guided tours – regarding both location and theme. The Spotlight Tours, which are offered daily with three different timeslots, provide visitors with an initial overview on this year’s festival’s themes. Afterwards, visitors can still explore the numerous stations and projects on their own. In addition, in exchanging information with the guides, some of whom are experts in their field, I get to know the background to the program items, I can enter into a dialogue with people and it opens up additional levels of interpretation for me. The quality of the communication is also guaranteed by more than 100 infotrainers, who always try to answer any questions and interact with the visitors.

WE GUIDE YOU, photo: vog.photo

How can I imagine a Spotlight Tour as such? What can I expect as a visitor and what will I see?

Sonja Schachinger: The popular Spotlight Tours offer a complete overview of the POSTCITY exhibition. Together we will discuss current issues in the fields of art, technology and society and approach the theme of the festival “Out of the Box – The Midlife Crisis of the Digital Revolution” from different perspectives.

This year, however, we have expanded our offer. In addition to the Spotlight Tours, theme tours of the exhibition “Human Limitations – Limited Humanity” can be booked daily. The tour leads through the POSTCITY bunker, showing works of art and projects that deal with complex ethical questions about human simulation and mutation processes and their limits.

In total, more than 80 timeslots on 17 different schedules will be available this year for public participation in a guided tour through the festival.

Kids Tour, photo: vog.photo

What can we expect from the expert tours this year, which experts can we look forward to and what will they talk about? And who are the expert tours intended for?

Sonja Schachinger: This year we offer more than 20 different Expert Tours, for example with Jens Hauser, Quimera Rosa, Marta de Menezes and Luis Graca, Andreas J. Hirsch, Saša Spačal , Christl Baur or Matthias Hörtenhuber.

Curator, media theorist and Ars Electronica jury member Jens Hauser provides insights into the philosophical and techno-scientific aspects of selected biological artworks in the POSTCITY exhibition. Quimera Rosa present their work Trans*Plant, which is a transdisciplinary project that uses living systems and is based on self-experimentation. Saša Spačal questions how ecological connections with technology can be conveyed, Andreas J. Hirsch leads us through 40 years of Ars Electronica and will illustrate aspects from his new book “Creating the Future”, the artist Marta de Menezes and the scientist Luis Graca critically examine the interface between art and science with a focus on biography. Christl Baur, curator of the Gallery Spaces and co-producer of the festival, discusses the artistic concepts and media art historical backgrounds of the exhibited works. The scientist Matthias Hörtenhuber places the topic of AI and life science aspects at the centre of his tour and discusses the applications of machine learning and the associated algorithms. These are just a few examples of who will be leading through the festival this year with what content. All tours can be found on our homepage.

Not only the general public appreciates the WE GUIDE YOU offer and the Expert Tours. Many innovative paths bring more and more experts to the festival who would like to exchange ideas with their colleagues – for example during an Artist Walk or an Experts Tour. The slots for these guided tours are limited to 15 persons in order to ensure a lively exchange between artist and participant.

Experts Tour, photo: vog.photo

Is WE GUIDE YOU only available in the POSTCITY or also at other locations?

Sonja Schachinger: The festival takes place at more than ten different locations, and there are also expert tours offered everywhere. Outside POSTCITY, the following tours will take place, for example: Project manager Tilman Hatje leads us to the artworks in St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Salzamt. Anton Lapov’s Radio Walk gives you more information on the broad context of the socio-cultural landscape in which Ars Electronica has existed for 40 years – it starts at the Lentos Kunstmuseum. There will be a guided tour by the curators of the exhibition Shared Habitats to get to know artworks and artistic practices from the Faculty of Art and Design at the Bauhaus University Weimar at the University of Art and Design Linz. For the very first time, we are also offering an Experts Tour featuring the Prix Ars Electronica at the OK, OÖ Kulturquartier: The Prix Ars Electronica’s new “Artificial Intelligence & Life Art” category triggers discussions about the connection between the largely ambiguous terms “intelligence” and “liveliness”. Jury member, curator and media theorist Jens Hauser will reveal some of the criteria of the jury process and present selected positions from the 15 award-winning works of art.

This year, for the first time, Ars Electronica, in collaboration with the European Commission, is also organizing an AI x Music Festival, which will be inviting visitors to Saint Florian Abbey on the Saturday of the festival. There, the abbot himself, the curator and the organist of the abbey will lead you through the sacred buildings. The tour ” Power Places ” with Abbot General Johann Holzinger shows the oratory and the crypt, he explains which of the numerous rooms of the monastery have special meaning in the life of the congregation. Collegiate organist and cantor Klaus Sonnleitner presents the heart of Saint Florian – the great organ of the basilica – which inspired even Anton Bruckner. And last but not least, custodian Harald R. Ehrl leads us through the library with its colourful baroque “sky”.

WE GUIDE YOU, photo: vog.photo

Besides Spotlight and Experts Tours there is a third focus – the Community Parcours. So, what does this mean and who is leading whom?

Sonja Schachinger: The Community Parcours connects local and international communities. On 7 and 8 September, the festival invites you to free guided tours in Bulgarian, Greek, Austrian Sign Language, Persian, Russian, Spanish, Czech, Turkish, Easy Language and an inclusive parcours. Guided tours in languages such as Arabic or Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, which were well attended two years ago, have now changed to tours in German as a foreign language or English. We have therefore added new languages such as Czech and Greek to our program in order to address these communities as well.

It is important to me to emphasize that all tours focus on dialogue with the group and responding to questions and impressions. The festival is huge and we want everyone to have a lot of fun and a wonderful time together. The entire work of the team is based on being the best communication platform for art, technology and society, as well as on communicating the joy of a common future.

Community Parcours, photo: Tom Mesic

Sonja Schachinger studied “Media Art Histories” at the Department for Image Science at the Danube University Krems. She has many years of international exhibition experience and has already worked for the Atelier Victoria Coeln, the Atelier Lucas Zallmann, the BIO-FICTION Festival, Sonja Bäumel and the #TullnART exhibition. Her focus is on the field of digital and multimedia art mediation, in this field she has already worked for the Kunstmeile Krems, the Mauthausen Committee Austria and the spell GmbH. For the Ars Electronica Festival, she will be directing the mediation format WE GUIDE YOU for the third time.

Full details and an overview of all WE GUIDE YOU Tours—the Spotlight Tours, the various Expert Tours and the free-of-charge Community Parcours—are on our website.

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