Who owns the truth? – this question is the starting point of the Ars Electronica Festival 2023, and it raises numerous others: What even is truth? Who determines truth? How do we deal with truth? Finding clear answers to these questions is difficult, almost impossible. And yet, especially in a time when information is disseminated online, AI systems are rapidly establishing themselves, and the line between true and false is becoming increasingly blurred, it is essential to think about truth and its significance for our world, our future. This is precisely where not only numerous projects but above all the conferences during the Ars Electronica Festival set in. And who knows, maybe we’ll be able to answer some questions together during the festival days. In any case, visitors can be sure of new perspectives, innovative ideas and inspiring approaches.
The basis of any search for truth – whether in everyday life or in science – is education. Only by educating ourselves can we try to keep up with the rapid pace of change in all areas of life. For this reason, the first day of the festival, Wednesday 06.09.2023, is themed Education Day. The Symposium Perspektiven Politische Bildung (Symposium Perspectives on Political Education), a cooperative venture between the Arbeiterkammer OÖ (Upper Austrian Chamber of Labor), the Pädagogische Hochschule OÖ (Upper Austrian University of Education) and Ars Electronica, will this year thematize the reaction of young people in particular to the social and political situation under the title Kleber. Unüberwindbare Konflikte oder sozialer Zusammenhalt (Glue. Insurmountable Conflicts or Social Cohesion) – apathy and fatalism or protest and provocation? The complex distribution of tasks in the areas of climate policy developments, digital education and new social participation structures will be discussed. The program includes keynotes by Barbara Blaha and Knut Cordsen, workshops, panel discussions, lectures and the presentation of a project by young people on the topic of the symposium.
The first conference day also marks the start of a new university: the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria (IDSA). Inspired by a joint keynote by students of the IDSA x Ars Electronica FOUNDING LAB Summer School, fellows, students and experts will discuss visions for the new university with the IDSA’s Founding Rector and Founding Convent. Speakers include the fellows Vladan Joler, founder of the SHARE Foundation who we already know because of his work Anatomy of an AI System, and Sarah Kriesche, journalist for the Austrian public radio station Ö1, as well as Ross Parry, Professor of Museum Technology at the University of Leicester, who was named by the Education Foundation as one of the fifty most influential people in education and technology in the UK.
Only with the necessary knowledge can we subsequently become innovative. On Thursday, S+T+Arts Day, innovation – especially the groundbreaking alliance between science, technology and art – will be brought into focus. The Theme Symposium that will accompany us for the next three days of the festival, highlighting different critical approaches to the relationship between truth and interpretive sovereignty, will be titled The Next Renaissance on this day. While the acceleration of technological and social developments often leads to conflicting values and priorities, the S+T+Arts Conference aims to address the possibility of a paradigm shift and a responsible innovation structure. In collaboration with EUMETA, CultTech Association and EIT Culture & Creativity, the program brings together personalities such as Frederike Kaltheuner, Director of the European AI Fund; Deb Roy, Director of the MIT Center for Constructive Communication as well as Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School; Bernd Fesel, Chief Executive Officer of EIT Culture & Creativity; Hito Steyerl, German filmmaker and author who was the first woman to top the Power100 list as an influential player in the international arts community; as well as journalist and data scientist Karen Hao, known for her coverage of AI research and co-producer of the podcast In Machines We Trust. Talks will include projects that balance innovation with data transparency and sovereignty, the role of AI in changes to the European legal and business framework for the creative and cultural sectors, and the status quo of European AI structures.
Artistic innovation will also be addressed in the State of the ART(ist) panel discussions. In the first part, the awarded artists will talk about artistic freedom together with juror Leila Nachawati Rego (ES/SY) and Christoph Thun-Hohenstein (AT), Head of Section International Cultural Affairs of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. Later the ecological collapse and art, as a way to explore alternative relationships between human, natural and technological world, will be discussed with the support of juror Marita Muukkonen (FI). Finally, Klara Kostal from the Austrian UNESCO Commission will give an introduction to the UNESCO Defending Creative Voices Report. More on State of the ART(ist) can be read in this blog.
Through education and innovation, visions of the future in our minds are emerging with increasing clarity. Innovations and ideas should be implemented with holistic thinking that perceives us as just part of the ecosystem that needs to be preserved. (Un)Earthing the Truth: Ownership and Narratives about the Planet, the Theme Conference of the More-than-Planet initiative on saturday, taps into this very idea. Commercial astronaut, geology professor, artist, author and major in the Civil Air Patrol Sian Proctor, Kenyan ecologist Mordecai Ogada, who works on conservation policy and practice, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, whose art has been exhibited in museums such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, Aina Abiodun, founder in the field of climate technology and the first black woman to head a venture capital-funded technology company in Germany, and numerous other artists, scientists, researchers and economists discuss truth as an economic object. A parallel is drawn between ownership of nature and nature of ownership, and a balance between market ideologies and the environment ist envisioned.
If we now seem to have the future, the truth, in front of us, there’s still one step missing: we have to accept it. Dare-the-Truth-Day is the name of the Saturday of the Ars Electronica Festival 2023, and with the Theme Conference under the motto End of Truth? the focus lies on the effects of AI on democracy and information networks. Are fake news and deep fakes obscuring access to the truth? And how does that affect our public relationship to truth? Joining the discussion on the final day of the Theme Symposium, supported by the European Digital Deal, are Sarah E. Kreps, an American political scientist, United States Air Force veteran and member of the Council on Foreign Relations; researcher and writer Nina Jankowicz, who has written, for example, about Russia’s use of disinformation as a geopolitical strategy; and Taiwanese Digital Minister Audrey Tang, among others. Those who want to try out how for example a text-to-image software works can pay a visit to the Prompt Battle, hosted by Florian A. Schmidt (DE) and Sebastian Schmieg (DE), professors at HTW Dresden. The winner will be the one who elicits the most surprising, disturbing or beautiful images from the program.
Prix Ars Electronica Day
Above all this and closing the festival is art as a way to express thoughts, ideas and feelings – from hope to fear, today and in the future. Sunday, as in past years, will be the Prix Ars Electronica Day. The Prix Forum starts already on Saturday with the category New Animation Art and brings together artists who have received a Golden Nica or an Award of Distinction to talk about their works, their motivation and the artistic practice in the context of contemporary challenges. In the New Animation Art category, Ayoung Kim (KR), winner of the Golden Nica for Delivery Dancer’s Sphere, Bassam Issa (IE) of IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! TAKE THIS and SANGHEE (KR) of Oneroom-Babel will be represented. On Sunday, the Artificial Intelligence & Life Art section follows featuring Winnie Soon (HK/UK), winner of the Golden Nica for Unerasable Characters Series, Adam Brown (US) of Shadows from the Walls of Death, and Oron Catts (AU) and Steve Berrick (AU) of 3SDC Project (Sunlight, Soil & Shit (De)Cycle). Lastly, Digital Musics & Sound Art includes Juan Cortés (CO) of Atractor Estudio, winner of the Golden Nica for A Tale of Two Seeds: Sound and Silence in Latin America’s Andean Plains, Alba Triana (CO) of Harmonic Motion and Julia Jasmin Rommel (DE) of zwischenraum-interspace-acoustic cartography.
Following these sessions, individuals from different disciplines, countries, and experiences will come together at Re-build Together: Digital, human and arts-driven innovation in Africa. This conversation will address the role of digital, human and arts-driven innovation in Africa to thematize the possibility of reshaping the development of our countries and continents. Attempts will be made to identify areas for increased and equal cooperation between Europe and Africa, and all visitors are invited to join the discussion as well.