A review of the year 2019 / Part 1 / Part 2
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Ars Electronica Videos on Youtube

(Linz, 6.2.2020)Record attendance at the Museum of the Future and the festival in Linz, tens of thousands of people at the “human (un)limited” exhibition in Beijing, Seoul and Moscow as well as at the “Humanizing Technology” show in Shenzhen. “Our biggest performances in 2019 alone underscore the huge interest in the perspective on art, technology and society developed in Linz,” says Gerfried Stocker, Artistic Director of Ars Electronica. But it’s not just the audience response that’s growing every year; 2019 was also very successful economically. In 2019, the company’s earnings rose by 20.8 percent to 19.7 million euros. In addition, “Ars Electronica International,” the subsidiary responsible for special projects, generated a further 3.3 million Euros-an increase of 2.7 million Euro over 2018. “The main reason for the increase in earnings is our very well-running project business, especially that of the Ars Electronica Futurelab and Ars Electronica Solutions,” says Diethard Schwarzmair, Commercial Director. “In addition, we achieved an all-time high in both the Ars Electronica Center’s ticket sales and the Ars Electronica Festival’s sponsorship and cooperation activities. For Doris Lang-Mayerhofer, Chairwoman of the Ars Electronica Advisory Board, Ars Electronica once again underscores why Linz bears the title of UNESCO City of Media Arts. “Not only as an award for pioneering work in the field of media art and digitalization, but above all for the many initiatives and projects that we’re now driving forward with great success.

The big hit: A new Ars Electronica Center for Linz
In 2019, the Ars Electronica Center registered 192,000 visitors, a record number despite – or because of – the complete redesign of the building. For months, large parts of the Museum were closed and inaccessible due to renovation work. It wasn’t until June 2019 that the entire Ars Electronica Center went back into operation and has since been dedicated to the motto “COMPASS – Navigating the Future”. At the center of the new exhibitions and labs is the current “AI Summer. In a manner typical of Ars Electronica, the hype surrounding AI will be put to the test – what are artificial neural networks actually and how do they work? What can machine learning and the like actually achieve and what can’t? “The great thing about the AI hype is that digitization as a whole is receiving much more critical attention,” says Gerfried Stocker. “In contrast to ‘Industry 4.0’ or ‘Big Data’, ‘Artificial Intelligence’ arouses great curiosity across all age and educational levels. The City of Linz and Ars Electronica have invested 4 million euros in the development and implementation of the “COMPASS – Navigating the Future” concept. “Ars Electronica has contributed 1.5 million euros of this from its own resources,” say Diethard Schwarzmair and Gerfried Stocker. The redesign of the Museum of the Future was completed on schedule and without any cost overruns.

40th Anniversary: Ars Electronica Festival Celebrates Birthday and Records
The year 2019 marked a turning point for the Ars Electronica Festival. After five years in “POSTCITY,” it was time to bid farewell to the spectacular halls, catacombs and roofscapes of the former postal and parcel distribution center. “Never before has a location had such a strong impact on the festival,” says Gerfried Stocker looking back. “POSTCITY has undoubtedly helped establish Ars Electronica as the largest European platform for media art, technology, science and innovation. This is clearly expressed in the balance sheet of the Festival’s most recent and simultaneously 40-year anniversary edition: 1,449 artists and scientists from 45 countries participated in the program – a record number. 548 individual events were held and 501 exhibition exhibits were shown – also a record number. There were 227 guided tours with 2,951 participants in POSTCITY alone – the next record. 16 locations in Linz and the surrounding area were used – more than ever before. 475 cooperation partners and sponsors from all over the world supported Ars Electronica – another record – and 461 media representatives from 38 countries were accredited. And: With 110,000 festival visits, Ars Electronica 2019 also registered an unprecedented public response.

Big appearances: Ars Electronica EXPORT in Beijing, Shenzen, Seoul and Moscow
“human (un)limited” is the title of what is now the second joint exhibition project between Ars Electronica and Hyundai. Since November 2019, artistic projects from China, South Korea and the West have been on show in Beijing, Seoul and Moscow that explore the limits and transgressions of humanity. By December 31, 2019, “human (un)limited” had registered nearly 50,000 visitors; the exhibitions will remain open until February 29, 2020.
Also since November 2019, Ars Electronica has also been presenting a major exhibition in Shenzhen. Under the motto “40 Years of Humanizing Technology – Art, Technology and Society,” this exhibition is about a technological development that focuses on people and their needs. A major part of the exhibition is devoted not least of all to the history of Ars Electronica itself. As of December 31, 2019, the show registered some 30,000 visitors and will run until February 16, 2020.

Significant improvement in profits: Ars Electronica Solutions
An interactive trade show stand for Liebherr, an Innovation Lab for KTM, the major “Global Shift” exhibition for the new Ars Electronica Center, the “Walking Music” interactive installation for the Erste Campus in Vienna, the “Out of Control” exhibitions for the City of Bregenz and “Smart Home – Sweet Home” for AK Salzburg and, last but not least, a complete Deep Space for the Sinaloa Science Center in Mexico – the Ars Electronica Solutions team was not only hard at work in 2019 but also achieved a significant improvement in results.

Project business and research are in full swing: the Ars Electronica Futurelab
The Ars Electronica Futurelab also implemented a whole series of development projects and research activities last year, including a virtual racing track for the new Rotax MAX Dome, interactive scenarios for the new Ars Electronica Center’s major “Understanding AI” exhibition, and a series of other projects, a comprehensive study on future job profiles in an automated mobility environment for the Austrian Road Safety Board, the exhibition “Gestures – Yesterday, Today, The Day After Tomorrow” at the Museum für Kommunikation Berlin and the Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt, and last but not least an internationally acclaimed contribution to “Mahler unfinished”, the major concert night of the 2019 Ars Electronica Festival.

Active all year round in the number 1 technology country: Ars Electronica Japan
Since 2016, the Ars Electronica Futurelab has also been active all year round in Japan. Particularly in the hotspots of Tokyo and Osaka, it collaborates with renowned universities and leading companies and develops workshops, conferences, exhibitions and festivals. “Our activities in Japan, a high-tech country, are very successful,” says Diethard Schwarzmair. “The long-standing cooperation with Hakuhodo, Bandai Namco, Miraikan, NTT or NHK not only enhances the know-how of our team, but is also economically profitable”.

STARTS Prize, AI Lab, AI x Music Festival: Ars Electronica is the platform for art, technology and society in Europe
The European Commission’s STARTS Prize, the European ARTificial Intelligence Lab and the first-ever “AI x Music Festival”-with no less than three major EU programs, Ars Electronica 2019 underscored its role and significance as Europe’s largest platform for art, technology and society. “Since 2016, we’ve participated in 19 major EU projects with a total volume of more than 21 million euros. Ars Electronica has received about 4 million euros of this sum in direct funding,” says Diethard Schwarzmair. “For us, this opens up the opportunity to initiate Europe-wide network projects that pursue the goal of promoting innovation in and for Europe and bringing it to the curtain. The artistic and scientific (interim) results of all these projects are always presented at the festival in Linz and discussed here with experts and the general public.

Very well managed: earnings up 21 percent
Ars Electronica’s total revenues rose from 16.3 million euros in 2018 to 19.7 million in 2019-a gain of 3.4 million euros or 21 percent. In the area of commercial activities, total revenues of €10.1 million were generated, resulting in contribution margins of €1.9 million. The latter increased by 32 percent compared to 2018, and these contribution margins were used to co-finance the public service areas of the center and festival. “If we didn’t generate these contribution margins, we would not be able to avoid severe cuts in the scope of services of the center and festival due to the scarcity of public funds,” says Diethard Schwarzmair.

Unprecedented in the art and culture sector: self-financing ratio now at 69 percent
“Without public funds, we would be unable to finance public service activities such as the museum operation, our children’s research laboratory, the school programs and apprentice programs, and last but not least the festival,” say Diethard Schwarzmair and Gerfried Stocker. “We would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank the City of Linz for its 2.5 million euro investment grant for the new Ars Electronica Center. Ars Electronica is making an ever-increasing contribution to ongoing operations. The self-financing ratio climbed from 63.8 percent in 2018 to 69 percent now-a figure that is unparalleled in the art and culture sector.

Outlook 2020: Departure for new shores

Linz’s Ars Electronica Center is the address for AI
Nowhere else can one deal with current AI systems in such a comprehensive and playful manner as in the new Ars Electronica Center. And nowhere else do the constantly new AI applications find their way into exhibitions as quickly as at the Museum of the Future in Linz. “Whether young or old, amateur or professional – anyone who wants to know what’s up with the AI hype and what role these systems will play in our lives in the future is at the right address,” Gerfried Stocker invites to the Ars Electronica Center. With regular focus weekends and theme weeks, a whole series of new workshops and school programs, the new Ars Electronica Center’s claim and invitation to the 2020 event will be continuously renewed. And: “As part of the ‘Long Night of Research,’ we’ll once again be broadcasting a heart operation LIVE in our Deep Space in cooperation with Kepler University Hospital,” announces Gerfried Stocker.

Ars Electronica Festival Invites for the First Time to the “Kepler Gardens
“This year, the festival is heading for new shores,” announces Gerfried Stocker. After the “POSTCITY era”, the “Kepler Gardens” on the campus of the Johannes Kepler University (JKU) will be the main venue of the festival for the first time this fall. “What connects us with the JKU is a closeness in terms of content, a look ahead, towards the future, and the awareness that technological development and social responsibility are inseparably linked,” says Gerfried Stocker.

“Austria Makes Sense” – Ars Electronica Solutions designs the Austria Pavilion for the EXPO in Dubai
“Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” is the motto of the next EXPO, the first to be held in an Arab country. From October 20, 2020, 192 nations will be guests in the United Arab Emirates, presenting themselves and their visions of the future. Instead of “bigger, faster, further”, the Austria Pavilion then wants to score points with a sustainable architectural concept and interactive scenarios for a “human-centered technology”. The latter will all be designed by the Ars Electronica Solutions team. The goal and message of the EXPO presentation: “Austria Makes Sense”!

Future Thinking School for companies from all over Austria
It is not at all the strong, human-like AI à la Hollywood that is currently triggering a revolution, but on the contrary “weak” AI applications trained for specific tasks that are shaking whole industries. The modes of operation and potentials of these artificial neural networks, the proper handling of their results and their possible areas of application in the future are the focus of the “Future Thinking School” that Ars Electronica 2020 is launching. The target group is companies from the region and Austria; focus tours throughout the Ars Electronica Center, customized workshops, lectures and seminars are offered.

Ars Electronica Center / Fotocredit: Ars Electronica – Robert Bauernhansl / Printversion

SEER: Simulative Emotional Expression Robot – Takayuki Todo (JP) / Fotocredit: vog.photo / Printversion

Animaker in the Children’s Research Laboratory – Resonai, OMAi/ Fotocredit: vog.photo / Printversion

Neural Network Training / Fotocredit: vog.photo / Printversion

Ars Electronica Festival 2019 – AIxMusic in St. Florian / Fotocredit: vog.photo / Printversion

Visitors in the POSTCITY / Fotocredit: tom mesic / Printversion

Ars Electronica Festival 2019 – Exhibition Human Limitations- Limited Humanity / Fotocredit: vog.photo / Printversion

Ars Electronica in Beijing, Seoul and Moscow / Fotocredit: Hyundai Motor Studio / Printversion

Hyperlapse video of the construction work at the Ars Electronica Center

Recap Ars Electronica Festival 2019

Ars Electronica in Shenzhen