Prix Ars Electronica: The Winners 2013

Prix Ars Electronica 2013:
4.071 Submissions from 73 Countries

(Linz, May 16, 2013) A total of 4,071 entries from 73 countries were submitted for prize consideration to the 2013 Prix Ars Electronica. This year’s Golden Nica grand prizes go to artists from Canada, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium and Austria. The [the next idea] Grant goes to visionaries from Brazil, USA, Israel. The Digital Musics & Sound Art category received the most entries (848), followed by Computer Animation / Film / VFX (775), Interactive Art (672), u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD (652), Hybrid Art (568), Digital Communities (400) and [the next idea] voestalpine Art and Technology Grant (156). The prizewinners will be honored at the Ars Electronica Gala on September 6, 2013 at the Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria.

Seven Competition Categories

Launched in 1987, the Prix Ars Electronica is the acknowledged trend barometer in the international media art scene. Each year, juries composed of well-known experts single out outstanding work for recognition and honor their creators with Golden Nicas, the “Oscars of media art.” The competition’s seven categories celebrate the vibrant diversity of contemporary media art: COMPUTER ANIMATION / FILM / VFX, DIGITAL MUSICS & SOUND ART, INTERACTIVE ART, HYBRID ART, DIGITAL COMMUNITIES, [THE NEXT IDEA] voestalpine ART AND TECHNOLOGY GRANT and the u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD category for Austrian young people.

Partners and Sponsors

The Prix Ars Electronica is produced by Ars Electronica Linz and the ORF – Austrian Broadcasting Company’s Upper Austria Regional Studio. Cooperating partners are Brucknerhaus Linz and the OK Center for Contemporary Art. The Prix Ars Electronica is supported by the City of Linz and the Province of Upper Austria. Lead sponsor is voestalpine, the donor of a grant to foster the development of visionary ideas. Additional sponsors are Liwest Kabelmedien GmbH, KulturKontakt Austria, Casinos Austria, and LINZ AG.

Prix Ars Electronica 2013 – Golden Nicas

Computer Animation Film VFX
Memo Akten (Memo Akten), Davide Quagliola (Quayola): Forms

“Forms” is a project by visual artists Quayola and Memo Akten. The visually impressive animation is a study of the sequences of movements of high-performance athletes in action. The artists filmed swimmers, divers, pole vaulters and gymnasts while they were competing in meets, analyzed their movements and body language, and translated the results into abstract, three-dimensional sculptures made of sticks, spirals, blocks and balls. Their sequential motions—folding and unfolding, darting, rotating—are accompanied by metallic clicks and crunches that further intensify the impression of movement.

Digital Musics & Sound Art
Nicolas Bernier (CA): frequencies (a)

Nicolas Bernier’s sound performance “frequencies (a)” resonates with the perfect interplay of a conventional medium, digital sounds and light. Along a glass workbench, the artist has installed a series of tuning forks with a computer-controlled solenoid valve immediately adjacent to each one. The entire setup is in black and white, thus exuding a sterility suggestive of a scientific laboratory—one in which Nicolas Bernier mixes the ingredients of his sound experiment. Depending on which sequences he sends via computer to the valves, they impart precisely timed strikes to the tuning forks. The result is a vibrating tonal tapestry synchronized with a light installation that immerses the entire configuration alternately in total darkness and glaring white light.

Interactive Art
Michel Décosterd (Cod.Act), André Décosterd (Cod.Act): Pendulum Choir

Michel and André Décosterd’s “Pendulum Choir” is a live performance that interprets the process of breathing and the functioning of the lungs associated with it in a way that’s as unusual as it is vivid. The chief protagonists are nine singers dressed in black and perched on hydraulic, metal stilts. Each of these star-shaped human-machine units represents a pulmonary alveolus, one of the lungs’ air sacs the body uses to take in oxygen. The chorus’ performance consists of “singing” the act of breathing—that is, giving acoustic impressions of inhaling air, extracting oxygen and exhaling. The singers’ movements on their one-meter-tall stilts are synchronized with their archaic vocalizations—springing forward and back, tilting to one side and then the other. In some phases, this proceeds in harmony, with all singing and moving as if part of a single organism. Then chaos seems to erupt, as one performer sings in opposition to the others and the machines break out from their previous formation. The music correspondingly shifts among abstract, repetitive, lyrical and narrative passages, while the human bodies strapped to their hydraulic platforms alternately obey the dictates of gravity and strive to defy it. The entire scene repeatedly resembles a bizarre ritual, coming across like an abstract journey from the first breath to the last.

Hybrid Art
Koen Vanmechelen: The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project

Koen Vanmechelen launched his “Cosmopolitan Chicken Project” in 1999. The name of this extraordinary undertaking says it all: Breeding the ultimate international chicken, one that carries the genetic information of all chicken populations worldwide. This hen, like no other, represents the globalization of our world and symbolizes the permanent intermixture of ethnic groups and cultures. And serves as living proof that species do indeed exist but there are no races. Koen Vanmechelen also brings out in no uncertain terms the tremendous cultural implications of our intervention into the breeding of plants, animals and, ultimately, human beings. One apparent example is the French chicken population that, in the wake of long years of breeding, now features red combs, white bodies and blue feet and thus a patriotic outfit that evidently appeals to consumers there. Silkie the Chicken, on the other hand, is clearly Made in China. In any case, it’s interesting to note that the diversity of a chicken’s genetic information correlates with its life expectancy, health and aggressiveness. Bearing in mind that some human-bred chicken populations have ended up in a biological cul-de-sac due to universal infertility makes it easy to understand Koen Vanmechelen’s conclusion: Genetic diversity is essential to survival. And not only for chickens; for human beings too. With his “Cosmopolitan Chicken Project,” Koen Vanmechelen addresses a whole series of sensitive issues—including the technical feasibility, reasonableness and ethical tenability of biotechnology and genetic engineering, as well as the identities of our multicultural and multiethnic societies and of ourselves as individuals. In order to get across all that this encompasses, he employs an impressive array of formats and media. Photos, videos and custom-made, jumbo-size graphics detailing his poultry’s highly brachiated family trees serve as documentation and decor at his exhibitions, workshops and speeches. Prix Ars Electronica jurors Andrea Grover (US), Arthur I. Miller (UK), Jens Hauser (DE/FR), Jurij Krpan (SI) and Karin Ohlenschläger (DE/ES) chose Koen Vanmechelen as the recipient of this year’s Golden Nica.

Digital Communities
El Campo de Cebada by Manuel Pascual García

El Campo de Cebada is a plaza in La Latina, a historic quarter in the center of Madrid. And a web platform that transparently documents what’s been going on there since 2010. It all began that year with a citizens’ initiative. But actually much earlier—back in the 1960s, when Madrid’s municipal government decided to replace the market stalls that had long been fixtures on El Campo de Cebada with a large market hall and to put up a sports complex next to it. In the early 21st century, both facilities were modernized, and management of them privatized. Nevertheless, due to the global recession and its massive impact on life in Spain, the sports complex was closed and torn down in 2009. What went up to replace it: nada! For over a year, this plaza in the heart of a historic old city was a vacant lot. Until it became the temporary venue of a cultural initiative named La Noche en Blanco—to the delight of its La Latina neighbors, who then proceeded to get organized and get the El Campo de Cebada project moving. First, they set up a website to gather ideas for the future use of the parcel. They then established contact with the city administration, which ultimately gave their project the go-ahead. Since then, El Campo de Cebada has hosted theater performances and film screenings, readings, athletic events, workshops and courses; fruits and vegetables grow there; there’s even a pool in summer. All of these activities have been planned and organized at meetings open to the public; and at every meeting, minutes are taken and subsequently posted on the internet. Everyone is called upon to participate: contributing ideas and points of view in person or online; helping to arrive at decisions and implement them. In all of these projects, it’s the proposed function that determines form and not vice-versa, a principle that—along with transparency and an open data policy—has contributed mightily to this initiative’s success. Here, nothing is dictated by the powers that be or by appointed ad hoc committees whose determinations are then of little or no use on site. Everything that’s developed here is the upshot of what people actually want. The transparency and openness with which all these activities are planned, discussed, tweaked, decided and carried out by human beings interacting in person and online exemplify best practice by a successful (digital) community in 2013.

u19 – Create Your World
Dominik Koller: Visual:Drumset

“Visual:Drumset” makes it possible to visualize drumbeats—and to do it right on the drumhead itself. It’s done by vibration sensors and special projectors mounted on the underside of the drums. First, a sensor registers which drum in the set was struck. This information is then fed into an Arduino circuit board and forwarded to a computer, where the user can orchestrate the colors, forms and effects of the visuals that’ll be projected onto each drum’s surface. Incidentally: a corresponding Android app does the same thing. With his “Visual:Drumset,” 17-year-old Dominik Koller has come up with an interactive, visual playing experience that’s enjoyable by drummers as well as audience members.

Marcelo Coelho (BR), Skylar Tibbits (US), Natan Linder (IL), Yoav Reches (IL): Hyperform

The so-called Makers Revolution has only just broken out, and Marcelo Coelho & Co. are already revolutionizing it by introducing Hyperform. The point of departure of this launch is the fact that increasingly user-friendly software tools and ever-more-reasonably priced 3-D printers give a growing number of people the opportunity to design and produce their own creations. Of course, there’s a caveat: The size of the object is rather limited. So this is precisely where the “next idea” that Marcelo Coelho, Skylar Tibbits, Natan Linder and Yoav Reches have come up with comes into play. In order to maximize the size of printed-out objects, they want to develop (with support from the Ars Electronica Futurelab) a procedure that makes it possible to enhance the three dimensions now prevailing in the print-out process by adding a fourth dimension: Time. Accordingly, the objects produced by such “4-D prints” don’t assume their final form during the print-out itself but rather only a bit later. Initially, they’re merely “endowed” with how they’ll eventually come to appear.

Prix Ars Electronica 2013 – Awards of Distinction

Computer Animation / Film / VFX
Duku Spacemarines / La Mécanique du Plastique (FR)

“Duku Spacemarines” by La Mécanique du Plastique is a four-minute animated short that’s a pastiche of various typical Hollywood movie plots. The narrator’s voice accompanies the action, an odd and seemingly spontaneous assortment of twists and turns. Thus, a Chinese hacker out to cripple America suddenly turns into a Czech guy who, in the middle of a Fight Club-type brawl, morphs into a gamecock. Then it—or he, actually—is rushed to a hospital emergency room, though when he regains consciousness, it turns out he’s in a supermarket. The grand finale takes us to Washington D.C. where, as if the killer earthquake wasn’t worrisome enough, there’s also an alien attack in progress.

Computer Animation / Film / VFX
Oh Willy / Emma De Swaef (BE), Marc James Roels (BE) / Beast Animation

A guy in his mid-50s named Willy visits his sick mother, who still lives in the nudist colony in which he grew up. Overcome by grief after her death, he thinks back to his childhood, finally finding maternal devotion and comfort in the arms of a hairy monster. “Oh Willy” is a touching stop-motion animated film featuring characters lovingly crafted out of wool.

Digital Musics & Sound Art
Borderlands Granular / Chris Carlson (US)

“Borderlands Granular” is a sort of musical instrument that lets iPad and desktop computer users to explore, play and transform sounds via an innovative interface for granular synthesis. The samples aren’t played back in conventional fashion, but rather in so-called grains, small fragments of sound from 1 to 50 milliseconds. These grains can be superimposed on one another, and their volume, speed, phase and pitch can be modified when they’re played back.

Digital Musics & Sound Art
SjQ++ (JP)

“SjQ++” is an audiovisual project that was launched in 2012 in Kyoto. The interaction of six musicians is visualized and, depending of each one’s respective sound, projected onto the group’s bodies or a screen behind them. These animated visuals can, in turn, induce the individual musicians to cooperate or to compete with one another. The sounds and visuals of “SjQ++” are perfectly synchronized and reciprocally influence each other.

Interactive Art
Rain Room / rAndom International

The artists group rAndom International has created an installation entitled “Rain Room” that produces artificial rain in a 100-m2 space. The trick is that installation visitors—even those without rain gear to protect them—don’t get wet. This is made possible by 3-D cameras that monitor the entire venue. They constantly gather information about the precise location of every visitor in the installation space and transmit it to the water jets mounted on the space’s ceiling—and thus specify where it shouldn’t rain for the time being.

Interactive Art
Voices of Aliveness / Masaki Fujihata (JP)

Masaki Fujihata invites people to go on a cycling tour along a specially prepared path, the so-called shouting circuit. The bikes provided for this purpose are all equipped with a GPS device and a video camera. The participants are requested to shout as loud as they can during the ride. Their tours are recorded and put online in the form of ring-shaped graphics. Thus, a documented trip through space and time emerges ring by ring.

Hybrid Art

“Five Variations of Phonic Circumstances and a Pause,” a work by Mexican artist Tania Candiani on exhibit at the Laboratorio de Arte Alameda in Mexico City, includes six machines that deal with sound, language and various dimensions of acoustic experience. The machines interpret sounds—for instance, noises, texts being read aloud, storytelling, murmurs, secrets and music—translate them, transform them into text and code.

Hybrid Art
Mycotecture / Philip Ross (US)

American artist Philip Ross began in the early 1990s to work on sculptures that consist entirely of living fungi. To make them, small pieces of mushroom tissue are introduced into a cellulose-based medium such as sawdust, which the living organisms eagerly devour and also use as a framework on which to grow. Within a week, this solidifies into a mass of interlocking cells. Like plaster or cement, mushrooms can be cast into almost any shape. Once they’re dry, the artist has building blocks made of a very light, stable material at his disposal. In addition to an organic teahouse for an exhibition in Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Philip Ross has designed a line of fungus-based furniture.

Digital Communities
Refugees United

Refugees United is the world’s first online databank that enables refugees to search for missing family members and friends. It’s up to each user to decide what and how much personal information to reveal in going about this, and anyone who wants to remain anonymous is free to do so. Such individuals can nevertheless be (re)located on the basis of details known only by their next of kin or close friends. As a non-profit organization, Refugees United’s platform can be used free of charge.

Digital Communities
Visualizing Palestine (PS)

The Visualizing Palestine homepage features graphics having to do with aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The mission: to use creative forms of representation to give an objective account of the history of Israel and Palestine. To accomplish this, several teams were each assigned a different task. They identified current issues and topics, performed research and analysis, and finally transformed the results into highly expressive images and graphics.

Destino/ facebook/ BluCar/ Nur Kreide (Only Chalk) / Isidor Dietrich (AT)

Isidor Dietrich, a native of Lower Austria, is one of this year’s Award of Distinction recipients in the u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD category. He’s being honored for a collection of four stop-motion animated films he created using AfterEffects and Final Cut. His movies are about auto races, dolls that interact on Facebook, a chalk figure that comes to life, and a toy car that runs amok while the lady of the house is out shopping.

Soilution – Erde mit Zukunft / HLFS Ursprung (AT)

A fascinating speech about terra preta, very fertile black soil from the Amazon Basin, inspired this class at Ursprung High School for Agriculture and Forestry to initiate this project entitled Soilution – Earth with a Future. In cooperation with a Bavarian firm, they developed a carbon-rich garden soil modeled on terra preta, and the students then set up their own company to market this product to environmentalist gardeners. What’s so special about this soil is that it contains organic coal, which binds carbon that would otherwise end up in the Earth’s atmosphere in the form of CO2.

u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD (Merchandise Prize u10)
Lernprogramme für die Volksschule / Sasan Hoseini, Arian Hoseini (AT)

Sasan and Arian Hoseini, brothers living in Vienna, attended a programming course for kids to learn to program Lego games. This, in turn, gave them the idea to write learning programs for themselves and other elementary school pupils. So far, they’ve written learning software for multiplication, division and subtraction.

u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD (Merchandise Prize u14)
Feldversuche / Florian Bührle (AT)

Florian Bührle, a 14-year-old from Vorarlberg, is being honored for his animated work entitled “Field Trials.” He has cubes dancing to his movie’s music, falling to the ground and breaking apart. This talented young man also composed the soundtrack.

Press Release “Prix Ars Electronica: The Winners 2013”

Further information, interviews with members of the jury, the people in charge of the Prix Ars Electronica as well as interviews with the winners will be posted on the Ars Electronica Blog on a regular basis.


Pendulum Choir / Xavier Voirol / Printversion / Image Collection


frequencies (a) / Fracois Laflamme / Printversion / Image Collection


Rain Room / rAndom International / Printversion / Image Collection
Forms / Memo Akten, Quayola

SjQ++ / SjQ++
Voices of Aliveness / Masaki Fujihata

The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project / Koen vanMechelen