This was Ars Electronica Futurelab’s Birthday Party

On its anniversary on September 9, the Ars Electronica Futurelab celebrated the lab's visionaries. With talks and discussions, guided tours and performances - and lots of new ideas for the future.

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So much has happened in the Ars Electronica think and do tank since it began in 1996. The way it reacts directly to changing times has made the lab what it is today: a place to develop prototypes for the future. New people with unconventional ideas and experiences have created a wide variety of new perspectives on the principle of innovation. And they keep bringing new approaches, methods and technologies into the lab’s system to keep up with constant change. Only one thing has remained the same over all these years: A common mindset that unites the team and inspires them to develop their own individuality, to critically question the familiar and to constantly reflect on the status quo to overcome boundaries and reinvent the future. With a clearly defined goal: technological progress must be in the service of life on this planet. Art serves as a compass for the Alchemists of the Future — and as an important source of inspiration. So on its 25th birthday, September 9, 2021, the lab celebrated one thing above all: the people who have committed to this challenge; both as individuals and as part of an international, interdisciplinary community.

Morning Inspirations – Inspiring the world together

The pandemic as well as the climate crisis and the digital transformation have brought one thing home to us: Changes are coming to our society and our daily lives and there are no easy answers to the open questions. And yet it is high time to act, because the call for change is louder than ever.
With its experience in developing prototypes of the future, the Lab makes a valuable contribution in the search for inspiration; with the help of a tried-and-tested concept: Art Thinking is the thought experiment lived daily in the Ars Electronica Lab — a promising combination of art, creativity and collaboration.
Transcending geographical, cultural, economic and even disciplinary boundaries, the Lab offered a wide-ranging discourse with Morning Inspirations on September 9. Former and current Ars Electronica Futurelab staffers, international guests and partners, and the students who had traveled from 43 nations as part of the Festival University took part in the event in person in the Ars Electronica Center’s crowded Skyloft, or attended remotely. The response from participants from a wide variety of nations was overwhelming, and their different perspectives on today’s big questions became part of the program.

Afternoon Experiences – Developing sketches of the future

Later, the lab team invited participants to spend some time with future perspectives and innovation in Afternoon Experiences: from personal conversations and encounters to guided journeys to interactive experiences in the hybrid exhibition Alchemists of the Future, which presents the innovative approaches using works from the lab. Visitors had a chance to embark on an unusual journey into the future.

Night Performances – Shaping change through art

A highlight of the extensive program was the Night Performances in Deep Space 8K. Visuals based on the sound, electric noise from the artists’ render engines and deep neural networks bathed the packed Deep Space in a charged atmosphere on the evening of September 9. Lots of guests — partners and former employees of the Lab — celebrated this very special day together with the Ars Electronica Futurelab team.

Read more about the Ars Electronica Futurelab‘s milestones and stumbling blocks on its path to the future and the Art Thinking philosophy of the interdisciplinary team – in a book recently published in collaboration with author and curator Andreas J. Hirsch. Get to know the Future Alchemists and the background to their research at the boundary between art, technology and society – in an extraordinary video series created on the occasion of the lab’s 25th anniversary. Or visit the hybrid exhibition Alchemists of the Future in the Ars Electronica Center or also online. A brief preview is provided by Hideaki Ogawa with a video tour of the exhibits.

Translation: Laura Freeburn