September 2021: What we have all been waiting for

festival_impression_2000x1000-min, Ars Electronica Festival 2021, photo: Ars Electronica / Martin Hieslmair

It will take place, what all departments and divisions, all employees, together with many external partners, have been working towards for months. What we’re looking forward to, last but not least, is that it’s finally here, that Linz is becoming the stomping ground of the international media art scene, that Covid is giving us a brief respite, a little moment of (almost) normality. We mean the das Ars Electronica Festival, of course!

In recent years, however, due to the pandemic, we had to do without many familiar faces or could only welcome them on the screens. We noticed that an online event, even in a digital world, with all the possibilities of technology, is not the same, that we need real encounters and conversations, they make us as people. So we were all the more pleased that this second edition of Ars Electronica 2021 could take place from September 8-12, hybrid, with events in Linz as well as online, with thousands of people participating, with artists and students from all over the world. But at the same time we hope that at some point there will be another opportunity where we can welcome the world physically in Linz.

But let’s start from the beginning, at the beginning of September, there are only a few days left until the festival and episode 13 of Inside Festival gives insights into the final preparations behind the scenes, introduces partners and programs and shows what the online festival has to offer.

But before we really dive into the festival, we don’t want to deprive you of the fact that new formats are also being tinkered with away from the Kepler Gardens: In early September, the Ars Electronica Center hosted the pilot of the Sustainability Thinking Workshop by Ars Electronica Solutions in cooperation with Michael Friedmann (ICT Impact GmbH). This new workshop format encourages people to question their own thinking about sustainability and thus to initiate changes in companies.

BDO Sustainability Thinking Workshop, credit: Ars Electronica / Robert Bauernhansl

But now back to the festival, because it’s about to start. What awaits the audience that can be on site in Linz, this trailer provides a foretaste.

The “Digital Humanists” are also preparing for the festival: In the User Manual for Digital Humanists, Veronika Liebl, Director of European Cooperation, and Kristina Maurer, Head of European Projects, present highlights from the context of the European Platform for Digital Humanism that will be shown at the festival.

Last but not least, our birthday child, the Futurelab, is also preparing for the birthday bash at the Ars Electronica Festival and, in preparation, is taking another look at the past, present and future-and beyond.

1 day to go, 24 hours, then the first physical and virtual locations will open their doors. Reason enough to take one last look over the shoulders of our colleagues to make sure the cables are covered, the artwork is in the right light and the online channels are ready.

…and we’re already on the move: on the eve of the official opening, the Linz locations are inviting us to a pre-opening walk through downtown Linz, and we’re getting our first glimpses of what our schedules and timelines for the coming days will look like.

Day 1: The festival is officialy opened!

„A New Digital Deal” has chosen “Education Day” as its motto for Wednesday – on World Literacy Day. In order to bring about change, we need the ability to act – and in order to acquire this ability, we need education, both in and out of school. By the way, the day’s summaries are always available on the blogin written form, and on Flickr there are photos about photos of the festival.

Thursday is then all about innovation – in a whole series of talks, panels, talks and symposia, experts from art, science and business meet and think ahead. At the same time, the exhibitions will present works that illustrate innovation in the 21st century.

Climate justice, sustainable digitalization, solidarity and care, low-carbon design and education – all important ingredients for a new approach to the challenges of our time. Day 3 is New Digital Deal Day!

Anthropocene, Data Capitalism and Big Tech Monopolies – the Saturday of the Ars Electronica Festival explores the question of how we want to deal with data, how much diversity should prevail in the digital landscape and on what foundations we want to build our society. It’s under the banner of the “Digital Humanism” already mentioned above.

With one laughing and one crying eye we arrived at the Festival Sunday. But the last day of the festival has it all over again. Art Thinking Day puts the spotlight on the artists, especially the Prix Ars Electronica winners.

A very special project within this year’s festival…

…we don’t want to withhold from you: What does it take to initiate real change? What transformation can students initiate for a better future? Tomorrow’s global challenges require a new approach – one based on creativity and co-creation. The Festival University, a joint initiative of Ars Electronica and Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU), invited students from around the world to define transformative strategies together.

Festival University, photo: tom mesic

This new program took a hybrid form, with participants* taking part both online and in person in Linz, Austria, between August 30, 2021 and September 19, 2021. Up to 100 young people from all over the world with different cultural and educational backgrounds came together to explore and define new ways of digital transformation and change. Finally, they themselves presented the results of this first edition of the Festival University:

Phew, after all this program, these demanding and full weeks and months for the whole team, we have to take a short breather. However, we don’t have much time – shortly afterwards, the other departments will continue their work, for example, ESERO Austria will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CanSat competition. Actually, 2020 already marked the anniversary, but with a Corona-related delay, the celebration will only take place this year – and the next competition is already in the starting blocks. The CanSat school project, launched in 2010 and organized in Austria by ESERO Austria, challenges teams of students to build a satellite (Sat) the size of a beverage can (Can). The satellite is launched by a rocket to an altitude of 500 meters and ejected. During the descent back to the ground, the CanSat has to fulfill missions.

Credit: Ars Electronica / Martin Hieslmair

And it’s not only in Linz that there are celebrations, openings and presentations: Ars Electronica is also involved in new things in Vienna. Together with the Natural History Museum Vienna and INSEQ Design, Ars Electronica Futurelab has created Deck 50, a new platform for Citizen Science at the NHM (Natural History Museum). Its purpose is to promote networking and intensive exchange between society and research. On September 30, the innovative, versatile and changeable museum space will open in the tradition-steeped premises on the Ring in Vienna-and immediately invites the entire population to join in.

And psssst, to finish, we give you a little preview of October and a project that has been prepared for a long time and unfortunately also postponed in between: EXPO 2020.

You can find out more about the role of Ars Electronica, pictures of the construction and the development process in next month’s article!