Ars Electronica Solutions Says “Austria Makes Sense”

Austria@Expo Dubai: The Austrian Pavilion on YouTube
Ars Electronica Solutions
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Ars Electronica Blog

(Linz, 30.9.2021) Tomorrow — Friday, October 1, 2021 — Expo will kick off in Dubai. A total of 192 nations will be participating in the first-ever world’s fair held in an Arab country, presenting their visions of the future on this prestigious stage. Austria will be there too with a prominent pavilion that rejects the “higher-faster-further” approach, instead linking tradition and modernity in a way that contributes to the future viability of our society. Under the motto “Austria makes Sense,” querkraft, Ars Electronica Solutions, bleed and büro wien show that sustainability isn’t a technological problem engineers can solve for us — it can only be achieved through a societal transformation that includes empathy for our environment. The “Austria Pavilion” was commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Austria for Digital and Economic Affairs and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.

Old knowledge meets new methods …
The pavilion, designed by the Austrian architect team querkraft, is composed of a number of intersecting cones. Each of the cones is cut at a different height, creating openings of different sizes for light and ventilation. The result is an interior flooded with natural light that cools itself by means of a chimney effect. “We were convinced from the start that we would only get through to visitors if we appealed to their emotions,” says Gerd Erhartt, querkraft. “So the pavilion is designed to be a place of tranquility that appeals to all the senses.” By combining a very old Middle Eastern building tradition with intelligent engineering from Austria, the architects have created a functional building that not only saves resources in its construction and operation, but can also be dismantled after the Expo, set up again somewhere else, and put to further use. “’Austria makes Sense’ is an invitation to a sensual experience on the one hand, but on the other hand it demonstrates Austria’s competence in the cultural, technological, scientific and economic fields.”

… and art creates experiences for all the senses
Inside the “Austria Pavilion,” two things in particular immediately stand out: There isn’t a single screen or text here. With several interactive, artistic projects, this experiential space — which is free of writing but by no means speechless — appeals to all the senses of its visitors. The focus is never on technology, but always on us humans and our future. “We’re creating a multidimensional image that doesn’t seek to persuade visitors argumentatively, but rather to involve them emotionally, and in doing so we’re relying specifically on media technology innovations from Austria,” says Michael Mondria, Managing Director of Ars Electronica Solutions. “Through the symbiosis of artistic innovation and complex media technology, we create a beauty and elegance that unfold with their own distinctive effects,” continues Chris Bruckmayr, Head of Products & Events at Ars Electronica Solutions.

A specially developed intercultural visual language runs through the entire pavilion like a common thread, guiding visitors from one station to the next. Instead of the usual info texts, facts and figures, recessed symbols adorn the mud walls and are brought to life as pictograms and animations using dynamic projections.

Florian Berger of the Ars Electronica Futurelab uses a poetic visualization to show how the pavilion’s cooling effect works. His interactive and dynamic visualization “Airflow” shows the air currents that can be felt on site.

There are also three “Soundcones” in the pavilion. There you can hear pieces of world-famous music from Austria — such as the leitmotif of Schubert’s 9th Symphony — overlaid and interwoven with sounds from nature, culture and industry. “Bringing an interpretation of the Austrian musical tradition to the Arab region and interweaving it here with the local culture and landscape was a fascinating task,” says composer and musician Rupert Huber. “My interactive composition is based on establishing the right frequency and tonality via the spatial dimensions. Tones and sounds should create an ephemeral space that visitors can explore acoustically.”

Meanwhile, “The magic of sand” is the focus of the robotic installation developed in cooperation with the UnterlassLAB of the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). Here, as if controlled by a ghostly hand, a steel ball draws its circles and draws patterns in the sand that are as complex as they are beautiful; scanning electron microscopes also provide fascinating insights into the nature of what is by far the most important building material in the world.

And then there is “Heartbeat,” an interactive installation that makes it clear that despite all cultural, religious, ideological and ethnic differences, there is much more that unites us than divides us. Using a special interface, the visitor’s pulse is measured and becomes the input for a Chladni figure. Visitor by visitor, pulse by pulse, an archive is created that can be visualized like the annual growth rings of a tree.

For Michaela Fragner, project manager at Ars Electronica Solutions, it’s certain that the Austrian contingent will cause a sensation at the Expo. In addition to the unique architecture and the unusual artistic-didactic concept, she sees the intensive involvement of many Austrian companies as mark of the pavilion’s quality. “Because so many very different companies from Austria have contributed, a truly impressive picture of the diversity and dynamism of Austrian innovative strength has emerged,” she says. “A total of 53 Austrian companies will be presenting their prototypes and visions relating to digitization, sustainability, the energy transition, the circular economy or mobility in the ‘iLab’ of the Austria Pavilion.”

“It’s interesting that we in Austria are on the one hand very tradition-conscious and on the other hand deeply engaged in innovation, digitalization and sustainability,” says Chris Bruckmayr. “The fact that the combination of tradition and modernity could promote precisely the integrative social change that we need for the 21st century is one of the central messages of our pavilion,” says Michael Mondria, who is already looking forward to the opening.

Austria@Expo Dubai: The Austrian Pavilion / Foto: Sarah Katharina Photography / Printversion

Austria@Expo Dubai: The Austrian Pavilion / Foto: Sarah Katharina Photography / Printversion

Austria@Expo Dubai: The Austrian Pavilion / Foto: Sarah Katharina Photography / Printversion