Jury Statements 2019

COMPUTER ANIMATION 2019

Ferdi Alici, Ina Conradi, Nobuaki Doi, Birgitta Hosea, Alex Verhaest

Extending Screens: Extending Vision

At a time when all animated images, however handcrafted, necessarily become digital at some stage of the production or distribution process, the concept of ‚computer animation‘ as a distinct category becomes harder and harder to define. Isn’t all animation now computer animation? If so, how could the Jury make choices that honor the distinctive identity of Prix Ars Electronica’s computer animation category? Shouldn’t Ars Electronica stand for something distinctive? We were very concerned with how to make our judging process fair and transparent. Wrestling with these issues and the wider context of the 40th anniversary of Ars Electronica, the jury reflected at length on the idea of computer animation itself: what it is and what it might mean as a tool for communication and for the creation of experiences. This became very important as a guiding principle to help the jury to choose between so many strong submissions that encompassed a wide variety of different forms—from abstract works, music videos, essay films, story-led or surreal character animations, data visualizations, physically situated installations, VR, AR, and MR. Ultimately, however, we had to make difficult choices and we regretfully rejected a number of works that we thought were good and knew that they either would be or already had been successful at other animation festivals. This was because we did not think they fitted the category of computer animation as we had decided to define it this year.

As a jury we felt honored to be able to witness this selection of works submitted to Ars Electronica that actually represents a snapshot of the state-of-the art in computer animation in 2019. Technical trends that emerged from the works included processes such as algorithmic generation, point clouds that index a machine view of the world, artful photographic manipulation with Touch Designer, impossible Octane objects that use irrational and plasmatic cartoon principles rather than the known laws of the physical universe, stylish graphic combinations of 3d mo-cap and 2D rendering, machinima animations that use existing game engines, and various inventive methods to render live data. Common themes that emerged from the works included personal issues—such as gender, sexuality, relationships, social inclusion, body image and mental health—as well as wider social and geo-political issues such as migration, mass communication networks, ecological devastation, and impending extinction. We mainly watched the entries on screen, but also spent time experiencing works from inside VR headsets. The VR entries become more sophisticated year after year. We noted how they play with point of view, misdirection, voyeurism, and empathy to enhance storytelling and emotional affect. In addition, some entries paid particular attention to the world outside the headset and sensory experiences were created in the physical environments in which they were encountered that complemented the effect of the work. Although we were able to get a sense of VR and single screen work in the manner in which the works were designed to be encountered, this was not the same for the installations which we received in the form of proposals. Since they were not directly experienced in the physical space in which they were intended to be located in, installation proposals were at times hard to imagine. Clear information about the set-up and video documentation of what it would be like were essential for us to understand how these works were intended.

The process of selection takes several stages. After the initial preselection, there are three full days of further discussion and voting by the jury to first narrow down the entries under consideration and then to select the final fifteen. Sometimes there was a consensus of opinions and we were in total agreement and at other times we had quite heated disagreements. When this happened, decisions were taken by majority vote. At all times, the jury was mindful that winning an award can have a major impact on the recipient’s reputation and future career. Consequently, we tried to recognize independent artists and small studios over major industry players. In our selection it was important for us to represent a spread of the different expanded forms that animation can take, but above all we selected works that demonstrated individual authorship, independence of vision, and thoughtfulness. Even more than technical prowess, we valued meaning, daring, and emotional risk.

As animators we can conjure powerful visions through our fingertips and we must take responsibility for the messages we portray. We should be careful to avoid becoming totally absorbed by the technology and to remember that we are communicating ideas. As a jury, we hope to continue to see animation that does more than technically innovate, but has the vision and bravery to engage with the complexity of topical issues in contemporary society and the sensitivity to portray intimate, personal, human experience.



Golden Nica

Manic VR
Kalina Bertin, Sandra Rodriguez, Nicolas S. Roy, Fred Casia

Mental illness is too often a shameful and misunderstood topic that people do not want to talk about in public. It can be hard to understand if you have not personally experienced it. Although we were not without cynicism for the cliché of VR as an empathy machine, as several jury members had personal knowledge of friends or family with a bipolar disorder, we found it moving to be taken through the experiences of the filmmaker’s brother and sister and to hear them talk about it through first-hand accounts left as messages on her voicemail. Scenarios such as being trapped in a small room and then flying through the ceiling to touch the stars served as a metaphor for the rush of mania after a depressive episode. Above all, we applauded the work’s ambition to use expanded animation technology to seek understanding for a debilitating condition.



Awards of Distinction

Strings
Ruini Shi

With a clever script that mixes chat messaging with programming language in a nostalgic retro gaming aesthetic, Strings addresses online gaming and the loneliness of remote communication. Chasing ghostly algorithms within a discarded game, the narrator searches through data banks for traces of a lost cyber femme fatale who once caressed him pixel by pixel, but can no longer be found. The jury was enamored with the highly poetic treatment of this story of lost love and the loneliness of social media. They also found the idea of a lost world of forgotten games to be moving and thought provoking.


Undershoot, sensitive data: Cristiano
Cindy Coutant

Inspired by her love for the famous soccer player Ronaldo, in this installation the artist Cindy Coutant has created a virtual character with whom she can have a deep personal relationship. Undershoot, sensitive data: Cristiano pays tribute to the deeply personal need to connect through all of the senses—sound, touch, and smell—with the image on the screen and real person. The animation is emotionally charged and enhanced by the physical installation. The jury was moved by the honesty of the piece. Undershoot, sensitive data: Cristiano provokes the social, cultural, and ethical standards of the current technology, screen-based and social media infatuation. We are in constant communication with everything around us through machines. As such, it is a tribute to lost emotional connection, intimacy, and materiality.


Honorary Mentions

A Double Life
Studio Job, Joris & Marieke

Who’s the husband, who’s the wife? This film was chosen by the Jury for its daring and humorous exploration of male privilege in heterosexual relationships and the hidden desires beneath the performance of conventional gender roles. Over and above the technical accomplishment of being a well-made CGI character animation that pays attention to detail in modelling and animation, it has a clever twist that reflects power dynamics in sexual relationships and how they are impacted by social stereotypes of gender. The film reminds us that our own thoughtless, bad habits towards those who are close to us can go very wrong in the end.


ACID RAIN
Tomek Popakul

In this bizarrely colored film, Tomek Popakul combines the animation of 2D drawings and 3D models in an unusual way. This combination of the two techniques was already achieved in his previous films like Ziegenort and Black, but here he takes one step further by depicting a strange act of inner reality like the transformation of the consciousness (and its accompanying involuntary movements of a body) and ontologically unstable perception. The effect of these visions is enhanced by digital techniques: strange mutation of the things, sudden appearances of one of the layers, awkward movements or seemingly infinite multiplication of human figures… By depicting various human condition in this way, the film also tells something sinister happened to our existence: It already has been deeply mutated or deteriorated and it will never be the same. The ugly beauty of acid rain or a puddle with soaking oil shows it with the mesmerizing and terrifying metamorphosis of its color.


Egg
Martina Scarpelli

Animation is uniquely placed to convey very intimate thoughts and private, subjective feelings. Egg uses a striking visual style with a stark black and white color palette, to convey one woman’s story of her unhealthy relationship with food and body image. In these digital drawings, the body of the character is trapped within a box, limited by her own beliefs and poor self-image. Body parts multiply and mutate as she contemplates whether to eat, kill, or nurture an egg. The jury admired the illustrative style and the bravery of the animator to explore a personal battle with anorexia.


Emergence
Universal Everything

What drives human behavior? What is the universal language between us? Emergence is a large-scale animated performance in an open, infinite virtual game world. Using cutting-edge VR technologies and studies of human behavior, it builds on deep evolutionary and emotional characteristics in humans triggered by crowds. It immerses the viewer in a massive hyper-real and intelligent crowd of some 5000 people. After initial experience of panic and fear of losing control, the viewer becomes leader and follower, while navigating and flying through and with thousands of people in and out of sync.


Facing It
Sam Gainsborough

Facing It is a technically sophisticated film with faces that are animated through stop motion combined with pixelated live action through painstaking motion tracking and compositing. Through this challenging process, a range of Claymation facial expressions were precisely matched on to the body movements of actors. The result brings animation into everyday locations. The style is tactile, messy, and not afraid to show the fingerprints left behind. This technique enables the interior, subjective worlds of the characters to show through the mask that they wear in public. The jury found it not only clever technically, but also a sensitive metaphor for the way that people protect themselves from revealing their inner feelings and desires to others in public.


Huskies
Lilli Carré, David Sprecher

With a stylish and hallucinatory quality, this film draws you in to a dream-like environment of unquestioning obedience where everyone follows the orders of a water aerobics instructor—ultimately to achieve the personal fulfilment of individual pleasure and narcissistic desires. However, the surprising ending draws attention to the environmental consequences of our obsession with ourselves and the legacy this will leave behind. The jury admired the unusual aesthetic and the thoughtful messages behind the film.


KIDS
Michael Frei, Mario von Rickenbach / Playables

KIDS is remarkable, not only in the manner with which it is critical towards human behavior in contemporary society, but also as an example of how digital technology enables animators to try new forms of production. Michael Frei teamed up with coder Mario von Rickenbach and utilized Unity as a production engine, making this project happen in multi-platforms: installation, short film, and indie game, while using the same animation materials. This film version has acute and witty storytelling, using anonymous figures of kids in the black and white space. The film keeps generating faceless children like forever. They think they have a will but in fact, they just behave like puppets. They just follow the order of something they cannot recognize. This is the reason why the film not only makes us laugh but also feel scared.


Nike
Theo Triantafyllidis

Nike uses an imaginative combination of techniques to critique the pretensions of academic sculpture and fixed conceptions of gender. In this installation, a physical sculpture can be viewed through AR to reveal the artist in the form of a mighty s/hero building an effigy of the goddess Nike out of scrap materials. A commentary can be heard on the progress of the work. This tongue-in-cheek parody of the monumentalization of the ideal female form, is made all the more complex since the artist himself is represented through a grotesque female avatar.


City Rhythm
Siyeon Kim / ARTLab

Of all the entries this year that were based around the visualization of data or the use of point clouds, the jury found this animation to be the most poetic and visually beautiful. The flow of data in Seoul is connected to dreamlike views of a haunted city, bereft of inhabitants. A virtual camera moves through this uncanny landscape of deserted streets with an accompanying soundtrack that tells of being lost, disorientated, and alone as time moves on relentlessly.


Solar Walk
Réka Bucsi

Originally created for live score performance by a jazz orchestra, this short film becomes a symphony between humans, animals, creatures, inanimate and unknown objects, driven by technologies in various eras, set somewhere in the universe. In this film, curiosity about the unknown brings joy to the audience, as do strange situations and characters and the wide variety of the techniques. Here, CGI generates hi-dimensional (or fundamental) objects and makes them move, swim, and dance. It also makes us feel like witnessing the principle of nature just in front of us. With all these combinations that are only possible in animation, the film celebrates wonders this universe may hide as a secret.


Swatted
Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis / Fresnoy

A number of the entries this year dealt with the negative side of social media: issues of loneliness, miscommunication, and abuse. Swatted is an animated documentary that deals with cyber bullying in online gaming. Combining first hand audio recordings of actual events, found—and rendered in—game footage, it documents the worrying phenomenon of “swatting”, in which gamers are hacked and targeted by pranksters. Their personal identity is then impersonated in order to make hoax calls to emergency services to fool them into visiting an address unnecessarily. This can range from fake deaths, kidnaps, or bomb threats and result in an armed SWAT team coming to the affected person’s house with fatal consequences.


The Great Indecision Council
Romain Tardy

This installation was thought by the jury to be a good example of using data to create a physically immersive experience through light, sound, and the display of the most commonly searched terms on Google. With a structure resembling an ancient stone circle, the viewer is surrounded with the collective thoughts of society: a physical manifestation of intangible ideas. All too often what is called an installation is simply a screen installed in a gallery to create an essentially cinematic experience, but this installation considered the spatial and sensual elements of perception in three dimensions.




ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE & LIFE ART 2019

Memo Akten, Jens Hauser, Vladan Joler, Irini Papadimitriou, Moon Ribas

Life’s Intelligence, beyond Human Cognition

Establishing such a new category is a challenging task that requires an etymological and epistemological contextualization of the central key terms ’Artificial Intelligence’ and Life Art.’ But above all, it asks for a sensibility of how the oscillation between these two notions may correspond to criteria of artistic quality and criticality vis-à -vis currently much hyped notions that trigger unconventional responses with regards to their highly relevant impact on societies, ecologies, and relationship that humankind has with other living beings and planetary systems. While this new category replaces and, at least at first sight, seems to narrow down the scope of the highly successful Hybrid Art’ category in place since 2007, it received 840 entries—a quantity comparable with the Prix Ars competition’s most established categories. It indeed hybridizes’ fields of artistic inquiry into practices that technically combine hardware, software, and wetware, and conceptually span from areas such as synthetic biology, the life sciences, artificial life and artificial intelligence, robotics and kinetics, to performative practices from the microscopic molecular to the macroscopic environmental and cosmological level.

The new category sparks discussions about the links between the largely ambiguous notions of intelligence’ and aliveness’ as such, addressing, on the one hand, machinic practices of the animation of the technological and, on the other, biological practices of the technologization of what is naturally animate. It also encourages artistic thought about whether the problematic notion of artificiality’ is reserved to human action—hence expressing an anthropocentric position per se—and about how far innate technical capacities of non-human agents play a crucial role within a larger bio-semiotic web of trans-species relationships that are often at the core of art projects proposing more humble attitudes, instead of the glorification of human prowess and progress.

Historically, then, the scope of the ’Artificial Intelligence & Life Art’ category also embodies dichotomic developments within the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life research since the 1960s—life versus mind, biological versus psychological—thus oscillating between cybernetic interest in self-organization, autonomy, adaptation and regulation, and symbolic and computational approaches with their focus on intelligence understood as information-processing capacities, programming languages, machine learning, the modelling of human-like capacities and consciousness, or artificial neural networks. If such different approaches have partially merged into areas such as soft or situated robotics, distributed cognition and technological hybrids composed of analogue-digital and hard-soft-wet systems, the advent of the new category becomes plausible.

While such techno-philosophical debates set the back of the stage, the jury process, however, clearly foregrounded the search for critical artistic excellence, without any desire to cover as many aspects as possible within the wide range of the category. Clusters began to emerge quickly, and these were overall less concerned with technical perfection than with critical reflection of hyperbolic and affirmative mainstream discourses surrounding the fields of Artificial Intelligence and the Life Sciences. It may seem surprising that the jury detected generally less epistemological awareness, poetry, and humor in art projects or devices mimicking human intelligence (such as in GAN/Generative Adversarial Networks or chats), than in unconventional and very personal artistic inquiries into eco-systemic forms or intelligence.’ The jury also witnessed a trend toward more complex and longer-lasting work cycles instead of one-off projects dealing with isolated issues such as surveillance, privacy, facial profiling, or the debates around GMOs.

Among the awarded projects, many demonstrate a high level of both critical and humorous systems thinking, the quest for other than human intelligence, socially sustainable and peaceful use of AI technologies beyond militarizing fantasies, alternative sensory and perceptual modalities such as smell or taste, bio-semiotic reflections on alternative agencies such as plants or bacteria, thoughts about the limits of technological bioremediation, material practices in the context of ecological and climate crisis, or hybrid installations combining software, hardware, and wetware.

Golden Nica

Labor
Paul Vanouse

The jury has awarded the Golden Nica to the bio-cybernetic and olfactive installation Labor by Buffalo-based artist Paul Vanouse, which elegantly combines reflections about the automation of labor and the obsession with optimization in the name of capital, current challenges posed by today’s microbiome research to the notion of human individuality, and the progressive disappearance of work and workers as we knew them. In times of algorithmic finance and high frequency trading this fully functioning live laboratory produces the sweaty smell of labor not as a by-product but as its end-product, involving three bioreactors containing different strains of bacteria that collaborate’ to create scents typically associated with human exertion. The nostalgic link between physical human effort and economic value is disrupted, while stressing the disintegration of personhood. The instrumentalization of sequential micro-gestures on the industrial production line is continued here in a dynamic self-regulating art installation to embody our society’s shift from human and machine labor to increasingly pervasive forms of microbial manufacturing and computerized bio-optimization. At the same time the smell of labor’ produced by microbes populating human host bodies, and vastly outnumbering human cells, accentuates bio-philosophical questions regarding what defines and determines humanness, in times where research into the gut-brain axis reveals cognitive and emotional dependencies from our microbial co-actors.



Awards of Distinction

Confronting Vegetal Otherness – Skotopoiesis, Phytoteratology, Strange Encounters
Špela Petrič

With her triptych Confronting Vegetal Otherness, Å pela Petrič demonstrates continued and conceptually multi-facetted work to address bio-semiotic relationships with the plant world, and to call for the enlarging of the human sensorium via plantamorphization. Translating her long-term involvement with the plant kingdom at different scales both in time and space, Petrič poetically stages human-plant kinship and co-performativity from the molecular to the ecological realm, via different vectors of communication from hormones to light. Her work systematically challenges the idea that sign processes carried out symbolically by humans are per se superior to other processes that play a crucial role in information and interpretation processes among living entities at large. In the quest of a process of intercognition,’ Petrič explores material rather than language-based ways of physico-chemical exchange, while viscerally engaging audiences in the exploration of vegetal qualities crucial for human survival, and advertising a philosophical attitude of becoming plant’ as eco-systemic intelligence.


VFRAME: Visual Forensics and Metadata Extraction
Adam Harvey

VFRAME combines art-as-activism, open-source and DIY / DIWO philosophies, community and citizen science to subvert what was initially developed as surveillance technologies, and deploy them for the greater good. Against the grain of the bulk of today’s Artificial Intelligence technologies—primarily surveillance technology fueled by business models of internet tech-advertising companies and the military industrial complex—VFRAME is a collection of open-source tools, workshops, documentation, and other resources that reclaim these technologies, and make them available for the benefit of human rights researchers and activists. Specifically, this includes training state-of-the art object detection models to recognize illegal munitions in images and videos. To overcome one of the toughest challenges involved with such a task—being able to cope with the vast amount of possibilities that the system might encounter— Adam Harvey works with the Syrian and Yemeni Archives in order to produce synthetic data on which object recognition models can be trained.


Honorary Mentions

Biocomputer Rhythms
Eduardo Reck Miranda

In Biocomputer Rhythms, Eduardo Reck Miranda is bridging the gap between traditional silicon-based computing and biology. The result is a duet between a human pianist-composer, and a biocomputer. As the pianist plays the piano, audio signals feed into an electrical circuit with biological components consisting of Physarum polycephalum, slime mold. The biocomputer responds with signals that activate electromagnets to vibrate the piano strings. This enables the biocomputer to both sense its environment and take actions in it. *Biocomputer Rhythms* simultaneously questions and investigates new modes of musical performance, as well as new modes of computation.


Carbon Black
Anaïs Tondeur in collaboration with Rita van Dingenen and Jean-Philippe Putaud, JRC, European Commission

Carbon Black presents us with a series of photographic prints of dramatic, and literally black skies, since its black carbon particles materially stem from burned fossil in the air we breathe. Anaïs Tondeur’s expedition leads her from the northernmost point of Scotland, where—despite the lack of industry—carbon black particulates are detected in the heart of a young girl and inhabitants suffer from suffocation, all the way to Folkestone in South East England. Equipped with a respiratory mask, the artist follows the path of this invisible, but ever-present agent, breathing the polluted air and trapping black carbon particles she encounters in her mask, and turning them into photographic ink for her black skies prints, matching them to the locations they were breathed in, like a material index.


Fossil Futures
Nora Al-Badri, Jan Nikolai Nelles

Fossil Futures revolves around a dinosaur skeleton that is on display in the Natural History Museum in Berlin. The skeleton—or at least parts of it—was excavated in Tendaguru Formation in Tanzania, also known as German East Africa, the former German colony. While Tendaguru Formation was a site of dinosaur bones excavations during the colonial era, Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles were refused access to data from the museum. Using leaked data, they create an artificial intelligence generated 3D-printed dinosaur’s bone. This digital copy stands as a form of provocation, asking uncomfortable questions about looted artefacts in European museums. At a time of debates around museum collections and restitution, and while the threat of land grabbing and commodification of nature is ever present, Fossil Futures invites us to rethink Europe’s colonial past, present and future.


Human Study #4, La Classe
Patrick Tresset

Patrick Tresset’s performative installation uses embodied computational agents—twenty-one robots as teachers and pupils, re-creating a classroom situation. The robots consist of a camera head and robotic arm holding a pen, trained to follow the headmaster’s instructions so they learn to count by drawing lines and tallying marks, and also expressing human-like behaviors. Some of them look bored or shy, some might be slow and find it hard to follow, while others comply and complete dutifully their tasks. Human Study #4, La Classe is less a commentary on technology itself than an observation on society, human nature, behavioral standardization, and the limitations of machine learning processes.


[ir]reverent: Miracles on Demand
Adam Brown

In Adam Brown’s long-term bio media research project [ir]reverent: Miracles on Demand, the inquiry into how non-human agents impact on human fate via the occurrence of miracles,’ the investigation into the natural sciences’ role to fill knowledge gaps, and in-depth microbial research into the mystery of bleeding hosts’ and their role in belief systems converge. The project researches the historical context in which accounts of blood flowing from bread provoked religiously justified admiration or crime, and pursues extensive material inquiry to replicate and optimize the conditions under which certain bacteria express blood-like reed pigment, that humans (mis)interpret. Combining historical and field research, interventions on Catholic churches and informed biotechnological practice to challenge the humans’ claim to be the only intelligent species to symbolically make sense of cultural patterns, Brown’s work condenses the bloody sides of human’s ignorance with regards to naturally occurring miracles.’


Mosaic Virus
Anna Ridler

An algorithm conjures up an endless stream of imaginary tulips, controlled by the price of bitcoin. The piece references the 17th century financial bubble called “tulip mania,” caused by a rare mosaic virus that made tulips express streaks and become highly sought after, leading to extraordinarily high prices, only to collapse shortly after. Anna Ridler compares tulip mania to the highly speculative and hype-driven nature of of crypto-currencies, and of emerging technologies in general, including Artificial Intelligence. In the piece, AI algorithms generate an endless stream of imaginary tulips, paralleling 17th century Dutch still life painters who also often painted not what they saw but fictional scenes they fantasized. The artist reflects on the role of Big Data, data collection, data ownership, and data bias in off-the-shelf third-party datasets. She painstakingly photographs, collects, and catalogues thousands of images to create her own dataset as an integral part of the artwork.


Mother’s Hand Taste (Son-mat)
Jiwon Woo

Jiwon Woo takes the emotional attachment to their mother’s cooking most people have, as well as associative memories from dishes familiar from their childhood, as a starting point for her project *Mother’s Hand Taste*. She explores in a deeply poetic way what makes a mother’s dish “hand taste” (Son-mat) genuinely different from others, examining the inheritance of culinary culture and transmission of Son-mat among family members across four global locations. Jiwon Woo biologically experiments with yeast and fungi sampled from hand palms to reveal their effects on the taste of fermented food. This project brings together science and cultural heritage in a particularly tangible way and materializes the feeling of belonging, by connecting cultural identity, family ties, and taste.


One Tree ID – How To Become A Tree For Another Tree
Agnes Meyer-Brandis

Like any human, trees and plants have their individual odor, their own essence. One Tree ID condenses the identity of a specific tree into a complex perfume that can then be experienced by human visitors in order to apprehend the tree’s communication system at a biochemical level. Agnes Meyer-Brandis has created a poetic piece to suggest an exploration of how to question the way we use our senses to generate new connections and interactions between species. One Tree ID’s perfumes offer alternative ways of information exchange with the plant kingdom upon which humankind depends.


Resurrecting the Sublime
Christina Agapakis of Ginkgo Bioworks, Inc., Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, and Sissel Tolaas, with support from IFF Inc.

This installation comprises olfactive simulations of flowers that have become extinct as a result of human activity. The team behind Resurrecting the Sublime recovered DNA fragments from these extinct plants and, using methods of synthetic biology, synthesized what might have been the original extinct flowers’ smell. While huge numbers of plant and animal species are irrevocably lost, the recreation of fragments of such lost species is experienced less as a celebration of de-extinction fantasies than as a terrifying sign of our compromised relationship with other species. *Resurrecting the Sublime* confronts us with the dilemma that even our most sophisticated technologies will not compensate for the lack of conservation strategies.


Solar Powered Website
Kris De Decker, Marie Otsuka, Roel Roscam Abbing, Lauren Traugott-CampbellHow To Become A Tree For Another Tree

The Solar Powered Website addresses issues of growing energy use by the internet infrastructure, sustainable interface design, and content production. The project was created for Low-tech Magazine, an online and print publication that questions society’s belief in technological progress and highlights the potential of past knowledge and technologies for designing a sustainable society. This simple, minimalist and sustainable design and DIY technology solution based on the off-the-grid renewable power system is a wonderful example of the decentralization and re-appropriation of the internet infrastructure. The design and architecture behind this website allow us to understand how the growing energy use of the internet infrastructure is a consequence of actual decisions made by software developers, web designers, and publishers on the one hand, and internet users on the other.


The Normalizing Machine
Mushon Zer-Aviv, Dan Stavy, Eran WeissensternHow To Become A Tree For Another Tree

The Normalizing Machine is an interactive installation presented as experimental research in machine-learning, created with the aim to identify and analyze the image of social normalcy, while precisely pointing out some of the main issues related to the use of contemporary machine-learning applications: It references historical applications for categorizing and stereotyping human faces, as rooted in the eugenics movement and in the work of forensics’ pioneer Alphonse Bertillon, who invented an identification system for criminals based on facial and bodily measurements. The Normalizing Machine visualizes how machine learning automates Bertillon’s speaking portraits and amplifies systemic bias—something that can be identified in today’s systematic discrimination, aggregated and hidden within face recognition systems.


Wastelands
Tagny DuffHow To Become A Tree For Another Tree

Wastelands is a biological art project that speculates on a future in which humans will be fueling the world with their own waste—excrement, methanogens, and viruses. Small wearable and functional prototypes of methane biogas generators present a prospective scenario of how human-animal excrement might be recycled to produce sustainable biogas fuel for humans to live on the planet in an unforeseeable future with limited energy production resources. Wastelands subtly contrasts the usual promises of high-tech “innovative” or “green” technologies with a low-tech DIY alternative that takes advantage of human-microbial relationships and the potential of our own waste as a future resource, while at the same time addressing the issue of large-scale of human pollution.



DIGITAL MUSICS & SOUND ART 2019

Rikke Frisk, Christina Kubisch, Soichiro Mihara, François Pachet, Shilla Strelka

Immersive Experiences and (political) Silence — What are the Sound Realities now?

The artistic field reflected in the category ”Digital Musics & Sound Art“ seems more diverse than ever before. Including sonic fields as varied as composition and installation, live performance and spatialization, projects involving AI and other highly advanced technologies, it was a challenge for the jury to establish a valuing system that would reflect and compare those disparate approaches. The search for new ways of creating sound, leads artists to engage with translation-processes, trying to find synchronicities in different disciplines. Often the result resembled event-like set-ups or introduced a complex concept, while not paying too much attention to the actual musical qualities of a work.

Aiming mostly for singular objects, a return to the traditional idea of sound art being finalized in a piece that is easily presented, was noticeable. Can the lack of site-specific pieces be traced back to less open spaces or hidden natural places? One of the basic topics artists are dealing with nowadays is the relationship of digital and analog, man and machine, often leading to the question whether digital sonification and transformation is more significant than the original phenomenon and whether sound that is not manipulated digitally has lost its relevance. Our awarded projects all deal with this tendency in a different way, confusing our views of what is true and false, irritating our perception or addressing the topic in a critical way.

On the other hand, the tendency to automatize conventional sound production was graspable in advanced arrangements. Animating e.g. flutes or pianos proved that also sound art is shifting its focus, entering the world of objecthood and animism. Instruments would now run by themselves, with a similar sonic result, but guided by the fascination of a machine or an algorithm being the creator of sound. As expected, Artificial Intelligence seems to be slowly entering the field of music production. Still we are only at the beginning now and the works involving an AI were often lacking sophistication. Other than expected, there was a remarkable lack of socio-political artworks. Even though many projects were focusing on ecology, engaging in the sonification of information taken from environmental tests or live data, often the rules applied were arbitrary, and the result unconvincing. While interactive approaches were missing, instead we experienced a tendency towards immersive listening situations and compositions that let the listener delve deep into imaginary landscapes.

The winning project succeeds in combining this immersive approach with a confrontational conduct— challenging our senses and perception of reality, focusing on corporeal effects and lived experience, while being poetic at its core. It refers back to the history of sound art, while delving deep into the field of psycho-acoustics.

As an additional remark, the jury wants to actively invite more female artists and artists coming from various backgrounds and countries to submit their projects.

Golden Nica

TORSO #1
Peter Kutin

The set-up is minimalist: four 100V speakers have been installed on four rotors on a more than 2m long axis, spinning around in slightly changing speed. Static microphones have been set up to take up the sound emitted by the rotating speakers to create a phasing of feedback tones that are sent back to a quadrophonic system surrounding the audience. The otoacoustic composition that is diffused via speakers is subtle, yet uncanny. Every once in a while, you hear abstract voices that are woven in so delicately, that the impression of EVP arises. Haunted voices are travelling through space, making it hard to differentiate between synthetic and human sound. The psycho-acoustic effects strongly irritate our senses, while installed strobe lights intensify a trance like state.
The kinetic sound-light sculpture *TORSO #1* transgresses borders. The highly powerful, at times even threateningly aggressive movement of the huge rotors and flickering light pulses are juxtaposed with the calm repetitive feedback pulses and steady sine waves included in the composition. Highly referential at its core, TORSO #1 evokes associations ranging from Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine, to Steve Reich’s Pendulum, from EVP-affiliated pieces to Alvin Lucier or even the operating mode of a Leslie speaker. The jury acknowledges that it doesn’t always need the most advanced technologies to come to a result that is irritating our perception on a profound level, while still convincing in its poetic, reduced, and elegant realization. TORSO #1 is highly confrontational in its corporeality, offering an intense and original experience—a persuading example of contemporary sound art that delves into the still quite unexplored field of psychoacoustics. A Golden Nica in this category has previously only been awarded to an international project that included Austrian artists (Günter Geiger and Martin Kaltenbrunner, Music Technology Group/Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Reactable, 2008) ) but Peter Kutin is the first Austrian solo artist in the history of Ars Electronica to win a Golden Nica in the Digital Music and Sound Art category.



Awards of Distinction

Muted Situation #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th
Samson Young

The installation, consisting of a film and special speakers distributed between the audience, shows an orchestra playing Tchaikovsky 5th. We see a conductor, musicians playing their instruments, but we hear nothing but the noise like sounds of the instruments being played without emitting any definite musical pitch. Young muted all the instruments by special techniques. The performative energy seems to be even stronger in this almost silent performance, the hard work and the concentration of the performers and the conductor is more impressive and clearer than by listening to a „normal“ concert version. The 12-channel set-up gives the public the feeling to be seated inside the orchestra and the musicians seem to play next to the listener. Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony has an iconic status in the orchestral repertoire and embodies the aesthetics of musical romanticism almost to a point of excess. The „double reality“ of known and unknown orchestral performance creates a surprising special tension and concentration on listening which makes us question our usual way of consuming (orchestral) music and our usual cultural behavior. Is the concept more important than the result? Should we applaud? Do we still need romantic music, or can we renounce orchestras in times of digital creation of instrumental sounds? Young does not send a message but raises questions on which we start to reflect while listening to this unusual, beautiful performance of classical music.


Voices from AI in Experimental Improvisation
Tomomi Adachi, Andreas Dzialocha, Marcello Lussana

Tomomi Adachi is an experienced composer and performer influenced by the Fluxus movement, who in this piece works in the tradition of man-machine dialogue. The performance involves a singing Tomomi Adachi interacting with the software, Tomomibot. This software extends the long tradition of musical interactive systems, and uses state-of-the art deep learning techniques to capture elements of the improvisation style of the singer in real-time. The result is not really a dialogue—there are overlapping streams of sound—but a new form of duet in which the software attempts both to mimic the style of the singer and produce novel phrases. The central question at stake here is the nature of style: such a performance shows how interactive technology and AI can push the boundaries of a style—here a singer—by challenging the musician with music material that is strictly generated from his own productions. Tomomi also uses humor in his critical attitude towards AI. The human performer confuses the AI Tomomibot by behaving differently from how he taught it. The central question is: can machine learning be enough to act as a creative dialogue partner? In the dialogue he creates with the AI, it becomes clear that the AI is not able to follow him and that he is more creative and unpredictable than his machine counterpart.


Honorary Mentions

Anastrophe
Patrik Lechner

Patrik Lechner’s Anastrophe offers a 3-dimensional sonic journey through space, bringing together digital club music, futuristic sound-design, and algorithm-based procedures, all created with custom made software. The audio-visual artist and programmer Patrik Lechner delves deep into complex structures, composing with densities and textures, stochastic processes and beat structures that evolve from contemporary club music. Anastrophe leaves us stunned, lost in space, free of gravity. The artist succeeds in building up short narratives that might, just a second later, dissolve into molecular arrangements. He confuses our perception of time and space while not aiming for complete immersion, but constantly grabbing our attention. Instead of following a linear movement, perspectives are thus on a permanent shift. Lechner is uniting digital processed-based real time sound-design that is controlled by self-designed algorithms, a convincing spatialization concept, and dance music in this acousmatic composition, helping to emancipate the instrument from its academic context of electro-acoustic music and transferring it into the context of live procession.


à†TER
Christian Skjà¸dt

The jury experienced the installation at the 2017 Ars Electronica festival exhibition and was already then drawn to the huge à†ter installation and its majestic yet subtle presence that goes into dialogue with and offers an auditive insight into the invisible electromagnetic surroundings. à†ter „listens” to the surroundings, even the audiences themselves, and transmits these signals as a deep low frequency undertow, the auditive part and thus the artwork constantly changing. The jury found it aesthetically moving, appealing, and somehow repulsive at the same time. It doesn’t come on to you, it’s almost ignorant of the audiences except for their electromagnetic signals.


APPARATUM
panGenerator

APPARATUM has been inspired by the heritage of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio—one of the first studios in the world producing electroacoustic music. It looks like an oversized tape machine with a lower part in the form of a cassette tape. The highly original installation reboots work from the early experiments of the early fifties and sixties, bringing visual, optical, and magnetic concepts into a contemporary synthesizer concept. Magnetic tape was the primary medium used in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio. The basic idea of the creators is that a digital interface produces purely analogue sound. The mix of digital means in order to trigger analogue sound material shows that the radical experiments of electronic music have the power to become an inspiration for future music production if used as creative material instead of being seen as only a historical background. APPARATUM demonstrates in a convincing way how digital and analogue procedures can be integrated to generate new soundscapes for the future.


fake synthetic music
Stine Janvin

Stine Janvin is an experimental vocalist and electronic musician who creates highly abstracted, uncanny sound pieces. Applying psycho-acoustic strategies, the Norwegian artist is taking advantage of the extensive spectrum of her voice to irritate our perception of what is real and what is an illusion, what is synthetic and what is human sound. Applying difference tones and otoacoustics, connecting both vocal and digital experimentation, Janvin is offering a radical new perspective. The result is a reflection on the interrelatedness of our digital surroundings and our mutating body-images, of actual and virtual sounds—creating a cyborg-like corpus that is ephemeral yet utterly present.


MANTRAcks and Sonic Fields: A VirtuAural Duology
Francisco López

The originally independent sound pieces MANTRAcks and Sonic Fields are long durational sonic explorations which combine field recordings of industrial and natural origin. While many field recordings are just meant to share the experience of site-specific audio adventures, López uses his sounds to achieve what he calls a sonigenic composition: a process where the ontological properties of the material take over the representational ones. The work of López is based on time: time for the artist to listen to the environment before using his microphones, time to combine and layer the different sounds, and the time which the listener needs to take part in the listening process. The sound work of Francisco López has a kind of timeless nature. The public, mostly seated in darkness, takes part in a collective listening process which seems almost an anachronism in a society where everything is focused on acceleration and speed. López enables a new deep way of listening and convinces us without any dogmatism to open up our ears. His work wakes up our acoustic senses due to the musical quality of his sonic creations realized as a researcher and composer.


“Play Back” Curing tapes
SHOJIKI

From the serious performance by the young Japanese duo SHOJIKI, you will only feel playful irony—they really do play as honestly(正直/Syojiki) as possible, using non-magnetic packing tape to play rhythms, textures, and by varying the tension of the tape so that it sounds like a new instrument. Their straight play back performance seems a humorous way of proposing alternative possibilities of non-traditional tape performance. There is no doubt that they are the best tape players in this sense.


Polar Force
Speak Percussion, Philip Samartzis, Eugene Ughetti

Please come in: you are invited to enter the white tube-like structure. Shelter from the storm and dive into an hour-long performance of intertwining nature and machine sounds, mixed and played live in this portable venue resembling a research station of Antarctica. The jury wants to honor this true collaborative work. We fell for its ability to merge remote research and field recordings with investigations into new instruments, sampled in a live performance and a choreographed artistic “lecture” on geo politics and climate crisis. There was something curious about this project, we weren’t able to grasp it all at once, which made us come back several times, digging further into the various aspects. We see it as a comment on geopolitical issues and the climate crisis, and the immersive live performance merges the art-science-tech. The design of the presentation in itself has a potential to be used to communicate to and engage a larger number of audiences in the climate crisis, in a tactile experience without words, leaving you to reflect for yourself.


The SINE WAVE ORCHESTRA stay
The SINE WAVE ORCHESTRA

Stay is experience art using Fourier transform that, with the attraction of a participatory installation using sine waves, is packed into space. The composition of sine waves, which increased with the number of visitors, was delicately extracted. The relationship between the individual’s intention that determines a single frequency and directivity and inoperable leaps of the entire sound occur as gradations in various places in space. The experience is neither random nor noise, but the realization of stunning acoustic art of multiple phase.


Sky Brought Down
à…sa Stjerna

à…sa Stjerna’s site-specific Sky Brought Down managed to touch the jury in its gentle vertical manifestation of connections between inside and outside by sonifying weather data. Set in a hospital atrium, connecting different crowdy spaces of the buildings, the site was chosen by the artist allowing for a more interventional approach than the mere “atmospheric” artwork for the waiting room that was originally asked for. By increasing the corporeal as well as conceptual experience of the site, she manages to establish an immersive relation between visitor and site. Even though it doesn’t demand any high attention of its audience, it generously soothes and helps balance the hospital sounds, without disturbing the fragile balance of an everyday work space. à…sa Stjerna has followed a long-term practice and dialogue with public spaces rather than gallery art. Her theoretical and philosophical reflections on sound art and her own practice is as thorough as her methodological process of exploring, sensing, testing, and reworking as a practitioner. In this case she had to patiently develop new methods as she worked alongside architects, engineers, builders, hospital employees etc., developing the piece as the new building emerged.


Smart.ing Bodies
Evelina Rajca

This installation consists of two “glass instruments.” Each instrument is itself made from a glass shape that rotates and resonates, emitting specific frequencies, characteristic of the shape. The composition contains a built-in constraint that avoids catastrophic feedback loops and resonance. What can be heard is the sound of sand, which is pure yet complex and ever changing. The composition consists of a smart exploration of these sounds that always seems on the verge of exploding through resonance yet stays under control. Are all music instruments inherently potentially explosive?


Wind from Nowhere
Haein Kang

Sound art sometimes handles and art-izes the pre-musical sounds and also the pre-sound air vibrations. The sense device of the wind is aesthetically and perceptually decoded, commensurate with the sound art that dealt with air in a data-driven era. Based on the wind data blowing somewhere in the world, this work is passively reminiscent of the wind by changing the way the paper is shaken. When the machine synthetically gets consciousness, can this phenomenon be regarded as the beauty of the wind for them? This work presents human and machine questions that are different from the future shown in the novel Erewhon by Samuel Butler, which is the source of artwork. The artwork realizes the most poetic transformation of the data process art submissions this year.


Wiki-Piano.Net
Alexander Schubert

This piano piece is composed in real-time by a community of users, and performed live by a pianist. The collective dimension of the piece makes it singular in an unusual way. It is composed by a collection of people who do not interact between themselves, but the resulting piece does sound structured in an intriguing way. Listening to the piece, one can feel a sense of direction, a musical intention that is not always consistent but clearly human. Interactive AI technologies are now increasingly used in artistic works, sometimes raising fears about the role of the artist in tomorrow’s techno centric world. The jury has selected *wiki.piano.net* because this work shows how humans and machines can collaborate productively and open new exciting doors for collaborative creation. The piece questions the very nature of musical agency and demonstrates that new forms of collective musical creation can arise through the use of technology.




u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD 2019

Sirikit Amann, Nikolaus Glattauer, Anita Landgraf, Conny Lee, Magdalena Reiter

Freitag ist jeden Tag: Create your future / Create your present!

Wer von der Jugend spricht, spricht oft in einem Atemzug von der Zukunft. Die beiden Begriffe sind so eng miteinander verknüpft, dass man mitunter vergisst, dass die Jugend im Hier und Jetzt ist. Sie hat das Bedürfnis, im Augenblick gehört zu werden — nicht erst später. Und sie hat das Bedürfnis, ihre Gegenwart mitzugestalten, nicht “nur“ die Zukunft. Dieses Bedürfnis spiegelt sich in den vielfältigen Einreichungen dieses Jahres wider. Bandbreite und Facettenvielfalt machen den u19-Wettbewerb immer wieder aufs Neue zur variantenreichsten Kategorie des Prix Ars Electronica. Denn bekanntlich setzen hier junge Menschen nicht nur eigene Ideen um, sie zeigen auch unerwartete Möglichkeiten digitaler Techniken auf und stoßen damit in alle nur erdenklichen Richtungen vor.
Aber die Vision von u19 — CREATE YOUR WORLD reicht viel weiter als nur bis zum immer perfekteren Umgang mit digitalen Medien. In den Vordergrund treten inhaltliche Anliegen wie Klimaschutz, Strategien gegen Mobbing oder die Sorgen einer heranwachsenden Generation, die nicht in Schubladen gesteckt werden will. Gerade die Suche nach Antworten auf Gegenwartsfragen — oft unkonventionell verarbeitet — zeigt die Ernsthaftigkeit, mit der die jungen Menschen die Welt begreifen.
Eine Erkenntnis aus den Jurien der Vorjahre ist, dass wir viel mehr Arbeiten auszeichnen hätten können, als Preise zur Verfügung standen. Deshalb wurde der Rahmen der u19-Kategorie erweitert, sodass in diesem Jahr erstmals 24 Preise (statt bisher 15) vergeben werden. Diese Fülle an Preisen verdeutlicht, wie wichtig die u19- Kategorie im Rahmen des Prix Ars Electronica ist. Wir wollen die ersten Werke und Projekte von jungen kreativen Menschen anerkennen und ihnen — auch wenn es noch nicht zu einer Auszeichnung reicht — Mut machen, diesen Weg weiterzugehen.
Dies ist aber nicht die einzige Adaptierung, die bei dieser Kategorie vorgenommen wurde. Die Erfahrung hat gezeigt, dass die Arbeiten ganz junger EinreicherInnen vielfach mit Witz, schrägem Humor und einem unkonventionellen Zugang zur Umsetzung einer Aufgabe punkten. Bisher konnte die Jury diesen cleveren Einreichungen der jüngeren TeilnehmerInnen, die in Konkurrenz zu den elaborierten Arbeiten der älteren Jugendlichen standen, nicht immer die Aufmerksamkeit zukommen lassen, die sie verdient hätten. Um mehr Chancengleichheit zu schaffen, wurden daher heuer zwei neue Altersgruppen eingeführt: die “Young Creatives“ (bis 14 Jahre) und die “Young Professionals“ (14 bis 19 Jahre). Das macht den Wettbewerb fairer und bietet uns gleichzeitig die Möglichkeit, die enorme Bandbreite an Projekten, die in dieser speziellen Kategorie eingereicht werden, in all ihrer Unterschiedlichkeit besser abbilden zu können.
Bei den ganz Jungen stehen Experimentierfreudigkeit, Verspieltheit und Fantasiereichtum im Vordergrund. Diese Arbeiten müssen noch nicht perfekt sein. Aber sie sollen durch ihren Witz, Charme oder ihre besondere Frechheit überzeugen. Es war auch heuer der Jury wichtiger, die persönliche Motivation und Eigenständigkeit der jungen KünstlerInnen zu spüren, als ein Werk beurteilen zu müssen, das im Nachhinein nochmal “glattgebügelt“ wurde. “Young Creatives“ ist offen für viele Formen des Gestaltens: Egal ob Zeichnung, Modell, Skizze, Skulptur, ein besonders schönes Foto, ein bemerkenswertes Lego-Kunstwerk oder erste Programmierprojekte — all das und noch viel mehr hat Platz bei den “Young Creatives“.

Zur Teilnahme an dieser Kategorie möchten wir ganz besonders die Volksschulen einladen: Lasst uns teilhaben an den fantastischen Gedankenwelten, an den Fragen zur Entwicklung unseres Lebensraumes und an dem ungebrochenen Entdeckergeist der Jüngsten!
Mit den erweiterten Preisen für u10, u12 und u14 wollen wir zeigen, wie vielfältig die Zugänge in diesen Altersgruppen sind. Das Unterfangen ABC-Coding der Europaschule Linz zeigt etwa, dass sich bereits VolksschülerInnen auf kindgerechte Art mit den Grundprinzipien von Coding auseinandersetzen und diese auch so erklären können, dass computational thinking kinderleicht erfahrbar wird. Genau so ist Lernen am sinnvollsten: wenn man sich als Gleichaltrige/r von der Freude am Wissen von anderen anstecken lassen darf. Für dieses Projekt erhielten die VolksschülerInnen die Auszeichnung u10.
Die Hauptpreisträgerin der Kategorie u10, die neunjährige Mina Sophie Hackl, hat mit ihrem exzellenten Minifilm get_bullied! bewiesen, dass mit einem frechen, frischen Blick auch so schwere Themen wie Mobbing leicht und effektiv behandelt werden können. Sie schafft es, Figuren aus einer Spielewelt in einem neuen Kontext zu positionieren und ihnen mit einem selbst geschriebenen kleinen Storyboard Persönlichkeit und Charakter einzuhauchen.
Die drei Preisträger von u12 könnten nicht unterschiedlicher sein und sind symptomatisch für diese Altersgruppe.
Eine Hommage an den Computerspiel-Klassiker Rogue hat Simon Heppner den Hauptpreis verschafft: Im selbst programmierten Spiel Dungeon of Math kämpft man gegen Monster, indem man — dem Prinzip des spielerischen Lernens folgend — Rechenaufgaben löst. Die Auszeichnung u12 punktet mit einem Katzenvideo, das zum nachhaltigen Umgang mit unserer Umwelt animiert: Nachhaltigkeit von Katharina Landl greift das Hauptthema der heurigen Einreichungen mit Witz und Augenzwinkern auf.
Die Anerkennung geht an Der Gobi kommt von Amelie, Laurin und Niklas Steinhuber. In diesem Science-Fiction-Trickfilm geht es im Grunde um Freundschaft, Feindschaft, Angst vor dem Unbekannten und von lösungsorientiertem Denken. Alle handelnden Figuren sind mit verschiedenen Materialien erstellt und die “Aliensprache“ mit Untertitel in Menschensprache transformiert worden — aufwändig und mit viel Liebe zum Detail umgesetzt.
Mit Digitaler Mordversuch der CyberWerkstatt der NMS Hittisau wurde ein grandioses Werk mit dem Hauptpreis von u14 ausgezeichnet. Der Film fängt die aktuellen Machtverhältnisse zwischen EndnutzerInnen und großen Tech-Konzernen packend ein und erzählt die Tücken des Internet of Things in einer verständlichen und aufregenden Geschichte. Selbst die meisten Erwachsenen bedenken nicht, dass in einer mit dem Internet verbundenen Kaffeemaschine Gefahren stecken könnten, dass ein Kühlschrank, der die Milch selbst nachbestellt, gesellschaftliche Probleme verursachen oder die Kamera am Babyphone auch für Dritte einsehbar sein könnte. Umso erstaunlicher ist es, dass sich SchülerInnen dem Thema widmen und mit viel Witz und Überspitzung in einer überraschenden Erzählung den Nagel auf den Kopf treffen.
Die beiden Auszeichnungen von u14 zeigen die Bandbreite der Möglichkeiten:
Mit Why war Rap der NMS Liefering wurde ein Musikstück prämiert, das uns die Schrecken des Krieges vor Augen hält und der Frage “Was hat Krieg mit mir zu tun?“ in berührender und emotionaler Art nachgeht.
Plottegoino von Benjamin Aster zeugt von Erfindergeist und großer Begeisterung für das Tüfteln und Basteln. Ein kleiner großer Plotter überträgt digitale Texte auf Papier. Mit Über Nacht — Eine neue Macht führt uns die Filmklasse der SchülerInnenschule im WUK vor Augen, wie schnell, nämlich quasi über Nacht, demokratische Errungenschaften über den Haufen geworfen werden können.
Bei den “Young Professionals“ steht auch schon ein gewisses Maß an professioneller Umsetzung im Vordergrund: Ein Gedanke, ein Inhalt, ein Bedürfnis oder eine Idee sollen mittels eines passenden Mediums (das auch analog sein kann) und im besten Fall inklusive einer kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit dem transportierten Inhalt in eine Form gegossen werden. Schönheit alleine reicht hier allerdings nicht — Querdenken und überraschende Perspektiven sind erwünscht. In diesem Sinne hat uns die weitgehend fehlende Auseinandersetzung mit Weltpolitik oder dem lokalen politischen Geschehen überrascht. Denn medial durchaus präsente Themen wie z. B. der Rechtsruck in Europa und die Bagatellisierung rechter Parteien kamen so gut wie gar nicht vor.

Ist die Jugend deshalb uninteressiert an politischen Systemen? Nicht ganz. Denn besonders unter den Filmen fanden sich ein paar Beiträge, die sich mit autoritären Strukturen bzw. dystopischen Gesellschaften auseinandersetzen, in der der Mensch möglichst unreflektiert “funktionieren“ muss.
Auch die politische Dimension des Klimawandels und verwandter Umweltthemen scheinen ein Anknüpfungspunkt für die Jugendlichen zu sein: Von der “Fridays for Future“-Kampagne geprägt, findet 2019 besonders der Gedanke “Wir haben nur einen Planeten“ (wieder) Platz in den Köpfen junger Menschen und wurde in vielen Arbeiten auf unterschiedliche Weise ausgedrückt. Vielleicht hat die Jugend bei diesen Themen das Gefühl, am ehesten etwas bewegen zu können und gehört zu werden? In die engere Auswahl haben es aber nur wenige dieser Beiträge geschafft — nämlich jene, die aus der Fülle dieser Arbeiten hervorstachen.
Ein weiterer sehr dominanter Themenblock waren der Anpassungsdruck, die Kontrolle und Einschränkung der eigenen Lebensperspektiven von außen, aber auch das Ausbrechen aus vorgegebenen Strukturen. Selbstfindung, Anecken, Gruppenbildung und Abgrenzung gehören zum Aufwachsen dazu. Das Bedürfnis, diese Themen künstlerisch darzustellen, ist in diesem Jahr jedoch besonders auffällig. Die Auseinandersetzung mit Anderssein und Ausgrenzung oder mit psychischen Krankheiten zeigt, wie wichtig für die Jugendlichen das direkte Umfeld und das persönliche Wohlbefinden oder Unwohlsein sind. Auch wenn wir einige wenige immer wiederkehrende Themen ausmachen konnten, waren die Einreichungen formal doch wieder sehr divers: vom Hörspiel über Robotik bis hin zu Computerspielen, Open-Source-Maker-Projekten und nützlichen Software-Tools war alles dabei. An dieser Stelle möchten wir darauf hinweisen, dass uns besonders bei den ganz Jungen die Open-Source-Mentalität positiv aufgefallen ist. Auch den “Young Professionals“ möchten wir mehr Mut zu digitaler Offenheit und dem Teilen von Wissen und eigenem Code empfehlen, denn unter ihnen befanden sich nur wenige Highlights in Bezug auf Openness.
Auch einige sehr gute HTL-Abschlussarbeiten waren unter den Einreichungen. Es ist großartig, dass die SchülerInnen im schulischen Rahmen offenbar angeleitet werden, einen konkreten Bedarf in ihrer unmittelbaren Umgebung zu identifizieren und dafür Lösungen zu finden. Auch Berufsschulen sind aufgerufen, ihre SchülerInnen bei passenden Projekten zu begleiten und diese einzureichen. Für entsprechende Projekte und Abschlussarbeiten würden sich vielleicht Kooperationen mit anderen Schultypen anbieten, deren Fokus stärker auf Ästhetik und Design liegt, die aber häufig keinen praktischen Nutzen verlangen. Das könnte eine Chance sein, aus den jetzt schon fantastischen praktischen Projekten noch mehr herauszuholen. Von den Start-up-artigen Business-Idee-Einreichungen hat es in diesem Jahr keine in die engere Auswahl geschafft. In diesem Bereich fehlte uns die gesellschaftliche Relevanz bzw. die kritische Auseinandersetzung mit einem wirklich relevanten Problem.
Auffallend schwach vertreten waren in diesem Jahr (wie übrigens auch in den vorigen Jahren) musikalische Beiträge und das analoge Spiel. Uns würde interessieren, was man im Rahmen von “create your future“ aus diesen Medien noch herausholen könnte.
Einen spürbaren Überhang gab es bei Filmeinreichungen. Die Qualität der Filme — ob Animation, Stop-Motion, Realfilm oder Doku — war insgesamt sehr hoch. Wenig verwunderlich ist es daher, dass unter den vielen sehr guten Einsendungen ein Filmprojekt die Goldene Nica davongetragen hat. Bemerkenswert hingegen ist, dass die Entscheidung für den Preisträger so klar und eindeutig war. Alexander Lazarov hat uns alle mit seiner Coming-of-Age-Serie DSCHUNGEL überzeugt, denn er ging mit seinem Projekt einen Schritt weiter als andere Filmeinreichungen. Er hat seine fünfteilige Miniserie speziell fürs Handy konzipiert und mit einem gut ausgewählten Team professionell umgesetzt. Handy und soziale Netzwerke sind auch in den Handlungssträngen allgegenwärtig und verknüpfen diese zum Teil. Lazarov hat nicht nur seine unmittelbare, gegenwärtige Lebenswelt — jene junger Erwachsener in Wien — eingefangen und dargestellt, sondern auch seinen ganz eigenen ästhetischen Fingerabdruck entwickelt: Die Bildsprache, die Lebenswelten und die Ästhetik des Mediums Instagram vermitteln einen authentischen Einblick in das Lebensgefühl seiner Generation. Der junge Künstler versucht allerdings nicht, seine Generation irgendjemandem zu erklären oder sie zu rechtfertigen. Seine Serie ist nicht für ein Publikum “da draußen“ gemacht, dem er einen Einblick geben möchte. DSCHUNGEL ist vielmehr eine Liebeserklärung an seine Generation, gleichermaßen mit Feingefühl, Humor und einem durchaus kritischen Blick. Alex Lazarovs Arbeit hat die Jury unmittelbar überzeugt, nicht nur aufgrund der technischen Ausgereiftheit, sondern auch wegen der Emotionen, die die Bilder und Szenen auslösen. Und diese Kombination — technische Reife gepaart mit künstlerischer Emotion — ist genau das, was die Goldene Nica eines Prix Ars Electronica auszeichnen muss.
Die Diversität der Beiträge spiegelt sich auch in unseren anderen Hauptpreisträgern wider. Mit Rake – Minimize your Information (Graphische Wien) und Gift of Nature (HLW Kreuzschwesternschule Linz) haben zwei so gar nicht popkulturelle Beiträge die beiden Auszeichnungen der “Young Professionals“ davongetragen: Die Installation Rake reflektiert die kaum mehr handhabbare Flut an Information, die uns täglich vorgesetzt wird, und hinterfragt die tatsächliche Relevanz der von undurchsichtigen Algorithmen als relevant definierten Informationen. Gift of Nature thematisiert die Stilblüten der Werbeindustrie, die mittlerweile das Nachhaltigkeitsthema für sich entdeckt hat. Die überdimensionierte Verpackung einer einzelnen Nudel oder Erdbeere, die als bio und regional dargestellt und mit positiven Worthülsen beworben wird, zeigt, dass es wichtig ist zweimal hinzusehen und zu hinterfragen, was vordergründig als nachhaltig präsentiert wird. Der “netidee SPEZIALPREIS 2019“ stammt aus dem Bereich der praktischen Anwendung. “Improve your work“ heißt es schon im Untertitel von Tweakr.io, und genau das ist es auch, was dieses Werk auszeichnungswürdig macht. Es eröffnet neue Möglichkeiten für die Zusammenarbeit zwischen GrafikerInnen und deren KundInnen. Das Tool erlaubt uns, Bilder mit anderen zu teilen und Feedback dazu direkt im Bild einzuarbeiten, zurückzuspielen und zu diskutieren. Tweakr.io ist somit eines jener Werke, auf das viele Menschen nur gewartet haben und deren Sinn bereits nach wenigen Sekunden ins Auge springt. Die Anwendung ist ein zeitgemäßes Werkzeug für die Zusammenarbeit übers Internet und hat bei uns das Gefühl des “Warum gibt es das noch nicht?“ hervorgerufen. Damit trifft das Projekt von Antonia Beck, Tobias Gruber, Clemens Makoschitz, Tobias Micko und Sebastian Schreibmaier den Schwerpunkt dieses Spezialpreises sehr genau.
Die heuer vergebenen Anerkennungen zeugen von der Vielfältigkeit der Themen, mit denen sich die “Young Professionals“ auseinandersetzen.
Bei den vorwiegend humoristischen Kopien von bestehenden Nachrichtenformaten — ob Fake-News-Beiträge oder Imitationen von Nachrichtensendungen — fehlte meist die kritische Auseinandersetzung mit den Inhalten oder mit dem Medium selbst. Eine lobenswerte Reportage zum Thema Gendergap und die beeindruckend berührende und sehr professionelle Doku Kunst und Überleben einer Gruppe von Schülern und Schülerinnen der Ortweinschule in Graz zeigen jedoch, dass die kommende Generation aus bekannten Formaten nach wie vor etwas Neues herausholen kann.
Animationen sind jedes Jahr zahlreich vertreten. Die verwendeten Techniken variieren zwischen Legeanimationen, Trickfilm, 3D-Animation. Besonders beliebt sind animierte Filme mit Lego-Figuren. Thomas Speckhofer gelang mit Lego Feuer und Wasser ein nicht nur perfekt inszenierter, dramaturgisch ansprechender Lego-Film, es gelang ihm auch, die einzelnen Figuren mit Leben zu erfüllen, Special Effects einzubauen, Feuer spuckende Drachen fliegen zu lassen — ein cooler Fantasyfilm. Um sich mal die Arbeit zu verbildlichen: Für die knapp sieben Minuten mussten pro Sekunde 24 Einzelbilder erstellt werden, macht in Summe über 11.000 Bilder.
Einen ganz anderen Zugang zum bewegten Bild suchten die SchülerInnen des BORG Bad Leonfelden mit Shape of you: Die Welt hat wahrlich schon Unmengen an Musikvideos gesehen. Umso schwieriger und beeindruckender ist es, ein Musikvideo zu schaffen, von dem die ZuseherInnen gefesselt sind. Die vorliegende Arbeit setzt die Tanzperformance des “1 Million Dance Studios“ zum Song Shape of you professionell, kreativ und vor allem mit viel Humor gekonnt um.
Filme, die sich mit der näheren Zukunft befassen, finden sich ebenfalls unter den Anerkennungen. “Blue moon you saw me standing alone / Without a dream in my heart / Without a love of my own“ schrieb Lorenz Hart in seinen Lyrics für Blue Moon, den Song, der in den Interpretationen von Billy Holiday, Frank Sinatra oder Elvis Mitte des vorigen Jahrhunderts zum Welthit wurde. Der mit Special Effects gespickte Film, mit dem das Quartett aus der HTBLVA Spengergasse beim Prix Ars Electronica einen Anerkennungspreis in der Kategorie “Young Professionals“ gewinnt, liefert quasi posthum die kongenialen Bilder dazu. Durch die “kalte Linse“, wie es im Begleittext treffend heißt, werden Verlust, Trauer und vor allem Einsamkeit gezeigt. Und das vor dem Hintergrund eines einzigartig schönen und gleichzeitig grausam kalten Weltalls.
Mit Fremdkörper #3 erhält ein Film zur gleichnamigen Komposition von Stefan Pris einen Anerkennungspreis in der Kategorie “Young Professionals“. Spröde und dissonant wie das Musikstück, das in der vorliegenden Fassung vom Klangforum Wien interpretiert wird, sind auch die Bilder des Films. “Eine Pixilation in einer Irrenanstalt an der Grenze zum Schulalltag“ nennen die jungen Filmemacher aus dem BORG Mistelbach ihr kleines Kunstwerk, in dem sie freilich genau diese Grenze von der ersten Minute an bewusst und konsequent überschreiten. Erfreulich ist es, wenn neben den vielen neuen spannenden kreativen Köpfen auch “alte Bekannte“ unter den EinreicherInnen auftauchen. Es ist schön zu sehen, dass so viele Kinder, Jugendliche und junge Erwachsene “dranbleiben“, ihr Wissen und ihre Fähigkeiten erweitern und qualitativ immer hochwertigere Projekte einreichen. Einer davon ist Simon Mück. Mit Surprise me gelang ihm ein Paradebeispiel für die Kategorie “Young Professionals“. Die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Thema der durchoptimierten Gesellschaft spielt mit dystopischen Konzepten. Die Arbeit ist in jeder Hinsicht äußerst professionell: vom Plot über Kamera, Schnitt, Musik und Sound bis hin zum Filmplakat und der Wahl des großartigen Schauspielers. Man spürt, dass in jeder Einstellung die Liebe zum Detail steckt.
Aus den Filmbeiträgen herausstreichen möchten wir außerdem den Beitrag ERROR_351 der jungen Filmkünstlerin Katharina Maunz. Der Kurzfilm behandelt das Thema Anpassungsdruck und Anderssein aus Sicht der Queer-Community. Wir laden explizit und herzlich eine bunte Vielfalt an Jugendlichen dazu ein, Beiträge einzureichen, und sind gespannt, welche Perspektiven sich dadurch eröffnen. Ein Feld, das von hoher Kompetenz und Einfallsreichtum geprägt ist, ist jenes der Computerspiele. Turenia ist ein rundenbasiertes Area-Control-Strategiespiel mit einfachem Spieleinstieg. Nicht nur das analog anmutende Design ist gelungen. Auch die Spielmechaniken, die diversen Stärken der Truppen, die freischaltbaren Spezialfähigkeiten, der durchdachte Sound und die vielen liebevoll animierten Details machen Turenia der HTBLVA Spengergasse zu einer beeindruckenden Arbeit, die unsere volle Anerkennung verdient.
Hinsichtlich Gamification überzeugt bei den “Young Professionals“ das Projekt JUSA — HTL. Ein 3D-Computerspiel mit der Verknüpfung von spielerischem Reiz und praktischem Nutzen. Die Art, wie das Spiel umgesetzt wurde, trifft den aktuellen Trend der “Escape Room“-Spiele. Eine interessante Form, die HTL Braunau am Inn vorzustellen.
Was wäre u19 ohne die ausgefeilten technischen Anwendungen! Beim Augmented Reality Welding Assistant handelt es sich um eine digitale Assistenz, die im Sichtfeld von SchweißerIinnen mit Unterstützung einer VR-Brille eingeblendet wird. Es ist somit eines jener Projekte, das neue Technologien nicht einfach als Spielerei versteht, sondern durch viel kreative Vorarbeit ein sinnvolles Einsatzgebiet findet, in dem reale Arbeitsplätze clever unterstützt und Arbeitsprozesse deutlich vereinfacht werden können. Diese große Relevanz, die der Augmented Reality Welding Assistant von Felix Nikolas Bauernfeind und Julian Josef Kienast für Menschen an den Schweißgeräten hat, macht das Projekt so auszeichnungswürdig. Es ist eine Anwendung, von der wir hoffen, sie bald in Benutzung zu sehen!
Dass junge Menschen eine Faszination für Drohnen entwickeln, ist kein Novum. Dass sie aber eine Drohne von Grund auf selbst bauen und Baupläne und Code für alle offen und kostenfrei zur Verfügung stellen, ist eine Leistung sondergleichen! Man kann alle dafür notwendigen Informationen und Code herunterladen, die Drohne selbst umsetzen und daran weitertüfteln. Gerade heute, wo so viele nach neuen Start-up-Ideen suchen, braucht es viel mehr Mut zu solch digitaler Offenheit, zum Teilen von Wissen und eigenem Code. Mit OpenDrone von Thomas Brych, Michael Franz Hitzker, Tim-Matthias Klecka und Markus Kurzmann ist ein Beispiel par excellence für dieses gesellschaftliche Engagement gelungen. Auch das Einsatzgebiet der Drohne bietet den vier Gestaltern eine Möglichkeit, sich für ein Thema starkzumachen: Ihr Werk soll künftig von Borkenkäfern befallene Bäume erkennen und als Frühwarnsystem Einsatz finden. Diese Überlegung schließt die Klammer zu den vielen Umwelt- und Klimawandel-Beiträgen dieses Jahrgangs und spiegelt das starke Umweltbewusstsein der heutigen Digital Natives in allen Bereichen wieder.
Es war uns eine große Freude, diese vielen unterschiedlichen, nerdigen, lustigen, ernsten, freudigen, traurigen, schrillen, schreienden, subtilen, entzückenden, realitätsnahen, künstlerischen, packenden — kurz: bunten — Einreichungen zu sichten, zu diskutieren und schließlich für das Jahr 2019 besonders aussagekräftige Umsetzungen auszuwählen. Wir sind uns sicher, von einigen der PreisträgerInnen auch in Zukunft noch so einiges zu Gesicht zu bekommen. Für das kommende Jahr möchten wir vor allem Mädchen und junge Frauen, aber auch queere Jugendliche einladen, ihre Perspektive auf Technik und Technologie mit uns zu teilen.