Future means to constantly challenge, envision and create

Human interaction with technology determines the very aspect of the future that the Ars Electronica Futurelab has been focusing on for 25 years now. And this fundamental fact distinguishes it from the broad range of topics that future sciences in general are researching on. The inherent urge for change describes the laboratory, which artistically deals with the technological transformation of the society day by day. The ensuing diversity is a result of the constant change of expectations in the future.

In order to design a contemporary perspective for our society, existing technologies are being used for creating innovative constructs and sketching possible future visions that are always extended by a practical experience. By making abstract concepts tangible, they become part of reality. And this kind of verification or falsification of new theoretical perspectives is a key task for any laboratory.

“The only thing you can create is the future. Anything else is already created.
And it will be created based on your decisions.”

Horst Hörtner

Our decisions of today create the future of tomorrow. And questioning them is a contribution to shaping the world. This process requires information sharing and interest in the technological or political environment, which is why the Ars Electronica excels in offering opportunities to reflect — much more than any educational system does. It is reflection per se that leads to a comprehensive cultural education. The future is a result of creativity, passion and opportunities, and the unconscious exchange of ideas of responsibility. Questions, asked to the audience, are close to the future. These questions are a fundamental part of the role of the Ars Electronica Futurelab’s art: It observes and discusses, reflects and changes—day by day.

Credits from top left to bottom right: Michael Mayr | Rubra | Florian Voggeneder | Florian Voggeneder


R&D division for embodying Ars Electronica thinking

Since its formation in 1996 as part of the Ars Electronica ecosystem, the Ars Electronica Futurelab has addressed a broad variety of topics, continuously pushing itself out of its own comfort zone with a history in media art. Initially a driving force in the production of interactive installations for the Ars Electronica Center’s exhibitions, the Ars Electronica Futurelab very soon found itself exploring much deeper waters, always adding a deeper level of meaning to its work:

Centering its research around the interaction of humans with technology and making their implications for society visible and tangible by using means of art was and today still is a vital part of any of Ars Electronica Futurelab’s undertakings. As a laboratory and atelier for future systems it plays a pivotal role in the Ars Electronica Universe by contributing fundamental research on and projects about future scenarios for future societies and inviting members of these societies to discuss and reflect on such future concepts.

In 2021, the Ars Electronica Futurelab celebrated its 25th anniversary. This year was held as a tribute to all people and partners who made the Ars Electronica Futurelab’s existence possible and all the many, necessary, changes experienced throughout its history. It is these people and these changes that cause a constant rethinking and reflecting on the role as a laboratory and atelier for future systems in this ever-changing world. And while its research focus very likely will change due to society’s needs, one thing is for sure: The Ars Electronica Futurelab will keep on creating the future and finding new approaches to interesting and socially relevant research questions with all possible expressions and answers.

Credit: Philipp Greindl


A do-tank for the future

The Ars Electronica Futurelab regularly opens its participation processes to external players, especially as part of its initiatives: The Ars Electronica Futurelab Residency Program serves as a haven for international guests and shows a strong responsibility to share fundamental knowledge and innovative ideas. In formats such as the Ars Electronica Futurelab Academy, members try to pass on value systems to external talents while supporting them with their broad networking system. The Ars Electronica Futurelab Ideas Expedition aims to encourage people to rethink the future and implement their concepts for an upcoming world. Ars Electronica’s Japanese counterpart, Ars Electronica Japan, is extending the network beyond the borders of continents.

You have the same vision?