New Animation Art
In The Limen Truth
Nora O Murchú, Philippe Pasquier, Helen Starr, Mimi Son, Lev Manovich
”Other worlds provide one with syllogisms that one can attempt to make actual in the worlds in which one is oppressed, given one’s critical understanding of each world. Critical understanding is made possible in part by going into the limen when one “travels” to the other worlds. The limen is the place where one becomes most fully aware of one’s multiplicity”.Lugones, Maria. Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.
The 2023 Prix Ars Electronica shifted its focus in the Computer Animation category, to explore the landscape of New Animation Art. It created a space to invite artists whose work explores and expands on the cutting-edge intersection of animation, art, and technology, delving into visual expression with unabashed experimentation.
The merging of computer animation and art presents an opportunity to reimagine our connection with art and its technologically expanded modes of expression. No longer confined to mere entertainment, computer animation emerges as a profound artistic form capable of evoking intellectual and nuanced emotional responses. As members of this year’s jury panel, we experienced a multitude of emotions—joy, grief, curiosity, compassion, guilt, and awe—united by the tumultuous journey through these remarkable artworks.
Empowered by sophisticated technologies, creative practitioners brought their visions to life in this renewed category, expanding the horizons of art by incorporating the dynamic and transformative qualities of new animation, enabling fresh storytelling techniques and conceptual explorations. While using animation technologies in a self-referential manner holds artistic value and allows for experimentation within the medium, adopting a conceptual approach to these technologies introduces a distinct focus on power dynamics and social change. It broadens the discourse surrounding animation by foregrounding its social and political dimensions, challenging dominant narratives that have historically stifled ideas of difference.
The current cultural landscape, influenced by philosophers such as Sylvia Wynter, Maria Lugones, and Gloria Anzaldúa, emphasizes the importance of questioning and transforming power structures and the representations they perpetuate. Embracing these complex conversations rather than shying away from them, this category welcomed the exploration of diverse voices, stories, and cultural expressions within animations. Its goal was to challenge prevailing paradigms and offer opportunities for a multiverse of narratives, thus interrogating the very structure of Truth itself.
In this year’s judging process, different viewpoints emerged when considering the materiality of new animation technologies, encompassing AI, game engine, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artworks, and more. Through the lens of identity politics, numerous connections and implications were opened for discussion. This perspective prompted a critical examination among the international and intersectional jury of who creates animations, which narratives and identities are portrayed, and whose experiences and perspectives are centered or marginalized.
Essentially, this new animation, as a creative process, aligned with the conceptual approach of much contemporary art after Duchamp. But with an important and unique twist, which is only possible in this emerging digital canon. New Animation becomes a powerful tool for exploring concepts, storytelling, and expressing ideas beyond the confines of traditional non-interactive visual representation. This year’s submissions challenge the viewers’ perception of what constitutes art objects and expand the possibilities of conceptual exploration through interaction, time, and narrative.
These technologies enable the exploration and representation of diverse identities, allowing users to embody different characters, perspectives, and realities. By embracing and celebrating the multiplicity of identities and fostering hybridity within animations, these technologies can challenge essentialist notions of identity and promote inclusive narratives and experiences.
”This terrain, when fully occupied, will be that of a new science of human discourse, of human ‘life’ beyond the ‘master discourse’ of our governing ‘privileged text’, and its sub/versions.”Wynter, Sylvia. “Afterword: Beyond Miranda’s Meanings: Un/silencing the ‘Demonic Ground’ of Caliban’s ‘Woman’.” Africa World Press, Inc., 1990.
The call by Jamaican philosopher Sylvia Wynter to decolonize knowledge production extends to the realm of animation technologies. This perspective encourages the integration of alternative epistemologies and cultural frameworks into the animation process, prompting exploration beyond dominant Western-centric approaches. By embracing a decolonial approach, animation technologies can challenge the homogenizing effects of colonialism, creating space for marginalized cultures and knowledge systems to be acknowledged and respected.
Scholars such as Anzaldúa, Wynter, and Lugones highlight the significance of agency and resistance against oppressive structures. In the context of animation technologies, this entails empowering users to actively engage with and shape the animations they interact with. It involves providing tools for customization, personalization, and co-creation, enabling users to express their own identities, narratives, and cultural perspectives. Animation technologies can serve as platforms for social activism, enabling ignored communities to challenge stereotypes, amplify their voices, and advocate for social change.
By applying the insights of Anzaldúa, Wynter, and Lugones to the materiality of animation technologies, we can cultivate more inclusive and empowering creative environments. This involves critically examining power dynamics, promoting diverse representation and narratives, embracing hybridity and multiplicity, and decolonizing knowledge production. Ultimately, this approach contributes to the development of animations that are equitable, socially conscious, and reflect the richness and complexity of human experiences.
At times, and like most, the jury struggled with the inadequate context of nation-states in conflict. While artists and their work are important in denouncing and highlighting systemic issues, this jury also had to resort to self-censorship to minimize harm, and protect artists, the festival, or the jury members.
“I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue – my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.”Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987.
Delivery Dancer’s Sphere
The work Delivery Dancer’s Sphere was conceived and completed by artist Ayoung Kim during the chaotic era of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a speculative fiction set in the delirious world that emerges between the everyday normal reality pre-pandemic and the new digitally intermediated pandemic reality.
The story is told through Ernst Mo, a female motorcycle courier living in the city of Seoul, working for the ‘Delivery Dancer’ platform. Whilst she is riding through the city, the platform’s AI navigation system constantly updates her route to optimize the distance from start to destination, often ignoring the actual geography of the city or the rules of physical reality itself. The riders who can traverse this twisted space-time attain the platform’s highest level—a ‘Ghost Dancer.’
Within this glitched reality, Ernst Mo encounters another ego who shares her appearance, En Storm, and the confusion increases. The work further explores this sense of confusion in its diverse variety of textures such as live action video, 360 cameras, LiDAR scanning and game engine footage all combined into a singular montage. This confusion articulates an emerging sense of anxiety that stems from a cyborg physicality that runs through our cities at the speed of light in smart devices.
The jury found that Ayoung Kim’s combination of philosophy, topology, and classical physics with excellent visual storytelling creates a highly successful portrayal of the emerging multi-layered and uncontrollable world we inhabit. The beginning of the 21st century is bringing a new form of platform capitalism that acts as both friend and enemy, allowing for the emergence of a new precarious working class, with female workers continuing to be pushed to the lower classes even in this new gig economy. Meanwhile merciless AI algorithms search countless possibilities to optimize the routes of our lives, encouraging a pattern of unstoppable competition that often ends in harm. Within this world of unrealistic efficiency and usefulness, our other selves and new desires can be found.
Awards of Distinction
IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! TAKE THIS
Luring us into a fantastical dreamscape, Al-Sabah’s CGI film IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! TAKE THIS embraces the shape-shifting potential and seduction of computer-animation. The film revolves around a ‘hero’ undertaking an uneasy and dangerous journey through various realms. In this world, the hero submits to a series of cathartic and difficult mutations and transformations, leaving them in a constant state of glitching and falling. Caught up in a side-quest, the hero seems to be at the mercy of an unknown force off screen. Weighted down by their internal turmoil, the body of the hero convulses from an outpouring of emotion and grief. Out of sync and scale with the landscape, and with objects that appear on screen, the hero lacks agency and is uncomfortable with his own hyper-masculinity, eventually breaking down in tears. In IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE! TAKE THIS, Al Sabah has built a world of subtle storytelling filled with hyper-synthetic visuals. In this world, journeys seemingly never end, and preconceived narratives and habitual perceptions of masculinity are pushed and challenged. Operating in the gap between the fantasy and reality, Al Sabah draws us into their seductive journey of metamorphosis and fluidity, queer possibility, destruction and decay, set against scenes of resilience and rebirth.
We increasingly hear about the rising cost of living everywhere. In Asia, and beyond, it too often means living in a single space in which bedroom, kitchen and living room are one. This “Oneroom” phenomenon is increasingly spreading across the globe. These living situations were only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation and confinement it triggered. In this provocative immersive virtual reality (VR) piece, SANGHEE lets us explore and get a first-person experience of what it might mean to be in such a space. VR has many drawbacks and limitations, but one thing it affords is to portray space, and SANGHEE stacked 23 3D scanned Onerooms. This Tower of Babel of tiny living spaces is positioned underwater, at the bottom of some ocean, like a coral formation—adding to the serene yet oppressive nature of the experience. The jury appreciated the direct nature of the work through the very appropriate, simple yet convincing use of the medium to produce a truly embodied and immersive experience of grim life situations that are often portrayed too abstractly. The jury commends the work’s simplicity and efficiency, which successfully frames a set of interviews portraying the lived experience of Korean youth inhabiting the spaces on display, that can resonate with all viewers.
Distant Distraction, Foul Breach, Separate Sensation
The commodification of our social relations is just another step toward the self-realizing Situationist prophecy of the society of the spectacle. From selfies to body dysmorphia, there are only a few clicks—ones that Lark Spartin denounces. Expanding upon Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics, Lark Spartin questions how our technology mediates our life and reifies our changing “digital relationality” into a playful and efficient interactive installation. The three simple augmented reality (AR) tableaux, with hands reaching out for genuine connection, each come with an AR filter of a different face part (eyes, mouth, ears). The jury very much applauds the work’s playful elicitation of the disembodiment that the social media use of AR platforms entails, while remaining confident that all will—eventually—take a selfie. Resistance is futile.
Dzata: The Institute of Technological Consciousness
Russel Hlongwane, Substance Point
Francois Knoetze and Amy Louise Wilson, Lo-Def Film Factory
Dzata: The Institute of Technological Consciousness is a creative research project. The project acts as a fictional institute and a repository for technological practices across the African continent over the past centuries, and aims to understand innovation and technology through the prism of African history, culture, and traditions. In this film an unnamed figure embodies African technologists who have been travelling across the continent for hundreds of years developing vernacular technologies. Carrying mobile laboratories on their back, they transform them into complex laboratories, mixing the digital (motherboards and monitors) with the analogue (tools, traditional building techniques, spiritual practices). The film follows these figures as they morph and glitch and build new structures from wires as they move through the landscape on a journey of reconstruction. Made with Dala AI, found footage and an assembly of costumed characters, Dzata: The Institute of Technological Consciousness aims to shift the image of “African data” in the technological imagination and decolonize ideas around technology and innovation.
Dealing with death is never easy, and as was discovered during COVID-19 becomes more difficult due to social distancing. On April 17, 2020 Global News posted that a small but tight-knit community of online gamers, honored the death of Ferne Le’roy in the one place they could all meet: Final Fantasy XIV. Hundreds of players arrived with their digital avatars, all wearing black clothes and holding umbrellas. Together, they joined a procession in a touching tribute that was then shared on social media. By using a digital platform to offer online “rituals of healing” through gameplay, Funeral Play by Ruini Shi uses technology to create tender, new social structures. This speculative artwork embodies an emerging narrative of future possibilities that inspire discussions about the applications and potential trajectories of technological development.
GLITCHBODIES is an interactive game and project that explores contemporary feminism, LGBTQ+ experiences, and Drag transformations. It is a wonderful example of the Sojourner Artform— a dynamic and ever-evolving participatory process that uses AI technologies to embody the spirit of exploration and discovery, through the act of experiencing worlds, real or imagined. Within GLITCHBODIES, non-heteronormative gender positions find a safe platform for queerness to operate through the body politics of its avatars. Using participatory art methodologies these virtual haunts exist in a profound interconnection, as a series of experiences forming a collective body. Liberated from the confines of binary structures, hierarchical systems, and fixed notions of gender, GLITCHBODIES roots itself in concepts of gender fluidity where the body becomes a vehicle for new world building and collective consciousness.
Yu-Han Chen, Ching-Wen Hsu, Ruei-Sin Jhang, Li-Hua Zhan, Tung-En Chien, Pei-Chi Wu
This beautifully drawn animation captures the sense of generalized anxiety that comes from the uncertain border between a free and easy exchange of ideas and propaganda, with its heavy emphasis on manipulation. By utilizing the immersive capabilities of VR/360° video, we are transported into the past to witness the impact of controlled speech on a small-town community, and of instances in the past when the exercise of free speech led to the denial of rights and loss of lives. It suggests that the perception and use of freedom of speech have changed over time and that nowadays, freedom of speech is often invoked as a protective measure. The faded blue aesthetics and the clever soundscape of this artwork evokes a feeling of poignant loss in what is essentially a subtle, political work.
I Took a Lethal Dose of Herbs
I Took a Lethal Dose of Herbs by Yvette Granata is an example of an artform which uses technological fabulation to explore the intersection of technology, society, and culture. An interactive VR film about an anti-abortion campaigner who, having survived postpartum psychosis, finds herself pregnant again. Coerced by the societal norms to experiment with plant-based abortifacients, she poisons herself. Based on anonymous Reddit postings between 2017-2020 this artwork documents the contemporary loss of female agency. We sojourn to the real-life horror of a birth-induced psychosis drenched in mediaeval Christian ideologies and demonic babies. Set against the white picket bigotry of Post-Trump’s America, this critical fabulation highlights oppressive policies based on faith not fact. Dangerously experimenting on yourself because you are unable or unwilling to bear a child? Witches were burnt for less than this. This sad tale is as old as time.
Zi Yin Chen, Hsiang Feng Chuang
We enter a room with walls completely covered by paper sheets with text—the artist’s Google searches recorded since she started using this search engine. There is a comfortable armchair in the corner, a standing light, a newspaper rack, and a hidden fan that makes the sheets move very slightly, forming beautiful varying patterns. The work is beautiful, meditative, and subtle. It transforms mundane search queries into an uncanny exhibition of one’s life. An artist’s timeline of both important and less important events experienced over many years creates physical space. The work shows the still unexplored aesthetic potential of our digital footprints. Rather than visualizing all the records together or extracting important patterns, the artists arrange printouts in an overlapping manner, similar to a shingle roof, which protects us in a house from the outside world.
Le Mal des Ardents (Ardent Other)
Paris, 2019. Notre-Dame burns. In Mal des Argents Alice Byrgo has reconstructed an eerie scene through photogrammetry and sound. Murmurs and gasps from the crowd can be faintly heard as the onlookers look on in awe and horror at a scene we never get to witness. Her camera glides in and out of this crowd, circling them, drifting in and out. Reversing the angle of perspective onto the faces of the crowd, Alice Byrgo constructs an uncanny digital landscape that draws attention to our fascination with catastrophic events. Highlighting the behavior of the crowd, the disconcerting immersive experience lays bare the social tensions bathed in the light of hidden flames.
Lebensraum / Living Space
Sven Windszus’s interactive art installation invites its audience into a physical experiment. The work explores the issue of overpopulation, and the resulting destruction of the environment and rising sea levels. The pump symbolizes the economic and human growth that started to rise exponentially with the introduction of the steam engine in the early 19th century. Pressing on the pump causes heads to appear, and as each one is added, the available space expands, but the rising water level problem worsens. With just a few movements of the pump, the heads quickly appear underwater, and the following error message “UNEXPECTED ERROR. RECOVERING LIVING SPACE” will appear. With this installation Sven Windszus aims to ask questions about causality and responsibility. Do we keep pumping or do we halt the process before the screen is underwater?
Rhizomatiks x ELEVENPLAY “multiplex”
MIKIKO, Daito Manabe, Motoi Ishibashi, Satoshi Horii, Yuya Hanai, ELEVENPLAY, Rhizomatiks
“That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, 1817.
multiplex is an orgy of new media, a multi-layered performance of mechanical precision playing with abstracted and minimal forms. A distributed and networked dance performance, it interrogates the relationships between the human body and emerging technology. Performers rendered in Augmented Reality are projected dancing along with very physical robots amid video projections. Happening in two physical spaces and as an online work, the piece is a true feat of multi-media content, in which the technicalities eventually leave space for the poetry of audio-visual enchantment: the suspension of disbelief. Sometimes words are neither useful nor necessary.
Prepare to journey into the heart of PLSTC, a meticulously crafted underwater dystopia that plunges its audience into the unsettling reality of plastic pollution. This world, hidden beneath the surface of the oceans, is a stark and powerful representation of the environmental crisis unfolding in our time. The film’’s visuals are at once mesmerizing and shocking. But despite its sobering subject matter, there’s an engaging, magnetic quality to the film. Through the fusion of AI-generated images, digital compositing, and sophisticated editing, the film encourages empathy and action, sparking a connection with the plight of marine life. It also shows the true potential of AI cinema, which can inform, delight, and inspire audiences to take action.
SMOG SEASON is an interactive digital installation that uses common consumer objects. Comprised from warning images on 80 cigarette packs arranged vertically on five circular bases, this piece is activated by a viewer. She chooses the level of smoke on the phone screen, and puts the phone next to the sensor. Once activated, the array of warning images from cigarette packs starts rotating. The movement is powered by an array of motors, sensors, and Arduino, adding an element of mechanical intrigue. The viewer controls the level of ‘smoke’ via their smartphone, tying personal agency to the artwork’s operation. Thus, the work not only illustrates the severity of the issue but also encourages viewers to consider their entitlement to clean air and the collective responsibility in resolving this crisis.
Artificial Intelligence & Life Art
This year’s worthy projects favored critical, layered explorations of the ideological construction of AI. We were delighted to find a wide range of formally inventive, and aesthetically moving works that took up artificial intelligence in all its eras and forms. Submissions dove deep into competing myths, histories, fictions, and imaginaries of AI and machine learning. They examined how computation and predictive algorithms shape our thinking even as we drive their design.
Many of the artists have been working in hybrid collaborations with AI and ML for over a decade. Political critiques were considered in tandem with aesthetic development, and moral urgency. It was impossible to work with AI or ML without engaging with the political, aesthetic, moral aspects at play in its design and use. AI constructs dominant notions of the human by accelerating the seductive, false dream of ‘neutral and objective’ knowledge. And yet, there is no pure space of purely rational, logical engagement with machines and systems ‘free’ from culture, history, or the body.
Nora N. Khan
Considering the limits in understanding ethics within a biased and unfair society, we questioned how ethics can ever be embedded in Artificial Intelligence. Therefore we questioned the ethics of the outcomes, intentions, and the discourses of the projects and the artists, including our own jury, placing art in relation to such ethical frameworks and contexts. Art and intelligence can’t be neutral since their understanding and function depend on limited cultural contexts and cognitive systems. Through such a critical attitude in assessing the projects, we deconstructed the cultural definition of Artificial Intelligence, artistic formality and mediums, as well as the general notions of technology and life. These relationships emerged also from several works addressing the ecological and climate crisis through the use of data, algorithms, and platforms, a tendency that senses the shift in understanding the notion of life not as an apolitical scientific phenomena, but rather directly interdependent on technology and information created by human knowledge, which ultimately is increasingly manipulated by Artificial Intelligence.
As the reach of technical and biological intelligences expands rapidly through the deployment of large-scale algorithmic systems and shifts in accessibility of precision medicine, personal genomics, and reproductive tech, there is a deep need for critique that complicates these experiences. Our deliberation goal was thus to identify work that opens new vectors to challenge and (re)define intelligence. We encountered many themes from grief (eco-grief, diminished cultural specificity and memory, the loss of autonomy) to hope (speculative worlds, tools for creating and sustaining life), delivered through shared mechanisms such as the generation of digital worlds, slow-technology, and the extraction, cross-modal processing, and in some cases obfuscation of signal from noise. We sought art beyond artifact, technique that pushed rather than reiterated the capacity of the tool, and critical perspectives on the very definition of intelligence. The finalists represent a global community that is too often being tested on in production but refuses to stop plotting and dreaming about future intelligences.
The works awarded this year are indicative of skepticism and dystopia with regards to technological innovation—considered less tools for hope or ‘progress’ than source of misuse, bias, and authoritative control in times of major ecological and geopolitical crisis: automated fake news, censorship, species extinction, eco disasters, and mistrust in AI’s transformative power outranked utopian potentials in a jury session dominated by political positions. Here, the binary in the category’s name itself, operating with the ambiguous notions of ‘artificiality,’ ‘intelligence,’ and ‘aliveness’ leads to an unexpected new ‘paragone’ with regards to media adequacy in relation to the topics at stake, and to a flattening between imagination, representation, simulation, and actual manipulation of ‘the living.’ Given the violent geopolitical situation with e.g. the crackdown of Iranian protest, Chinese media control and the Russian war on Ukraine, the jury—in conjunction with the Prix’ direction—even had to consider whether potential awardees would risk life-impacting consequences, or whether other awarded artists would resign as a consequence.
Most of the judging in jury sessions was characterized by a dualism that is somehow written into the very name of the category, where Artificial Intelligence, which is essentially a digital tool, is juxtaposed with Life Art, which is a field where aliveness and biomedia are saturated with various, not only digital, technologies. Thus, the judging process saw the focus of the criteria slide more towards determining excellence of execution concerning one of the poles in the dichotomy of AI & Life Art, and less about the meaningful intersections between the two. Avoiding an either/or choice, where either excellence in a selection of virtuoso programming and artificial uses of AI on the one hand, and ethical uses of liveness on the other, the dynamics of the jury revolved mainly around projects that problematized the social effects of surveillance, inclusivity, ethics, ludicism, etc. This brought to the forefront of the selection process the questioning of the ideological positioning of each work of art and the cultural and political context in which it was produced.
Unerasable Characters Series
This year’s Golden Nica is awarded to the Unerasable Characters Series, a three-part investigation of the scale of digital authoritarianism through the transformation of censored content by some of the very technology used to control it. Artist Winnie Soon (HK) uses machine learning techniques combined with DIY and open source approaches to complicate notions of control and power: Is material generated from censored information also “forbidden”? Can knowledge of censorship combat the normalization of erasure? And how does the intersection of systemic censorship infrastructure and networked global crises—such as the COVID-19 pandemic—increase both the value of our communication and the danger of forced silence? How is Artificial Intelligence being used to automate censorship and erasure? The Unerasable Characters Series investigates these questions of agency and control through the manipulation and transformation of regularly scraped content from Weibo, one of the largest Chinese social media platforms (similar to Twitter). Critically, much of the content scraped is ultimately censored and removed by the Chinese government, but lives on in the archives used throughout this project. Soon uses a variety of techniques to communicate and escalate critical commentary about censorship, from the highly tangible and whimsical to the ephemerally digital and frustrating. In Unerasable Characters I, censored materials are used to generate new content that is bound in a book which, in turn, challenges the definition of “forbidden text.” In the second work, voices—characters—disappear before our very eyes, as chatty textual representations are “censored” in real time. Each successive experience is increasingly frustrating, culminating in Unerasable Characters III, a display of censored posts relating to the COVID-19 pandemic that is devoid of all content except punctuation, emojis, and special characters. Stripped of content but sprinkled with signposts of meaning, we encounter just enough to fear how much we’re missing.
Although Soon’s work serves as stern commentary on the increased role of pervasive, automated digital surveillance infrastructure in the control and erasure of dissenting voices, it also highlights the opportunity created through the combination of digital “breadcrumbs” and algorithmic techniques. By transforming scraped, censored content into “new” experiences that avoid or circumvent surveillance, Soon ultimately questions whether the very same technology that aims to remove information can be hijacked to make the erased unerasable.
Awards of Distinction
3SDC project (Sunlight, Soil & Shit (De)Cycle)
Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, Steve Berrick
In times of hyperbolic promises of so-called ‘precision farming’ powered by ‘artificial intelligence’ and big data, soilless farming techniques such as hydroponic systems and vertical gardens to ‘green’ urban spaces, the 3SDC (Sunlight, Soil & Shit (De)Cycle) project stages a functional and monitored, yet voluntarily contestable circular food system. As a weeks-long durational performative set-up involving a series of interconnected processes—controlled growth of plant and animal tissues, optimized environment agriculture, composting, and alkaline hydrolysis biocremation—Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, and Steve Berrick point to the failure to acknowledge so-called ‘ecosystem services’ and biodiversity concerns in innovative and abstract agricultural ventures, often even in the name of sustainability. Here, ‘cellular agriculture’—growing animal cell tissue outside an actual animal to produce allegedly ‘victimless meat’—is carried out not to be consumed but to be turned into fertilizer, thus ironically reversing the paradoxes inherent in animal protein production. And the manifold sensors to measure the artificially created ‘climate variables,’ culminating in a control room, mainly serve to validate otherwise absurd bio-cybernetics via the production of data, which has become our societies’ central currency.
Shadows from the Walls of Death
Shadows from the Walls of Death is a complex and multi-layered intermedia and live art project that puts anthropocentric assertions to the test in an age of ubiquitous greenwashing. The project involves and combines chemical synthesis and field research into naturally detoxifying micro-organism and plants used in bio- and phytoremediation, and thus emphasizes eco-systemic intelligence to address trans-historical issues of inherent toxicity of human made media to represent ‘nature’ from an exclusive human-only point of view. In a dramatically aestheticized and functional live laboratory, Adam Brown recreates toxic green pigments, used since the 18th century in wallpapers and paintings to re-establish at home, ironically, people’s material connection to ‘green nature,’ ruptured by the Industrial Revolution. The artist points to the hidden sides of humans’ ‘chlorophilia’ by re-enacting recipes for bright pigments, which also served as rat poisons, and ultimately bio-remediating Van Gogh–referenced motifs with extremophile bacteria and hyper-accumulating sunflowers. The jury acknowledged the media archaeological dimension of the work used to question and highlight the material conditions and effects of media technologies in general.
Zoran Srdić Janežič
The Biobot project explores the possibilities of a hybrid bio-cybernetic aliveness by transferring fat cells into neurons on a Multielectrode Array (MEA). The AI program uses the input signals from an evolutionary algorithm sent to neurons and compares the activity of the neurons on an MEA with possible leg movements in a library of movements from different arthropods to determine the shape of the Biobot. The bot joints are equipped with servo motors to enable Biobotto move in physical space. The project reveals the possibilities of a hybrid bio-cybernetic aliveness with its aesthetics, intelligence, and movement. The hardware enabling the Biobotaliveness is a custom-designed incubator, a data acquisition system built inside the incubator, and an AI-designed robot, while the software uses RoboGrammar, an evolutionary optimization algorithm, to search for a robot configuration that can move within a given environment. The jury found the excellence of the project in the unique combination of the hardware, software, and wetware, where their interoperability intends to enable unexpected behavior and therefore emancipate the Biobotfrom human productivistic expectations.
Interspecifics’ Codex Virtualis_Genesis is the result of years of artistic research and technologically inventive practice. We’re invited to see emergent complexity build, spill, and generate itself: the life in generative algorithmic formation. The collective uses its own rendition of endobiotic theory to create more, new, algorithmically-driven aesthetic presentations. They fuse nonhuman, human, and computational intelligence together in a ‘petri dish.’ They model extremophile morphologies, and train algorithms with bacteria that makes and forms patterns, in environments we can discern. The neural networks represent dynamical systems, allowing for style transfer. New algorithmic life forms—a kind of hybrid of AI-bacteria organism—begin to “live” and move. The ML environment, an autonomous generative non-adversarial network architecture, is a host of microscopy footage of bacterial and computational models, formulated as ‘endosymbionts.’ The Codex, as a large-scale installation that gathers these new lifeforms, asks us to consider the clear metaphorical parallels between life’s collaborative possibilities at bacterial levels, and art and AI’s collaborative potential.
Ecologies of Care
While there were many biopolitical-focused submissions dealing with narratives and speculative futures of surrogacy, motherhood, and bodily autonomy, Liu’s Ecologies of Care was one of the most layered and dizzying works, rich in its research, play, critique, and humor. Glass non-human wombs reveal small human fetuses; synthetic milk flows through tubing on the floor, pumped at regular intervals for the mother who can do it all. The labor of feeding a newborn in their first thirty days is grimly tracked. Quantified life somehow manages the agony of that first month. AI is used playfully; toys are generated through a trained algorithm that generates boys’ toys and girls’ toys with breathtaking speed. Nowhere do we see much human life, which is replaced by prostheses, tracking, mappings, and categorizations of what optimal life play can happen. The assemblage of Ecologies presents motherhood and childhood, within today’s driving frames of computational reading and interpretation and control of our bodies, families, and their futures.
ERBSENZÄHLER Quality Sorter V2
Verena Friedrich’s installation, the EZ Quality Sorter V2, raises questions about decision-making processes and the delegation of those processes to intelligent systems. The installation presents a sorting plant where pea seeds are separated, analyzed, and categorized as good or poor quality. In the training mode of the installation, visitors are invited to participate in the decision-making process. They sit by a conveyor belt and assess the quality of the peas, categorizing them as either “good” for further processing or “bad” —sending them to the reject bin. The decision-making process is recorded, capturing the results for future reference. Once enough data have been gathered, the EZ Quality Sorter V2 autonomously continues the selection process based on this information. This automation reflects the growing trend of delegating complex decision-making to intelligent systems and Friedrich’s installation raises thought-provoking questions about this, and about the impact of mathematical-technical systems on our understanding of the world we live in.
From Paradigm To Paradigm, Into The Biomic Time
This installation surrounds its public with sounds, voices, and texts of misinformation on the environmental crises streamed in the physical space. In this artwork, the notion of fake news by Artificial Intelligence merges with the notion of disinformation spread by traditional mainstream. A cacophony of media archeology, with words printed on paper is juxtaposed with voices recorded from the Internet, all mixed with poetry and piano. The soundscape and the stream of information circulating in the installation creates an environment reminiscent of both natural and media spaces in which the public become immersed. In this work, media ecology binds with actual ecological issues, showing how vital policymaking on the environment is increasingly intertwined with the information that surrounds us.
Interspecies Robot Sex
This video investigates the management of artificial life by robots eventually controlled by artificial intelligence. Machines managing natural systems show the closed circuit of technology impacting ecosystems while using new technology to repair the ecological damage. The decline of bees is due to the Colony Collapse Disorder syndrome caused by engineered chemicals and the mass extinction of insect pollinators is caused by greenhouses gases generated for energy consumption. In this video, the economic and political consequences of ecosystems breakdown are integrated with technological solutionism, juxtaposing the personal and social aspects of such integration. The format of the video essay makes this documentary a compelling artwork reflecting on the meaning of artificial life.
Masakhane – pioneering participatory approaches to building African language technologies, for Africans, by Africans
While the hint of beneficial AI for humanity hovers optimistically on the horizon, an inclusive future depends upon true representation among the data and expertise which undergirds AI research. Today, African languages are severely under-represented in the natural language processing (NLP) domain. The Masakhane initiative steps into this space as curator of African NLP data through community-building, tackling the curation of data that will enable voice-based AI, hate speech detection, and recognition of names and places in African languages. Through its combination of explicit community values and technical expertise, Masakhane emerges as a creative, generative movement of African technologists and linguists focused on representing local perspectives within the global context of AI.
Monsters and Ghosts of the Far North
Lena Geerts Danau, Andra Pop-Jurj, alternaa
This artwork as a form of metaverse enables the exploration of the perplexities within the Arctic Circle. Storytelling combined with gamification can deliver scientific and socio-economical knowledge about a distant and inaccessible environment that is yet so central to our age. The conflicts in the arctic region are a concentration of dynamics happening on a worldwide scale. The use of data and algorithms in virtual spaces create an interactive cartography on the causes and effects of the climate crisis where interspecies, postcolonial, and extractivism discourses can be navigated in the field. Creating digital twins has been an essential scientific tool to predict, adapt, mitigate, and yet primarily to know and understand climate change. These scientific tools and knowledge are integrated into this artwork.
Perhaps, art begins with the fireflies
Nelo Akamatsu, Yuichi Oba
Akamatsu and Oba beautifully fuse artistic practice, biotechnology research, and insect courtship in a moving exploration of the evolution of both creativity and animal and plant life existing 100 million years ago. The ancestral sequence of the Luciferase gene was restored using DNA sequences of the fireflies, using biotechnology to reproduce the bioluminescence of existing fireflies. The glow in the gallery would have been seen flickering 100 million years ago; it looms intensely, piercing the spirit at close range in the space. As a viewer we are forced to think of the life and view of fireflies that existed before any human beings: a true glimpse into a non-anthropocentric world. Even as the ancestral sequence was reconstructed using computational methods, and the process is laid out in texts, poetry, research papers, and so on, the eeriness of the deep, unremitting ancient green glow turns us to a speculative future in which animals, insects, and plants of the past and the present are reconstructed, creating simulations of what should have been.
QT.bot – Sitting here with you in the future
While contemporary debates on the deployment of AI center on cascading ethical failures from data collection to model training and system productionalization, QT.bot offers a refreshing example of how these tools can empower, safeguard, and amplify the narrative of marginalized communities rather than exploit them. Itself trained on a self-reported, anonymous queer community mapping dataset (Queering the Map), the QT.bot AI leverages GPT-2 and StyleGAN tools to generate speculative transnational queer and trans life narratives. What emerges is a narrative both rooted in and obfuscating the confessions and pronouncements of the global queer community that is both delightful and confusing, prompting us to consider how our machine learning tools can be queered to celebrate possibilities rather than limit them.
SH4D0W – Who is the Master and Who the Shadow?
A live performance with an improvising AI, as the protagonist.
SH4D0W is an immersive 3D stage-performance that explores the captivating influence of humanized artificial intelligence. Using machine learning, this production investigates the intersection of digital seduction and personal self-expression within the realm of digital consciousness —humankind’s struggle to navigate an uncanny digital reality, and the seductive power of human-like AI. Set within a hologram 4D box, the immersive artificial intelligence experience offers a contemporary format wherein the AI engages in live dialogue with both performers and the audience. This enables direct communication, allowing the performer and audience (at the prologue of the show) to interact with the AI, which responds with a humanized voice. The AI has undergone training using a dataset composed of human memories and HC Andersen’s fairytales, enhancing its ability to explore the complex nuances of human experiences.
The jury was particularly impressed by the seamless connection of analog theater techniques with the 3-dimensional representation of an immersive datascape.
While NFTs, blockchain technologies, and metaverse implementations are pervasively advertised as alleged means of digital self-enhancement and self-empowerment for artists, SHIFT literally shifts the focus to shift work as capitalist strategy and work shifts that artists execute outside their actual practice to ‘work for their work,’ confusing the act and the product of labor. Updating strategies of institutional critique, Géraldine Honauer parallels, on the one hand, the exhibition of her work suit as a museum invigilator as artwork while making proof of work certificates available as NFTs and, on the other hand, creates digital twins to rent corporate workwear for virtual work shifts, thus pointing to less glamorous hidden labor in an increasingly digitized art system.
Digital Musics & Sound Art
Ludger Brümmer, Tonica Hunter, Ali Nikrang, Małgorzata Płysa, Asher Remy-Toledo
In 2023 the field of Digital Music and Sound Art became more and more intertwined with new and emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), animation, and interactivity, all areas that Ars Electronica recognizes and honors. However, amidst this convergence, the realms of Sound and Music still managed to maintain their distinct identities.
In a society where technology has become so omnipresent and seamlessly integrated into our existence, the apprehension of automation and language models replacing human creators is ever-present. Those who see an existential danger from AI worry that it could destroy democracy and even humanity, fearing mankind will be rendered obsolete and redundant. Interestingly, as a jury, we observed that the most captivating works were those that possessed a deep sense of humanity and authenticity that responded to societal needs. This year’s Golden Nica is awarded to a work that embodies nature, ancestral wisdom, land sovereignty, neo-colonialism, scientific exploration, and collective activism, presented in the form of a sound/video installation. That AI was barely mentioned in the work was what we found most striking, that it was a natural and substantive part of the artwork without being its central focus. This year’s jury recognized and honored young creators but also individuals whose creative practices span decades and showcase mastery in their unique fields.
We found the deliberation process both challenging and exciting. Joined together for three days—from early morning to evening—we were more or less sequestered when reviewing the submissions. We began by discussing the themes and topics that each of the works addressed, delving deeper into those that stood out as being particularly unique, innovative, and timely. Throughout this process, we benefited from the views expressed by a diverse group of jurors—whether by gender, geographic and ethnic background, race, or our respective areas of expertise. We were grateful to the staff at Ars Electronica who guided us through the process and helped us at moments when we had reached an impasse. They encouraged lively debate and discussion and guided us as needed to come to a consensus.
The major themes that emerged include minimalism, ancestral, historical, environmental, and data cartography. The works were presented in various formats: performance, sound exploration, sound composition, audio/visual installation, and sound instrument. Generally, the jury also observed a trend that has existed for a number of years: that artworks tend to transcend a single media area and are often represented in several artistic categories. This complexity leads to a range of different perspectives for judging an artwork. At the same time, the wide range of differences between artworks (as a result of this variety) makes it difficult to compare them accurately. Even a cursory glance at the Honorary Mentions reveals the enormous diversity of projects, each unique in its concept and intention.
The jury also selected several projects that merged highly established artistic instruments and genres such as a grand piano (for example in Bias II or Antenna) or opera/theatre (Melencolia) with state-of-the-art technologies in an inspired way. These creations have managed to preserve the essence of traditional elements while introducing completely new and unexpected qualities. In a similar vein, this can also be said about A Natural History of Networks, where concepts of fluid movements, inherently organic in nature, are ingeniously transposed into auditory sculptures.
The myths of traditional forms of the physical and the digital play an important role just as repurposed technologies with new technologies, finding a balance between the two, having resonance on contemporary issues the world is struggling with, in some cases, directly calling for calls for action. And trying to represent those voices at times underrepresented or subverted, also because of preconceived notions of Western European concepts of what is beauty and what is truth; it was easy to notice the echoes of those current issues palpable through many works.
While previous festivals had representation from both the global North and South, what is notable is that this year the Golden Nica has once again been awarded to an artist from the global South, a region that has too often been underrepresented in art festival awards globally.
A Tale of Two Seeds: Sound and Silence in Latin America’s Andean Plains
Atractor Estudio (CO) + Semantica Productions (UK)
Sound and Silence in Latin America’s Andean Plains explores the expansion of the current technical agro-industrial colonization in Latin America, in general, and in Colombia, in particular. A Tale of Two Seeds, as well as the other two components of the installation, are the result of a sonic investigation of the problematic situation created by the accelerated expansion of soy monoculture in South American territories. The transformation and loss of Latin American crop eco acoustic soundscapes is a living testimony to soil degradation and the destruction of all the relationships that make up terrestrial biotic ecosystems. Artist Juan Cortés conducted deep mining investigation over several years of the impact of herbicides and the electromagnetic fields created by the ubiquitous installations of internet antennas in areas that were once deep forests and jungles. He partnered with Atractor Estudio—an artist collective based in Bogotá that consists of a sound and software development team—which utilized repurposed and DIY technologies and the self-taught knowledge of hacking software for their practice.
A Tale of Two Seeds uses data capture technologies, recordings and sonification to make a sound case study of Colombian agricultural soils before, during, and after the advent of soybean expansion in the eastern plains region of the country as well as the incidence of amaranth crops in the current agricultural technology scene. The technologies in question highlight the invisible connections between the soy-amaranth relationship and the seed privatization-monoculture-land sovereignty dispute. In this sonic interrogation of Colombian soils, we will highlight amaranth’s role in the resistance to modern forms of colonialism most strongly represented by the genetic engineering of soy, the privatization of seeds, and the preservation of natural life and land sovereignty. This work reflects the social engagement and activism that many artists, particularly those in countries with prevalent economic and social disparities, employ to force the business of agriculture to be more holistic and ecological in its practices.
Awards of Distinction
Harmonic Motion is an immersive vibrational installation. A system involving acoustic energy and lasers activates a cymbal, amplifying the natural vibrations of this musical instrument to the point they become audible and visible. A complex arrangement of wave reflections alters the perception of the space, allowing different levels of subtle engagement with the piece. A mesmerizing narrative of sound intertwined with waveforms offers the viewer the experience of an enchanting, meditative loop. The piece departs from a premise: Nature is fundamentally active and interconnected. There is a vitality that inhabits everything, even in the inert. And that omnipresent vitality largely determines who we are, our interests, desires, issues, ideas, and everything that emerges from ourselves. The piece aims to expose this reality that eludes our senses, which flows inside and outside us, and to induce a deep sense of connection with the essential elements that animate and unite us. Hearing the unheard and seeing the unseen, visitors immerse themselves in a vibrational meditative environment that invites them to pause, become aware of their senses, and escape the cacophony of daily life.
zwischenraum – interspace – acoustic cartography
Julia Jasmin Rommel
interspace – acoustic cartography is based on an artistic exploration of the acoustic measurement of space, dealing with the aspect of orientation, while reflecting on the phenomena of ubiquity and space. The work can be considered as an audiovisual installation or a concert piece that presents several cartographic sketches. Some are documentations of the relationships between different places, others are snapshots of linear distances. One part, for example, explores the documentation of tunnels and bridges on a train journey, while another is a documentation of curves measured with a compass and the time relationship between the booking date of a flight and its departure. Julia Rommel translates these measurements into a series of tiny, visually animated sound generator structures that perform and display the sound operation, while being formed in abstract analogy to the data performed. With this meta-notation, she exploits animated minimalist scores that allow for surprising insights while listening and watching. The work represents a stunningly clear, minimalistic and beautiful realization of data sonification in an undeniably creative artistic way.
30 Cycles of Flux
30 Cycles of Flux is a kinetic sound installation that consists of utilizing an emission of a 30-cycle sound wave (right below the hearing range of human beings) to activate an array of speakers, consequently manifesting a visualization of imperceptible sonic energy. The work addresses how imperceptible energy, which we encounter in daily life, goes unnoticed. It draws our attention to the fact that in this day and age, we need to be more in tune with our senses where we live. Some of our senses have been diminishing by the constant intrusiveness of audio-visual noise, particularly in big cities. The minimalism of the work but also the background of the artist’s practice based on sound and the repurposing of materials is a message of an artist coming from South America to North America—one of the most consumerist societies in the world. The piece captures the haunting quality of objects once disposed, which is brought back by the artist with minimalist poetry.
زبانی که خاموش است / A TONGUE THAT IS TURNED OFF
In زبانی که خاموش است /* A TONGUE THAT IS TURNED OFF*, the work teaches us that linguistic comprehension is not required to understand the piece itself and empathy and solidarity is much more fathomable than we like to admit or than we can comprehend.
A Natural History of Networks / Softmachine
The performance’s minimalist yet impressive approach relied on custom-built electrochemical apparatus to create highly organic, fluid movements in a black hue. The performance artfully translated these fluid movements into sound textures, creating a unique audiovisual performance. The jury was impressed by the seamless integration of simple, organic imagery combined with the complexity of fluid dynamics and the resulting sound sculptures. What further distinguishes this performance is the instrument used here that arises from the concept. While the artist initiates and modulates the fluid movements, the continuous flow follows the inherent laws of fluid physics and is not directly controlled by the artist. This concept of an instrument following its own paths and patterns represents an elegant interaction between the artist and the instrument. It shows beautifully the dynamic relationship between human creativity and the immutable laws of nature.
Antenna is an impressive artwork that seamlessly combines different aspects of art and technology to raise the audience’s awareness of the frequencies that surround us. The way Antenna achieves this is remarkable and sets it apart from other similar installations. The centerpiece of the artwork is a conventional mechanical piano that has been placed on its side to offset the effects of gravity on the piano’s mechanics. Although the structure of the piano is easily recognizable, it produces a continuous, elastic sound that exceeds conventional expectations of a piano’s sonic capabilities. The installation transfers inaudible frequencies (electromagnetic waves) from the environment into an audible spectrum by applying an artistic concept that makes it possible to create impressive sound compositions resulting from the frequencies of the environment.
Artemi-Maria Gioti’s composition for piano and interactive electronics, BIAS II, takes advantage of a complex machine learning system. The ML algorithm learns specific timbre clusters from each performer interacting with it. The system analyses the actions of the pianist, identifies the timbre and the gestures, and gives a sonic response about the next timbre gesture to be played. This interaction creates a dialogue between the pianist and the ML system in a loop of close but different sonic qualities. The system learns new aspects with each new pianist and each new performance and will generate a slightly modified version of the interaction. Through this interaction the piano seems to generate surprisingly new but fitting timbres and gestures beside the lively interaction between player and computer.
Adnan Softić and Nina Softić (feat. Thies Myther & MOSAiC Expedition Team)
Klimaton is a piece and an instrument which came into being as a result of a year-long scientific research expedition called MOSAiC, which returned from an Arctic voyage, having collected data from a kilometer-long network of measuring stations. The length of the network makes it the most comprehensive scientific data collection effort to date. The scale of the exploration is underlined by the fact that this rapidly disappearing landscape holds immense significance as a “key witness of climate change,” as recognized by scientists worldwide. The artists have also created an instrument that uniquely translated the data obtained from the Arctic into sound—a sonified landscape portrait. The instrument not only creates haunting sonic images, but also allows for interactive engagement with the data through the keyboard, enabling artists and researchers alike to experience the sonic representation of the Arctic’s ever-changing environment.
Melencolia combines one of the oldest forms of human performance (theater) with one of the most emotional psychological states of humans (melancholia) and integrates various state-of-the-art technologies (AI, AR, live electronics, 3D audio, etc.). The project also integrates concepts such as the use of an ethnic musical instrument, digital twins, and draws inspiration from Albrecht Dürer’s enigmatic painting “Melencolia.”This innovative project impressively illuminates the historical contradictions in interpreting and understanding the concept of melancholy by combining seemingly contradictory technologies and concepts. A hugely complex project, Melencolia demonstrates the potential of modern technologies in a traditional, specific environment, such as the opera, and proves that new artistic formats can thrive in these spaces.
Luc Gut, Rolf Hellat, OSZILOT
In The Queer Art of Failure(2011), Jack Halberstam praises the “wondrous anarchy of childhood” as offering a stark contrast to structured and disciplined formats of creativity or knowledge. There is something truly reminiscent and nostalgic within the playful innocence of OSZILOT and that is its success. Combining analogue objects and digitizing their sound through gyro sensors, this sonic interpretation is at once extremely satisfying to the ear whilst reanimating our imaginations by giving new meaning to objects which, as “adults,” we might erroneously write off as mundane. We love that the piece invites its audience to come and interact with an orchestra of table chairs, pots, and vases brought to life. Play is always more fun when it’s collective anyway.
Aho Ssan’s “Rhizomes” is a sonic rhizome—a collection of compositions using sound materials from a diverse range of artists like Angel Bat Dawid, Nicolas Jaar, Moor Mother, clipping. and many more. It embodies the concepts of collaboration and artistic cross-pollination, at the same time remaining coherent and unique, embodying the versatility of Désiré Niamké’s artistic persona. Inspired by Deleuze’s and Guattari’s rhizomatic model, the piece grows and overflows in an interesting way, immersing listeners in a universe of organic mutations, blending languages, and evoking emotions.
Wojciech Rusin’s composition Syphon exemplifies a remarkable fusion of diverse musical elements, seamlessly integrating electronic and acoustic components, soprano and alto vocals, and 3D printed wind instruments used in an innovative way, pushing the boundaries of traditional instrument design and sound production. We appreciated Syphon‘s interdisciplinary nature, encompassing recorded music, graphic scores, CGI animations, and live performance potential, showcasing the integration of various art forms into a cohesive whole. With references to Eastern European mythologies and Carpathian influences, Syphon celebrates the global tapestry of musical traditions in a unique, forward-looking manner, offering a refreshing perspective in a predominantly Western-centric music landscape.
Georgian composer Mariam Gviniashvili’s TRAILS is a beautiful, subtle composition that explores the soundscape of Maridalsvannet Lake near Oslo through immersive technology, perfectly formed structures, and evolving processes. The listener forgets the origin of the resolving sounds, the sonic substance that initiated the moods of the work. The acousmatic composition TRAILS leads the listener into a landscape with rather sparse dramatic elements that develop time and space into a cinematic experience, encoding sound material into narrative trails. Each sound remains a mystery, fusing with the listener’s own sonic emotions and epic story. As a logical consequence, the spatial appearance of the composition translates this sonic material into virtual reality, into an intense but subtle experience.
Temporary Stored is an important outcry and in what better medium than within sound? The Great Star of Africa diamond, the world’s largest diamond, was stolen) in South Africa in 1905. Most recently, May 2023, the diamond, set in the Sovereign’s Sceptre, was pompously paraded around during the coronation of King Charles III. The normalization of the admiration and consumption of stolen) artefacts from former colonies is a deeply recurrent European issue. Temporary Stored is nonetheless not a rehashing of European colonial violence—this piece rather uses sound as a conjuring of specters of oral and cultural histories of Central and Eastern Africa. Its haunting sounds are reminiscent of old orientalist views of an ‘other’ as an evil, whilst at the same time carrying a stark ironic contrast that sounds are in fact manifestations of ever living sources of knowledge. This sculpture is not an object for European consumption. It is a deeply political task of excavation—this time being carried out by those to whom this (hi)story rightfully belongs.
) Editor’s note on the ownership controversy
The Cullinan diamond, was found in a Transvaal mine, modern-day South Africa, in 1905. It was purchased by the Transvaal Government and presented to the reigning British monarch, King Edward VII in 1907. It was cut into 9 smaller stones. The Great Star of Africa, or Cullinan I, is the second largest cut diamond known, and is set in the British Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. See https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cullinan-Diamond
There is hefty debate about who owns the Great Star of Africa diamond. See the article “Royal gift or ‘stolen’ gem? Calls for UK to return 500 carat Great Star of Africa diamond“ September 16, 2022. https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/great-star-of-africa-diamond-intl-lgs/index.html
u19 – create your world
Sirikit Amann, Lisa Ackerl, Conny Lee, Karl Markovics, Remo Rauscher
The u19 category of the Prix Ars Electronica is as colorful and diverse as hardly any other, as it allows for the submission of projects of all kinds—drawings, machines, sculptures, photographs, films, and more—and it juxtaposes the approaches of those under ten years old with those of almost adults. Nevertheless, every year, overarching thematic tendencies can be observed—topics that occupy the upcoming generation and are particularly present in their everyday lives. In the past year, this tendency was primarily shaped by the pandemic and its consequences, resulting in a worrying thematic focus: mental stress and illness. This year, the underlying sentiment of the u19 projects has shifted towards anger. The young people are angry about their perceived powerlessness in society. They are angry at the previous generation that forces them into this situation and that, even though they have the means, does not take action. The climate catastrophe is the dominant theme this year, and the big question that arises is: “What kind of planet will I spend my life on?” Those who could do something to prevent the catastrophe do nothing, and the democratic means available to the youth, such as demonstrations and informational campaigns, do not have the desired effect. Therefore, “ecoterrorism” is for many their last hope to achieve some kind of impact. This fear for the future is further fueled by the war in Ukraine and the looming scenario of a world war that accompanies it. Already in the projects of the youngest participants, the world is repeatedly blown up, and the adults are to blame. The anger also focuses on the constant consumerism and the resulting handling of resources and waste. Young women, in particular, are angry about the everyday occurrence of sexual assaults. They are stared at, groped, objectified, or drugged with date rape drugs—regardless of their age. Another phenomenon that the young people revolt against is the constant overwhelm and inundation they are exposed to. Some might cynically respond, “Their own fault,” but anyone who looks at the reality of young people in Austria will recognize that there is hardly any escape from the omnipresence of social media. It is a dangerous bubble of threatening news, trends to follow, and the compulsive belief that one must generate constant input and output in order to be seen and liked. At the same time, they do not want to reproduce the mistakes and omissions of the
previous generation. There is an immense pressure on young people to improve the world, and they are expected to do it immediately because there is no more room for delay due to the procrastination of the older generation. The young people do not have time to mature peacefully, make mistakes, and grow into responsibility, because by then the planet might already be ruined. They have to act now, and they no longer expect significant help from the older generation. Their anger is understandable. But those who are angry do not feel fear. And that is the great strength that lies in all the works—courage! In German, by simply turning the first letter of the term “Wut” (anger) upside down, it becomes “Mut” (courage). Judging by the submitted projects, the young generation possesses a lot of both! The way the u19 generation deals with their anger and where their courage leads them has many facets: Some express their feelings and accusations quite directly, like the four young women who tell their stories of sexual assault in the film HUE, or like the creators of Meditações, who scream out their anger while someone gives them a meaningless sermon. Others use humor to emphasize their message, for example, by satirizing greenwashing campaigns or creating a machine that aims to counteract the dopamine rush induced by social media, leaving us waiting endlessly for a few drops of pee. Alcohol and drugs have also been recurring motifs to soothe the furious despair. Some projects channel their fear of the future into poetic expressions, such as a post-apocalyptic, beautiful desert through which we navigate, encountering ruins of human civilization. Others attempt to preserve the past, as exemplified by the Golden Nica with Fading Voices. In comparison to last year when the majority of projects were characterized by depression and resignation, the angry tone this year gives us cause for optimism. However, the older generations must not think, “Great, the young ones have risen again and are fighting,” only to applaud from a passive position. They must join forces with them or at least support them wherever possible.
This year, there were particularly many expressive objects and sculptures among the submissions, as well as an increased number of video games that impressed with their astonishing professionalism. There were slightly fewer entries from those under ten years old this year, and we hope that the very young builders, programmers, and artists will participate more actively in the competition next year. Despite the oppressive seriousness of the topics, it is important to note the high quality level of the projects, both in terms of the range of creativity and how professionally they were executed.
Here are the 23 award winners, listed in ascending order according to age categories:
u10 Honorary Mention Young Creatives
The short film takes place in the realm of a fish king with colorful fish inhabitants and a very cool royal bodyguard. Everyone could live peacefully if it weren‘t for the trash that pollutes the seas, leading the predator fish to kidnap the princess to escape the garbage. Sara skillfully builds up drama in the fluid narrative, underscored by sound effects.
u10 Award of Distinction Young Creatives
Waste Sorter (Mülltrennung)
Mingyan Ella Tien
Separating waste can still not be taken for granted. Often people cannot be bothered or they really don’t know how to do it properly. Using the visual programming language Scratch, Ella has created a game that playfuly teaches how to separate waste. The goal of the game is to fill waste containers correctly. Players receive hints and feedback through speech bubbles and sound effects, some of which were recorded by Ella herself.
u10 Prize Young Creatives
Generating Electricity through Movement
An exoskeleton is usually designed to support and potentially move the body. Here, the principle is reversed, and an exoskeleton is built to be moved by us, generating electricity in the process. Available materials like pieces of wood, LEDs, and a small generator were used. This is not only a creative idea cleverly executed, but the inventor also considered how this device could be used, such as for charging batteries.
u12 Honorary Mention Young Creatives
In a playful manner, a future is presented where only human-made machines exist. However, even these machines make the same mistakes and have to learn from them, just like us humans: thoughtlessness, energy waste, and disregard for nature. Robotheater tells an important truth: Only in our imagination can we travel to the future, but we can only change it in the present.
u12 Award of Distinction Young Creatives
Ein Besuch auf Schloss Finsterwald
Students of class 2ab (school year 22/23) from Mittelschule Gries am Brenner
Although the beginning of the story was given, the progression and content were rich, imaginative, and full of drama, resulting in a very successful radio play. Unlike films, radio plays require more suspense and drama, soft and loud sounds, or, in other words, a wide range of noises, diverse voices, and even room for “emptiness” to create tension. The radio play A Visit to Castle Finsterwald fulfills all these requirements.
u12 Prize Young Creatives
R2 D2 SERVICE-ROBOTER
This cult-worthy development of a cult figure is fun and entertaining without sacrificing depth. Where past science fiction manifests as present-day gadgets, we encounter smart technologies in everyday life. They often personify the feeling of a best friend or a life-saver. It rolls on every level via remote control, equipped with a service arm made from an old antenna, two support arms made of wood, and ultimately collects trash. Only one thing remains to be said with a metallic voice: “May the waste be with you.”
u14 Honorary Mention Young Creatives
Students from BG / BRG Laa an der Thaya
Sometimes animated films impress with their story, sometimes with their technical sophistication, and sometimes, as in this project, with their unique, captivating atmosphere. In this short film, a gorilla and a llama travel through a surreal alpine landscape, a sea monster with a chimpanzee head drags its victims into a pond, and a red-eyed monster is abducted by aliens. Many things happen in this experimental animated film, but stylistically, everything comes together to create an exciting mood reminiscent of David Lynch with a healthy dose of humor.
u14 Award of Distinction Young Creatives
Students from BG / BRG Laa an der Thaya
This film tells the story of a conflict between a chef and his specialty dish—the papayas. In Greek mythology, “Dysnomia” refers to the daimon of lawlessness. At first glance, the lawless ones seem to be the papayas in the film. Only in the second part of the story do the viewers learn about the atrocity the chef has committed against the papayas, which even calls upon a superhero team, the Papangers. The meticulously designed and expressive phase animation opens up new perspectives on the origin and external perception of conflicts.
u14 Award of Distinction Young Creatives
Benjamin’s developed series of automations consists of two candy vending machines, one of which is equipped with a drinking water fountain, and a flight simulator. The simulator ingeniously combines a structure made of LEGO Technic parts with a game app programmed in Scratch. This work stands out not only for its creative use of various analog and digital components but also for employing two different visual programming languages.
u14 Prize Young Creatives
This rap entitled Class Representative Song not only satirizes any anonymous class representative but also targets those who like to take themselves too seriously and make themselves important without actually being important or doing anything significant. And thus, everyone is addressed—whether young or old. Each person who watches this video has their own “class representative” in mind—perhaps even seeing themselves in the mirror. Entertainment with an attitude. This rap is politics!
Honorary Mentions – Young Professionals
#Pictrees – Eine Grazer Umweltinitiative
Felix Zorn-Pauli, Neo Klinger, Sarah Windisch, Bianca Amberger, Enzo Gutschi, Paul Miklautz, Tobias Fischbach
For an entire month, the students occupied the media facade of the Kunsthaus Graz with the Insta-theme “Nature in the Urban Landscape.” The more stories were tagged, the more trees the city of Graz was allowed to plant. #Pictrees – An Environmental Initiative in Graz achieves one thing above all: reaching a wider audience outside of its own bubble, as the project elegantly communicates its cause. The city dwellers often overlook the core ambitions hidden behind the facades due to light pollution in the city center, eventually becoming “blind to trees.” The multimedia action captivates mainly through its ambiguity: the city lights must blind us first to open our eyes.
Brave New World
A trampled piece of earth, a spot of sloppy nature. A withered flower on a piece of cardboard. Helplessly turning, it strikes out and is simultaneously struck. A minion made of yellow plastic on a wooden stick, like a grotesque totem pole. This botanically mechanical artwork defies description. In its apparent insignificance, it contains everything that troubles us as human beings and makes us human: our perverted relationship with nature, our godforsakenness, our lack of beauty. And at the same time, it radiates the opposite of all that: a desire for harmony, faith, and beauty. It is like the piece of earth it occupies—one can pass by it carelessly or get lost in it.
create [your] world, please
Ferdinand Preßmayr, Moritz Bjelič
This VR loop convinces not only because of the confidently employed AI tools but also creates a compelling pull that raises questions, such as: How does artificial intelligence perceive itself? What images does it want to conform to? How do we engage in dialogue with it? A DNA strand composed of partly solid, partly organic elements forms a path on which we float rather than walk. Gradually, a feeling of paralysis spreads, and the narrative begins to circle. create [your] world, please is a multi-layered commentary, paired with an excellent sense of immersive staging.
Ein halber Cent (oder die totale Destruktion des Ungewissen) für einen Blick auf das Chaos am Silver Screen
The short film Half a Cent (or the Total Destruction of Uncertainty) for a Glimpse of the Chaos on the Silver Screen beautifully combines associative snippets of thoughts that manage to trigger synapses and evoke memories in the viewer. The images are overlaid with a clear singing voice that serves as a guide through the tangle and chaos in one’s mind, providing something to hold onto. One cannot escape this flood of images, this mix of film, animation, black, colorful, vibrant, screams, soft singing, and screeching sounds that induce discomfort yet propel one forward. Very liberated, very creative, very captivating.
Students from BRG Traun
This series of three video clips reflect on and explore societal and political aspects of greenwashing, environmental whitewashing, and their consequences in a thoughtful and sophisticated manner. In two image videos that parody pretentious product image films with pinpoint accuracy, it shows how the label “sustainable” itself is marketed as a product. Humorously, it portrays the inflationary and largely unregulated use of the term “sustainability.” The grand finale is a speech composed of original quotes from German politicians, exposing the absurdity of greenwashing as a business practice and the lack of political intervention.
Heindl Rebecca, Hoffert Ronja, Korkmaz Jasmin, Nathalie Zalewski
This documentary animation film is based on real events and addresses instances of sexual harassment in the daily lives of the young filmmakers. They narrate their own experiences, describing how men engage them in conversations with pseudo-charming niceties, only to touch their breasts and buttocks or even publicly masturbate in front of them. HUE employs a visual storytelling approach that expresses the spreading feeling of intrusion. Animated fluids, grinning faces, and groping hands transition from one situation to another. The voices constantly challenge their own naivety, the fear of resisting in the moment or speaking up about it afterward. In order to counter this phenomenon, the filmmakers choose animation as a vehicle to visualize intimate moments of shock. The work impresses with its bravery and sensitivity, making a clear statement against the taboo of such assaults, and practically shouting, “Don’t be ashamed! Raise your voice!”
Tim Horner, Mathias Eisenheld, Christian Qiu, Valentin Breunig
A lone survivor escapes a space station infested with monsters—this initial setup has been chosen by numerous video games, making it all the more challenging to convey a unique style. The game excels with clever puzzle design, striking a good balance between puzzles and action, and an extremely professional look. We alternate between controlling an astronaut character and a small robot drone, needing to open locked gates and escape spider-like alien creatures in precisely timed sequences.
Yannick Schneider, Pauli Zauner
When one of our posts receives a particularly high number of likes, favs, or views, our bodies produce the happiness hormone dopamine. That’s why social media is so addictive but also causes immense pressure and stress. As a response to this phenomenon, a machine was built that aims for the lowest possible dopamine release: you pour water into it from the top, and after an unpredictable period, the PiPi machine excretes the same water. This project is a subversive, even anarchistic comment on current media consumption.
Sýn (the Sight)
“For my younger self, who wanted to change the world.” This graphic novel is dedicated to itself and, in turn, to an entire generation. Moving through its genre with great confidence, it impresses with a poetic (English!) storytelling and an extraordinary translation: it is not the raven—as a Celtic symbol of the message bearer—that carries the media responsibility, but humans themselves. In an era of fake news, social bots, and increased polarization, this parable ascribes latent shortsightedness to the consumer and holds them responsible as constant creators of media content.
“Tamina” means “the beautiful one.” At first glance, the artwork appears as an extraordinary but familiar upholstered piece of furniture. The shape of the object is based on the body measurements of 21 internationally renowned female celebrities who are often portrayed by the media as ideal images of female beauty. Only a few people can comfortably sit on the resulting chair. The application of parametric design here does not serve to optimize the form but to materialize the artist’s intensive exploration of societal and political positions regarding beauty ideals.
Awards of Distinction – Young Professionals
Anatol Grandits, Tomas Perkovic
As far as we can see, only a desert; the horizon a glowing orange above the endless sand dunes—this is how the world is presented to us in this explorable walking simulator. The Bible quote “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” precedes it all. The creators of Gan Eden depict a simultaneously picturesque and desolate dystopia that partially corresponds to our reality. As one moves through the environment and approaches ruins or dead tree stumps, soundscapes from the past emerge as auditory memories. It is a world from which humanity has eradicated itself and all other forms of life. The title alludes to the paradise from which we have expelled ourselves in favor of mass consumerism and materialism. The interactive experience of Gan Eden conveys a silent anger that holds up a mirror to the resigned attitude towards the climate catastrophe.
Linda Michelitsch, Konstantin Redl, Emma Gruber
Young people on a class trip. The paradise outside is merely external and illusory. Inside, a struggle takes place. A struggle against appearances, shallowness, and hypocrisy. The possibilities and temptations of Western civilization no longer function as tranquilizers. The reactions are anger, disturbance, and rebellion. It is the struggle of coming of age and awakening that we witness here. This power could be the energy of the future. Because anger, disturbance, and rebellion are more sustainable and constructive than resignation. If there is a goal, there is also a path. And if there is a path, there is hope.
Golden Nica Young Professionals
It is not easy to comment on this work because its visual presence actually conveys everything succinctly. It speaks without speaking. Its tonality is tattooed into the fabric skin forever with needle and thread. The fabric itself already resembles the sound track of a composition that has not yet been played, or like the lines on a monitor when the heart no longer beats. The blue peaks—if only they were played—would transmit a message, a song, or just a humming and the vocal color of a person. Inaudible to the viewer, but present enough in the mind to imagine its own decoding. The timbre of a voice fades with time, the memory of it disappears. What remains are the peaks of a silent sound track. Or does it only take a whisper, and we hear the person laughing, talking, or singing again? Verblassende Stimmen (Fading Voices) is an analog work that, despite everything, manages to capture the digital and intertwine the best of both worlds in a wonderful way.