As Ars Electronica returns to in-person programming after two years in digital spaces, the festival has challenged participating exhibitors to look forward rather than back, and to imagine a new world beyond the unique cataclysms of the 21st century. In considering that challenge, artists from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) reflected on the manufactured worlds that already exist nested within our real planet, and how digital citizens were forced by pandemic lockdowns, technological advances, and conflict at home and abroad to build their own artificial universes.
A World in Progress is not only a world that is yet to be completed, or yet to be revealed; it is also a world that is always already proceeding. This year the Art and Technology Studies department of SAIC exhibits worlds that are not only created and predicted but found in situ, alternative worlds made of the same fabric as our own but existing independently and in parallel. The artists chosen not only theorize on the nature of Planet B: they also show us what planets may already exist, created by the plugged-in denizens of Planet A to delight, confuse, titillate, distract, and even surveil themselves. As we continue to emerge from each 21st-century crisis changed and proceed into the next unprepared, the artists of Earth must look to the worlds of which we dream to begin to understand the planets we should next try to create.
Nimrod Astarhan (IL)
Entering into a conversation with Milorad Pavic’s 1984 novel Dictionary of the Khazars, Detachment Trilogy, Part I: Proof and Argument investigates the artist’s own hereditary connection to the nomadic Turkic Khazars of the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries.
Sarah Brophy (US)
Moon Jelly Flow pulls source material from real “wellness content” released online by zoos and aquariums to create a satirical guided meditation for a simulated jellyfish tank. The work explores technology’s ability to extend “access to nature” while also sterilizing the human understanding of the natural world as it is experienced through the screen.
Juliana Castro Duperly (CO)
Structured around the artist’s father’s last-written letters before his passing, this meditation on love and the natural Colombian world takes on a dream-like fantasy quality. Multiple phones with fractured screens flicker in time with the recorded and isolated audio creating a kind of naturally occurring morse code that beckons the audience into a life beyond death.
Blake Fall-Conroy (US)
Surveillance cameras depict live, real images sourced from security cameras accessed and fed from all over the world. The real images are pieced together into collages that depict unreal scenes, and the audience member acts as security operative, watching the dream worlds of the work for any real activity.
Jungwoo Lee (KR)
Who Do You Love is an installation exploring human and non-human boundaries based on the minimal machine. Utilizing computer vision, simple robots perform the complicated human process of finding love.
Reid Arowood (US)
Feed, play with, or ignore MyReid, a game-like digital version of the artist who has needs and will, if ignored, eventually pass away in his holding cell.
Sydney Gush (US)
Documentation takes the form of a bespoke video piece in which the artist’s sculptural works with defunct, recalled and dangerous children’s toys of the ‘80s and ‘90s converse and collaborate in ritualistic summoning, combining childhood memories with fears of those memories’ perversion.
With roots in innovation and experimentation, SAIC’s Art & Technology Studies department focuses on the use of technology as an art medium. Started in 1969, the program has been at the forefront of the intersection of art, science, and technology of one of the world’s most influential art and design schools.
Conceptualized, curated, and coordinated by Alex Botts. Organized by Art & Technology Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago