Jury Statements 2024

Prix Ars Electronica

New Animation Art
Interactive Art +
u19 – create your world
AI in ART


New Animation Art

Critical Imaginaries for Animate Futures

Kalina Borkiewicz, Fanni Fazakas, Ari Melenciano, Georgy Molodtsov, Chris Salter

The etymology of the word animation derives from the late 16th century Latin animatio—“the action of imparting life to”. Indeed, this concept of imparting life to images through new technological tools and thinking provides the basis for the winning selections in New Animation Art for the 2024 Prix Ars Electronica. Given the explosion of new forms of animation and the sheer number of entries (some 893), the jury faced a formidable task. Submitted projects ran the gamut from static and moving images using generative AI, to short films produced with game engines such as Unity 3D or Unreal, scientific data visualizations, performance projects employing motion capture, and VR/AR works. At the same time, the jury detected a range of emerging critical social-political themes: climate transformation, dataveillance, decolonization, gender discrimination, and political oppression, as well as playful commentaries on the nature of the moving image itself. Such works all operate in an age not only of technical reproduction but also of technical simulation, which is successfully erasing the boundary between reality and its digital double.

In grappling with these heterogeneous submissions, the jury’s deliberations oscillated between one of the oldest debates in aesthetics: that of form vs. content/expression. For example, in the context of numerous “generative AI” works, the jury was struck by the unresolved tension between creators using emerging applications like Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, DALL-E, Runway or ChatGPT as tools (akin to the early use of commercial software such as Photoshop) versus those using such models to produce critical commentary on the social-technical nature of these systems themselves. This tension led to intense discussion about the role of AI in enabling new forms of animation, particularly when motion—a key characteristic—is generated by the technical specificity of a mathematical model like a neural network. The jury grappled with whether works produced with/by AI tools relied primarily on the unedited output of these tools versus creators who attempted to integrate these outputs into larger ideas that were not purely reliant on AI capabilities.

A similar debate arose around the increasing use of game engines to produce new kinds of CGI-based short films. Such tools allow for an unprecedented level of visual production that just a few years ago was only available to the likes of animators working at ILM or Disney. Yet, the jury was interested in how creators could go beyond existing forms in order to transcend traditional Hollywood-driven storytelling. The jury was focused on how well creatives were able to use these technologies to tell captivating stories and were successful in utilizing the most appropriate technology to tell the story effectively. At the same time, many works submitted under the “hybrid form” label brought up long standing debates in media studies and art history such as the mediating power of technical images, whether scientific visualization should be “true to nature” or artistically autonomous in regards to its original data sets as well as the role of human authorship in what Joanna Zylinska terms “non-human photography”—images that are increasingly produced by algorithmically driven processes outside of human comprehension.

Given the social, technical, and ethical complexity of understanding how similar sets of tools could yield vastly different genres and forms of artistic expression, the jury developed a set of criteria to allow comparison between the different submitted works. Chief among these criteria involved balancing technical innovation with artistic impact together with the possibility of works transcending our particular technological moment—just as pioneering animators like Mary Ellen Bute or John Whitney had done with the tools of their time. Another key criterion was explicitly demonstrated novelty arising through the merging or mixing of different genres and forms. Extra credit was given to projects that explicitly used new technological possibilities to create compelling social-political commentary while points were deducted for works that ignored the ethical concerns around the technologies being deployed. This was particularly relevant in the context of some generative AI submissions that used datasets containing the images of other creators without acknowledging the larger legal and ethical issues involved. Finally, in narrowing its selection down to the top 15 works, the jury unanimously agreed that the winning projects had to reflect diverse viewpoints in all manner of the word, from thematic and medium to cultural, racial, gender, and geographic contexts, including age (emerging, mid and senior career), and whether the project was developed by a single creator or produced with a large team. Overall, the Golden Nica, Awards of Distinction and Honorary Mentions met many (if not all) of these criteria. The three winners (Smoke and Mirrors, I’m Feeling Lucky, and Stained) also demonstrate ways of using new technologies to make acute observations on the core wicked problems of our time: climate emergency, data capture in surveillance capitalism, and new visions of culture, nature, and space. These works thus prove that new animation as a creative form is not only a product of the technical times in which they are produced but also serve as critical imaginaries for futures that have not yet come to pass.

Golden Nica

Smoke and Mirrors

Beatie Wolfe

Smoke and Mirrors is a scientific visualization that confronts us with the ever increasing tension between scientific facts about global warming and ideological positions denying such science. An emissions clock at the top of the screen rapidly counts the amount of methane in parts per billion as the 3D globe image starts to emit a pinkish smoke: a data visualization of methane density since 1970. As the Earth slowly turns and fills up with smoke, a series of still-to-this-day shocking headlines unfurls across the screen: “Oil pumps Life,” “Unsettled Science,” and “Doomsday is Cancelled.” These headlines demonstrate six decades of climate denialism and misinformation in the public sphere from Big Oil corporations. Smoke and Mirrors is inspired by the path-breaking work of Harvard historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran, who have extensively examined how fossil fuel companies have long strategized to shift responsibility for global warming away from the fossil fuel industry and onto consumers while also depicting climate change as a “risk,” rather than a reality. Smoke and Mirrors impressed the jury not only through its stark message but also in its reimagining of scientific data visualization. Visualization pioneer Edward Tufte popularized the notion that data should speak for itself, minimizing the influence of the designer. Smoke and Mirrors takes a deliberate departure from this traditional approach. Instead of letting the data stand alone, it boldly incorporates historical headlines that are in direct opposition of scientific facts, inviting the viewer to question prevailing narratives about environmental responsibility and accountability. This deliberate strategy compels the audience to confront the misalignment between scientific data and advertisement-driven public perception, emphasizing the magnitude of the climate crisis in a thought-provoking manner. Rather than being just a pure data visualization, this piece is a data “visceralization”, intentionally evoking feelings of discomfort and awe. In Data Feminism, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein highlight the importance of acknowledging subjectivity and emotion in data work, arguing that data practices should engage with complexity and challenge existing power structures. In this vein, Smoke and Mirrors exemplifies how data can be wielded not just to inform but to disrupt narratives, urging viewers to reconsider their perspectives on urgent societal issues.

Awards of Distinction

I’m Feeling Lucky

Timothy Thomasson

In I’m Feeling Lucky by Canadian artist Timothy Thomasson, a historically and geographically ambiguous 3D virtual landscape is generated in real-time with game engine technology and populated with figures from Google Street View. Processed by a deep neural network, thousands of anonymous figures taken from all over the world are randomly selected to inhabit the landscape. The work is based on 19th century panoramas: all-encompassing circular paintings that featured spectacular natural landscapes or battle scenes that completely surrounded the viewer. The panoramas’ immersive scale aimed to condition and mediate perception, thus linking the spectacle and scale of the time with the contemporary scales of imaging and data collection undertaken by Google. Images in the work are continually produced in run time as a virtual camera rotates around the space endlessly and at times almost imperceptibly, thus creating a disjunction between the stillness of landscape painting and the expectation of high frame rate digital images. The jury was impressed with how I’m Feeling Lucky subtly links histories of geography and historical media technology with current issues around mass data collection.

Stained

Jeremy Kamal

Stained is a CGI short film created by American trained landscape architect, Jeremy Kamal. The film is one of a series of 3D animations depicting a future where America’s landscapes are transformed by Black culture. The film follows a sensitive tea master named Demetrius, a member of the Crimson Needles gang that uses colored flora to mark territory. Haunted by the voice of his elder/O.G. Bump, Demetrius relives the memory of being reprimanded for his fascination with a blue plant; forbidden by the red gang to which he belongs. Based in a world where symbiotic relationships with technology allow Black Americans to transform “natural” and synthetic environments, the film is a small glimpse into the intimate life of one of its many inhabitants. Stained imagines an alternative ecology that foregrounds under-explored narratives. It re-frames gang culture as a landscape phenomenon and recasts those affiliated as environmental caretakers and tea makers. Beyond its unique and captivating story, Kamal beautifully renders and acoustically designs a world experienced concisely yet incredibly viscerally.

Honorary Mentions

ATUA

FAFSWAG

ATUA is an XR (extended reality) installation created by FAFSWAG, a queer Indigenous art collective based in New Zealand. The main goal of this project is to revive stories of indigenous cultures by bringing AR (augmented reality) sculptures to life. These sculptures are designed based on the pan-Pacific deities of the Moana and can only be accessed through a digital portal. One notable deity, Tekore, is reimagined in human form, a departure from its conventional representation as space itself. This unconventional choice not only challenges cultural norms but also highlights the limitations of available digital assets, as the character’s body mesh was custom-created due to the absence of non-binary representation. Through this, ATUA offers commentary on the binary nature of technology in art, advocating for greater inclusivity and representation.

Chuly? Chuly / Чули? Чули

Letta Shtohyrn

This work is an artistic exploration between gaming and live performance that brings us to new frontiers of visual art. Centering the story around the body swap of the two faceless characters, the work gives both participants and outside viewers a change of perspective, raising critical questions around issues of embodiment and agency. The hybridization between game engine aesthetics and mechanics, live performance with motion capture and the exchanging of roles of performers on stage suggests new possibilities for live performance incorporating the techniques of virtual production.

DUCK

Rachel Maclean

DUCK is a daring deepfake short film, set in the instantly recognizable world of a famous British Spy Thriller. Like many of Maclean’s films, DUCK explores the fragility and malleability of identity, the slipperiness of reality, and the ramifications of gender-based power dynamics. Society is entering an increasingly more powerful inflection point through the role and impact of more AI. Through this, DUCK satirically reflects on such a moment with a time-bending cultural resonance, reminding us that the issues we fear are also issues we have dealt with in other forms. 

Emperor

Ilan J. Cohen, Marion Burger

Emperor is a personal experience that leverages the imperfections of VR technology to emphasize the struggles of the main protagonist of the story. Using analog, pencil-style technique in the 3D space, the work creates a unique combination of the well-optimized experience which perfectly fits the narrative. This approach brilliantly guides us through the narrative, enabling us to feel the story rather than merely being told about the family’s struggles. The artistic style of the work, where objects suddenly appear or images jump from one scene to another seamlessly, aligns with the theme of fading memories, directing our focus towards the most poignant aspects of this journey.

F*ckai? (Famous)

Jordan Clarke

This ironic animation project uses a simple base idea of creating the most generic story by ChatGPT itself, but quickly turns into a magnificent journey of the struggling artist. Playing around meme culture and the most predictable evolution of the character together with clever comments on the appropriation of art historical images, Clarke shows his own excellence in animation and filmmaking. 

I stitch my skin to the ground

Naomi Usami

Usami’s work transcends traditional game design by using interactivity to spotlight the serious problem of sexual harassment in Japan’s public spaces and its effect on the survivors. It uniquely portrays survivors’ disconnection from their bodies, rendering visceral imagery of characters leaving their own skin. By defying conventional gameplay norms, users symbolically rebuild their avatars, evoking ‘reparative play’—a psychoanalytic concept of empowerment amid trauma. The experience prompts users to confront uncomfortable truths and fosters collective understanding, healing, and renewal through its blend of unconventional gameplay and narrative.

ITERATIVE BODY SYNTHESIS

Michael Wallinger

ITERATIVE BODY SYNTHESIS is a technical project, a social experiment, and a work of art in itself. It explores the human form and what it means for a body to not only be beautiful, but even to be acceptable in our modern digital world, filled with photoshopped images of picture-perfect bodies. The project offers a critical commentary on the invisibility of certain body types in digital spaces, perpetuated by invisible black box algorithmic decisions that shape our media realities and, in turn, our perceptions of ourselves and those around us.

Mid Tide #3

Ryu Furusawa

Mid Tide #3 is a captivating installation that reimagines the concept of spacetime through an innovative visual lens, offering a meditative and visually striking exploration of temporal dimensions. This work challenges traditional linear narratives by presenting multiple cross-sections of time, continuously evolving and looping in a mesmerizing three-dimensional space. It is aesthetically beautiful and conceptually thought-provoking, encouraging viewers to consider how we navigate and understand the fabric of time. *Mid Tide #3* stands as a testament to the power of art to reshape our understanding of fundamental concepts.

No Se Van Los Que Se Aman

Matar a un Panda

This live performance project by the Chilean artist collective Matar a un Panda (Carla Redlich and Jean Didier) examines issues of individual and collective memory. It explores the experience of more than 1,200 detainees who passed through the Chacabuco concentration camp (a former mining town) in the Northern Chilean desert between 1973 and 1975 in the first years of the military dictatorship. Combining live movement, recorded bodies that are projection mapped onto architectural structures in the actual town with narrative testimonies of survivors, No Se Van Los Que Se Aman successfully employs minimal means to reflect on the brutality of political oppression in Pinochet-era Chile and its continued resonances within the next generation.

Random Acts of Flyness – Season 2,

Episode 4 – Fourth Dimension: Spacetime/bodyspirit

Tafa (Kordae Henry)

Fourth Dimension: Spacetime/bodyspirit is the fourth episode in the second season of the groundbreaking and unparalleled *Random Acts of Flyness* TV series. Created by renowned writer, director, and producer Terence Nance, we witness a poignant exploration into the beauty and complexities of contemporary American life. Leveraging advanced visual storytelling techniques, VFX-artist Kordae Henry (aka Tafa) creates captivating and surreal computer animations that reflect the narratives exploring space, time, and ancestral remedies. Within this animated segment, characters traverse life stages as water, vines, and the sea, connecting us through layers of dimensions.

Thank you for your souvenir, UK!

Oushi Lin

The film explores the experience of a Chinese international student who spends a year in the UK and sheds light on the challenges of identity, belonging, and cultural displacement. The artist behind this personal film raises a crucial question of whether international students are being exploited as resources or are genuinely benefiting from the system. Although the film focuses on a specific narrative, it delves into broader themes of immigration and outsiderhood. By showcasing the struggle of identical closed-eyed ragdolls pushed through the system, the film urges viewers to examine the complexities of the system and its implications. The film’s raw and honest portrayal will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

Unknown Label

Nicolas Gourault Unknown Label captivated the jury with its innovative approach to documentary storytelling, seamlessly integrating animation as the core narrative medium and redefining the documentary film format. The animation is more than mere illustration, it is integrated as the very essence of its narrative; the documentary could not exist without it, and it is an exemplar for the New Animation Art category of Prix Ars Electronica. The film opens with a simple, single-color animation illustrating the process of segmentation, introducing viewers to the unseen individuals who label training data for AI vision systems. As the story delves deeper into the complexity of their work, social dynamics, and the discrimination faced by these workers, the animated visuals evolve in complexity as well. The narrative crescendos with a city-scale 3D data visualization, revealing the staggering amount of invisible human labor that goes into training our AI systems. The documentary navigates complex themes with clarity and empathy, elevating the discourse on AI ethics and globalization.


Interactive Art +

Weaving New Narratives

Clemens Apprich, Salome Asega, Shiho Fukuhara, José-Carlos Mariátegui, Olga Tykhonova

What are the criteria of an artwork that invites the spectator to become part of it? Is the role of the spectator limited to the human actor? Or does the role extend to non-human entities? Are cultural and computational narratives capable of weaving an intergenerational web of meaning? These questions reflect the idea of a technodiverse future, which recognizes the varying ways in which technology is embraced and expressed across a range of cultures and communities.

As members of the jury, we discussed the importance of including artists drawing from alternative or subaltern knowledge systems, as well as projects engaging with localized cultures and histories with the aim of making connections to platforms that can provide wider visibility. These platforms, such as gaming and web browsers, are bringing about structural, economic, and societal changes around the world and can be reimagined as ‘ecosystems’ for propelling a broader, more plural and diverse dialogue. Such ecosystems can further awaken us to alternative or omitted histories, such as the experiences of Black communities under modern forms of colonialism or the deep connection between craft and computation as demonstrated in Indigenous design techniques, and how these histories permeate both physical and digital realities. It is necessary to seek a relational symbiosis between yet-to-be told histories  and more ‘established’ ones in order to construct a more complete planetary knowledge.

The winner of this year’sGolden Nica in the Interactive Art + category emphasizes the contemporary use of visual-tactile-haptic technologies of knowledge production through textiles. As a tradition present in many cultures around the world, textiles entail a memory function that has successfully challenged and withstood hegemonic systems of notation, such as writing. As a technique that preserves and transmits culture, weaving makes it possible to intertwine messages between generations and, in form of the weaving loom, is a central building block of modern computer technologies.

The jury also reconsidered prosthetic technologies, which have long been present in media arts practice. This year, we saw the way disability and access culture positions prosthetic technologies as mechanisms for enhancing self-expression and building self-confidence, which in turn liberates people from the canons imposed by society. This liberation from societal expectations is consistent with the idea that approaches to assistive technologies should be more flexible and adaptable to individual needs and backgrounds, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all solution may not be appropriate for everyone. Just as aesthetic prosthetics enable individuals to overcome more than physical limitations, a more personalized approach could provide a framework for tailored support and access.

Similarly, gaming platforms, using world-building and storytelling techniques, can also be seen as a means of expression to overcome stalled narratives The increasing accessibility of game creation tools, beyond the exclusive domain of large studios, further democratizes this form of expression. This resonates with the idea that support systems should be responsive to diverse forms of expression and encourage creativity, rather than adhere to rigid definitions and standards. Just as games allow players to shape their own experiences, approaches should be adaptable enough to accommodate the unique circumstances and aspirations of each individual, recognizing the diversity of storytelling.

During the review of projects, there were several projects using AI in different ways. However, it is fundamental to clarify that what is commonly referred to as AI today is a collection of techniques and technologies aimed at finding statistical correlations by extracting patterns from large data sets which are then applied into systems of meaning and classification. In this sense, AI has no autonomous agency and in many cases serves primarily the interests of the companies behind it, prioritizing profit and efficiency mandates. AI systems are thus sometimes considered as ‘universal’, but in reality they have a very narrow and limited way of understanding the world.

It is important to consider that if we want to question AI, we need to understand what the data objects, the technology, and, more importantly, the cultural and cognitive functions behind it, are. Interaction cannot be expressed solely through the application of already existing systems. Instead, a truly interactive engagement with AI requires us to critique its centralized and inherent biases, to actively seek alternative ways of knowing and decision-making, and to create the conditions for new associations to reveal themselves. The task, therefore, is to challenge and destabilize the narratives that underpin the current proliferation of data-driven algorithmic systems by highlighting their techno-solutionism and to use AI to expand and make visible alternative knowledge systems and perspectives.

Golden Nica

Nosukaay

Diane Cescutti 

The loom could be envisioned as a programmable machine that encodes knowledge into fabric, serving as a means of preserving and transmitting culture; while the computer processes data, the loom preserves stories and traditions. ‘Nosukaay’ means computer in Wolof, a language spoken by people in much of West Africa; the installation Nosukaay merges textile hapticity with the digital space to produce a hybrid that expands the notion of interactivity. It is based on an modified Manjacque loom, in which the loom’s frames are replaced by two screens that introduce a video game in which the users interact with the “wisdom of the system” through a deity. Its tactile interface is made of Manjak loincloth, woven by the artist Edimar Rosa in Dakar. If the player makes a choice that does not respect the machine deity and hence the importance of the knowledge transmitted, the user gets ejected from the game and sent back to the beginning. Nosukaay as a textile-computer hybrid allows us to rethink the concept of the “computer” through a rich tapestry of shared understanding that interweaves craft with computational practices.

Awards of Distinction

If You Have Starry Skies in Your Eyes

Rib

If You Have Starry Skies in Your Eyes powerfully illuminates the marginalized experiences of individuals who have lost a body part, a topic often shrouded in silence. Artist Rib, who lost her right eye due to childhood domestic violence, found her passion for creating exquisite prosthetic eyes through facing discrimination due to her appearance. Her experience sheds light on the societal stigma surrounding the ocular prosthetics industry in Japan, where conformity is prioritized over individual expression. This is compounded by limited insurance coverage for those with vision loss in one eye. Undeterred, Rib’s self-taught expertise led her to craft unique and captivating artificial eyes, exemplifying the power of self-advocacy and resilience. The work explores the profound connection between physical loss, self-discovery, and creative transformation. By embracing her artificial eye, Rib challenges conventional notions of beauty and physical variation. This is a call for a more inclusive society where individuals feel empowered to express their authentic selves, sparking meaningful dialogue, inspiring positive change within the prosthetic eye industry and fostering greater acceptance in society at large.

Third World: The Bottom Dimension

Gabriel Massan

In Third World: The Bottom Dimension, artist Gabriel Massan offers a new pedagogy, a guidebook for resistance. Through a single-player PC game where the player navigates a lush world by way of an insectile protagonist, we are offered to engage history as we know it and contend with its gaps. Massan is clear in his desire to reveal instead of replicate how systems of power erase and marginalize complicated historical truths. The goal here is not to conquer or extract, but to question colonial notions of expedition and to resist the embedded power structures. Drawing from cultural writer and historian Saidiya Hartman’s use of “critical fabulation”, Massan is keenly aware of the limits of institutional archives and invites you to challenge the record through their use of speculative storytelling techniques, which Massan calls “fictional archaeology”. To repair history’s failure, Massan and their invited collaborators—Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, Novíssimo Edgar, LYZZA—build a landscape of expressive sound and color that make room for the fullness that is the Black Brazilian experience.  

Honorary Mentions

AI Fortune-Teller

Soonho Kwon, Dong Whi Yoo, Younah Kang

In AI Fortune-Teller interactees engaged with an AI career counselor, unaware that in fact a mudang (Korean shaman) crafted its responses. The video documents reactions, highlighting shifts in perception post-revelation. The project stems from realizing parallels between reliance on AI-based decision systems and pre-scientific agents like religion. These systems serve as coping mechanisms for an uncertain future. By juxtaposing scientific and pre-scientific realms, it explores human autonomy, trust, and motivation dynamics. Interestingly, participants didn’t alter their decisions or attitudes post-revelation, questioning the importance of AI’s explainability or accuracy. The project critiques blind trust in AI and stimulates discussions on healthy human–AI relationships, and the meaning of human autonomy in the AI era.

All Directions At Once

Luiza Prado

This web-based digital performance or “GIF essay” is based on presenting a number of Brazilian folk herbal contraceptives expressing “radical decolonizing care”, aiming to resist the disasters brought about by colonialism. During those times, the enslaved indigenous and African peoples used birth control plants, such as the Ayoowiri, not only as contraceptive methods but also as acts of resistance and self-determination in the face of brutal oppression during the European occupation of the Americas. The GIF essay performs a specific combination of images that vanish forever each time the user moves the mouse on the browsers’ window, centering these GIF stories on the practices of care that have often been suppressed or erased.

Coincidence

Toprak Firat, Yasin Aribuga

Coincidence is a real-time collage that uses video streams from fifty publicly accessible traffic and tourist live cameras scattered across the city of Istanbul. In contrast to the usual video surveillance, the intention of the work is not to observe, but to produce a social sculpture of Istanbul through a complex composite of moving images, imprinting in its visual density the political and ideological tensions of the city’s multicultural and cosmopolitan neighborhoods. Since the work is based in real time feeds, live cameras are subject to potential delays and errors. Hence, Coincidence uses a computationally efficient workflow and simple modular design using parallel processing, in which video frames are combined to generate a single texture, which is then converted into a movie file and finally transformed into 3D collages. All these processes are segmented and encapsulated into individual scripts to produce seamless 3D visualizations, creating a living urban sculpture. In the installation view of the artwork, cables are laid out with the intention to make evident the feeds of data that are required to make it work.

Cold Call: Time Theft as Avoided Emissions

Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain

The word saboteur comes from the French word “saboter“, which in the early 20th century meant to kick someone with an old-fashioned wooden shoe. Through the architecture of a call center, artists Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne make a cheeky request to disrupt business as usual and engage in time theft, a strategy for slowing worker efficiency. They encourage exhibition visitors of their speculative call center to telephone corporate executives whose companies have ties to the fossil fuel industry and keep them on the line as long as possible. For the artists, the time stolen from these oil and gas executives has carbon benefits and is quantifiable as credits using a carbon offsetting methodology. Using the highest carbon emitting company in the United States, Vistra Energy, as a case study, the artists test a formula that reveals when the more senior oil and gas employees are distracted from working, carbon emissions have the potential to slow. Living in global climate emergency, Tega Brian and Sam Lavigne have put on their metaphorical wooden shoes and have landed a kick.

Consensus Gentium

Karen Palmer

In Karen Palmer’s Consensus Gentium, an iPhone becomes a dynamic storytelling device where you are immersed in an unfolding narrative taking place in the palm of your hands. Through the film-like narrative, you quickly learn that you exist in a near-future society that is managed through the Global Citizen App, a heightened surveillance technology that determines all features of your city life including mobility. While you are watching the story play out on your phone, the app‘s facial recognition system is closely monitoring your reactions to the events and weighing your threat to their meticulous control. Moving through the city without raising alarm does not come without its challenges. It proves not to be an easy task given the heightened police presence resulting in violence against unarmed citizens and FaceTime calls from your friends understandably upset about the state of racialized violence. The phone watches you back to advance the narrative in response to your facial reactions making each participants’ experience unique. Through a simulated experience, Palmer shows us how AI-driven surveillance tools can make detrimental decisions and yield harmful results with lasting impact.

Conversations Beyond the Ordinary

Jan Zuiderveld

Conversations Beyond the Ordinary deals with the increasing anthropomorphization of our machines in a humorous way. Instead of cute robots, the installation introduces us to mundane appliances with their very own personalities, tics and idiosyncrasies. It thereby gives us an insight into our immediate future, which will be characterized neither by the extinction nor by the redemption of humans by technology. Rather we will have to argue with AI-empowered machines and hope for their cooperation. A coffee machine won‘t make you a coffee before you show some courtesy, and the microwave keeps a watchful eye on the things you are about to put into it. It is this future, a mundane future that shows our everyday interaction with machines, which is characterized by empathy, misunderstanding, and awkwardness—just as any other conversation is.

G80

Fragmentin

Questioning the technocratic absurdity of historic cybernetic projects, G80 invites the spectator to interact with computational models for solving socio-political and ecological issues. Based on Buckminster Fuller’s World Game, which was created in the 1960s, the installation establishes a connection to current ideas of a perfectly controllable environment. In a playful manner G80 subverts those ideas and illustrates the problem of a pre-categorized world. It thereby reminds us that the idea of a world controlled by computers is far older than current debates on AI and machine learning, and that the problem lies not so much in a data-driven world but in the pre-existing categories used to make sense of that data. This is precisely where a political response to technological solutionism is needed so that social inequalities—expressed in these categories—are not simply automated.

Kazokutchi

So Kanno, Akihiro Kato, Takemi Watanuki

Kazokutchi delves into the persistent questions of life’s origin, evolution, demise, and legacy in an era where the physical and digital increasingly intertwine. Using blockchain and robotics, the project simulates the life cycle of Kazokutchi NFTs, visualizing their evolution through cellular automaton-like patterns. These digital beings, showcasing diverse traits and interactions, are further manifested as physical robots inhabiting a simulated Tokyo. This interplay mirrors urban life and the city’s post-pandemic adaptation, while also examining the concept of the unique world each being perceives. Kazokutchi is prompting a re-evaluation of the concept of life itself and the diverse Umwelten experienced within human society and beyond.

Mixed Signals

kennedy+swan

Mixed Signals consists of a series of watercolors that come to life by means of Augmented Reality. The strange and beautiful images weave a complex narrative that extends into our reality. At a time when museums are struggling to become more interactive, this is an impressive example of how this could happen. In addition to their aesthetic form, the AR paintings also create a level of engagement with new technologies, promising to connect us with non-human beings. They thereby envision a future when we are able to communicate with animals and plants, opening ourselves to the messages of nature. The technological enchantment of the everyday invites us to take on different perspectives of our world.

REPEAT AFTER ME, 2022

Open Group (Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, and Anton Varga)

The role and impact of experiencing technology, and the forms that knowledge of it can take, undergo a twist in the video installation Repeat After Me, created by the Ukrainian collective Open Group. With full-scale invasion, Ukrainians have become military experts with the ability to distinguish and determine different weapon types—assault rifle fire, artillery shelling, multiple rocket launcher shelling, drone attacks, aerial bombardment—by sound. This new-found knowledge is a reality for Ukrainians and possessing it increases the chances of survival. The video features civilians displaced from various regions of Ukraine, who talk about their personal war experiences, but in a peculiar way. The familiar and seemingly playful format of a karaoke offers to share ‘knowledge‘ in and through sound. Repeat after me is an artwork. However, instead of songs and tunes, it presents/offers individual memories and experiences of everyday war violence and its “vehicles”—the sounds of gunfire, missiles, howls, and explosions of deadly firearms and drones. It offers a human-voiced soundtrack of the war in Ukraine.

Swarming / Swimming

Honey Biba Beckerlee

The information infrastructure, essential yet often hidden, becomes acutely vulnerable when disrupted, highlighting the need for resilient communication and alternative solutions. Swarming / Swimming is a simple installation, interweaving seaweed and optical fiber, which showcases the delicate balance between nature and technology. The seaweed symbolizes interconnected ecosystems and the cascading effects of unchecked proliferation, while the tapestry-like weaving mirrors the interconnectedness of our digital age and historical power structures. A wave-like pattern, inspired by the double-slit experiment, evokes the quantum phenomenon of wave-particle duality. Through the use of swarm intelligence to guide light, this artwork invites contemplation on leveraging complex systems for harmonious coexistence.

ZOE

Noor Stenfert Kroese, Amir Bastan

In ZOE Noor Stenfert Kroese and Amir Bastan create temporary co-existence between reishi mushrooms and a custom-made robotic system. Through sensing technologies an ecosystem that cares for and affects each other acquires visible and visual form: the reishi and their behavior define what the robotic system does and the robotic system influences the shape of the light-sensitive reishi mushrooms. Sculpted through the mutual influence shape of the fruiting bodies of the reishi is a reflection of and a sensory experience to explore this unknown communication. Additionally, artists create tactile data visualizations or “data-carpets” trying to further unveil communication within this coexistence and find further possible correlations. ZOE explores Mycobotics, possibilities of biocomputing with fungi through robotics and more than human-computer interaction. Using industrial robots and their quality of repetition and precision, artists reconsider the dynamics between technology and nature, encompassing both human and non-human aspects.


u19 – create your world

This Fish has no Idea

As the jury for the u19–create your world category of the Prix Ars Electronica, we have reviewed a multitude of fascinating works by young people from Austria this year. These works not only reflect creative diversity and technological innovation but also provide deep insights into the mindset and current societal challenges of our time.

The selection of the winning works was based on various criteria. In addition to artistic quality and originality, the level of innovation, technical execution, and societal relevance were also important. We chose works that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also convey a clear message and provoke thought. Furthermore, the diversity of perspectives and approaches of the participants was important to us in order to appropriately recognize the range of young creativity.

In numerous works, we have observed an intense engagement with the climate crisis. Young artists, as in previous years, are again addressing the consequences of climate change and seeking new solutions for a sustainable future. Other urgent contemporary issues reflected in the projects of the young entrants include war, flight, and desertion. The short film Zemlyanka tackles a topic that is being addressed for the first time in the u19 category and is highly relevant in the context of current conflicts: desertion. This work by the Zemlyanka team (Justin Casta, Maximilian Größ, Jonathan Pacher, Georgy Snegur, Christina Zsalacz), like the Golden Nica, represents the desire to survive, but also expresses the desperation that can drive people into seemingly hopeless situations.

The Golden Nica goes to Fluten der Freiheit (Floods of Freedom) by Jakob Gruber. Despite its brevity of just ten seconds, the animation impressively conveys strong emotions and an urgent message without any spoken words, using only sound effects. With right-wing parties and autocrats on the rise and the high number of deaths in the Mediterranean often relegated to mere footnotes in media coverage, it is crucial for other voices to be heard loud and clear. This short video evokes emotion without showcasing the personal tragedies of refugees. Jakob Gruber effectively portrays the ongoing tragedy of Mediterranean crossings with a few compelling images. The keywords “Peace, Democracy, Security,” essential pillars of European identity, are often inadequately upheld in the context of migration and flight. His animation leaves a lasting impression, reminding us that art has the power to distill complex societal issues and motivate us to take action. It also brings hope: hope for peace, democracy, and security—principles that should be afforded to all people, not just those born in the right country.

Animations have always been a cornerstone of u19. They vary in style, themes, and length as much as the entrants themselves. Whether stop-motion, 2D or 3D animations, drawn, modeled, made from natural materials, clay, or building blocks, these small artworks delight us every year. The award-winning Last, a stop-motion film by Anna Bubenicek and Flora Kirnbauer, touches viewers in a special way. By using natural materials, it creates not only aesthetically pleasing images but also conveys a profound message about climate protection, friendship, and hope. The work also reflects on loneliness and failure, yet it exudes an unwavering hope that can inspire us all.

Engagement with life in the digital world was also a recurring theme in the submitted works. Many participants reflected on the significance of social media, the changing ways we communicate, and the challenges of maintaining genuine connections in an increasingly digital world.

This theme is explored in to the friends I’ll never meet by artist Selma Yassin, who receives an award for this piece. Her exploration of online relationships is a fascinating multimedia art project that delves into the complexity and beauty of online friendships. The work combines performative elements with installation, digital renderings of analog spaces, and a zine featuring real chat transcripts. Through her adept use of various media, the artist sensitively and intricately approaches themes of online time, friendship, and intimacy. The analogy of threads being woven yet easily cut symbolizes both the fragility and strength of friendships. Translating this performance into a virtual space adds an extra dimension to the project, making it an inspiring reflection on connection and community across transnational boundaries.

Tatsanan Tang addresses the inherent opportunities and dangers of social media in a unique way with Verpackt und vernetzt (Packaged and connected). The idea of portraying social media consumption as pills is both simple and complex. Clearly, a lot of thought went into the design. The text of the package insert, which informs about the usage and side effects of the “medication” (social media), is well-researched and includes both scientific facts and humorous moments.

Nostalgia and longing for the past and one’s often idealized childhood were reflected in numerous works. Memories contrast with the harsh reality of the present, marked by personal performance pressure and global crises. The theme of death and the transience of life was explored in several pieces. The Honorary Mention for Canon Events in the Young Professionals category plays with memories and a self-reflective examination of one’s youth while still experiencing it. In this artistic project, formative youth moments were placed in laboratory glasses and preserved. Paula Boyer, Lisa Marie Diessner, and Alena Milcic impressively navigated the fine line between nostalgia and the present, where nothing is idealized but instead examined critically and soberly through a scientific lens.

In the video game Everlasting End, Honorary Mention in the Young Professionals category, characters repeatedly experience the last six minutes of their lives. The player must decide which characters to listen to in the remaining moments. By incorporating this interactive concept, viewers are compelled to engage directly with the theme of impermanence. It’s more than just a game; it’s an experience facilitated by Keno Czompo, Aaron Hager, and Tobias Kogler.

Some works have convinced through their excellence and elaborate use of technical and artistic skills. The brick film A Normal Day in Jurassic World by Maximilian Peinhaupt received an Honorary Mention in the Young Professionals category. Not only does this film excel in animation with nearly 6,000 frames and meticulous attention to detail, but it is also filled with many humorous details and expertly crafted sound design. It takes viewers into the daily life of a frustrated park ranger, who struggles to get through his day in a Sisyphean manner.

The highly complex multimedia sound performance Synergia received an Honorary Mention in the Young Professionals category and impresses with its successful fusion of text, electroacoustic sounds, and professional presentation. The young Synergia ensemble demonstrates remarkable maturity in the execution of musical performance and textual accompaniment. Leonhard Gaigg’s compositions are skillfully realized with pre-recorded and live-played sounds. The interweaving of text, silence, light, and sound creates a captivating auditory experience, transporting the audience into a unique world. An impressive concert for enthusiasts of experimental contemporary music and anyone who appreciates new sonic experiences.

The jury also noted in several works various forms of artistic exploration of abstract embodied experiences, such as projects dealing with the tangible manifestation or visualization of music.

With Was heißt es alleine zu sein? (What does it mean to be alone?), an Honorary Mention in the Young Professionals category was awarded to Ida Onzek, Rosa Peschina, Sina Tödling, and Lara Tomasic. The clip visualizes a song by the Graz singer Roxana. Impressively precise staging allows for the success of this one-cut music video. Throughout, visually stunning images and lovingly crafted details emerge, beautifully accentuating the atmosphere. The expressive, unpretentious performance of the actress reinforces the question without overinterpreting it. It’s impressive.

The integration of Artificial Intelligence into creative processes was also a recurring theme. We witnessed impressive works exploring the potentials and challenges of AI in various fields such as art, music, and design.

Peter, Paula und Panini. Klimabuch und Theaterstück (Peter, Paula and Panini. Climate book and play)is a fairy tale story created with the help of AI, reminding both children and adults to care for the environment. The text for the play was developed by the young artist Lina Roth in co-creation with Artificial Intelligence, allowing her to combine her ideas with those of her friends’ children while still producing a coherent text. The next step planned is to turn the story into a children’s book.

In some works addressing climate policy, creative satire was used to provide a humorous perspective on serious issues such as climate change. For example, in the cleverly crafted short film Die Klimakonferenz (The climate conference) by the COM group of PTS Schwanenstadt, an animated fish warns political leaders about the real consequences of the climate crisis but is silenced with the words “This fish has no idea!”

There is still much work ahead of us regarding the issue of climate change, and to tackle this work, we should start by listening to each other and developing ideas, as seen in Meine grüne Stadt der Zukunft (My green city of the future). This submission features designs for green skyscrapers. The young artist Jonas Stöttinger has delved deeply into urban planning and architecture against the backdrop of climate change, creating sketches and designs for green and cooling architecture based on his research.

The initiative at BRG/BORG Landeck, AEROQ – dicke Luft im Klassenzimmer (AEROQ – Thick air in the classroom), takes a proactive approach to the discussion about indoor air quality in schools during and after the pandemic. Their self-developed CO2 monitors for classrooms not only impress with their appealing design but also with their technical sophistication. Particularly commendable is their plan to make the documentation and source codes available as open-source, allowing schools with limited resources to benefit from them as well.

Nea Geršak’s short animation Na2r_3lumen (Na2re Flow3rs / Nature Flowers) is a deserving winner of the Young Creatives u10 Prize. The combination of painted images and flower animation effectively conveys the beauty and transience of nature. At just seven years old, she creatively realizes the idea of ​​recreating time-lapses through multiple smaller videos and then animating them. She uses self-painted acrylic paintings as the background. This work artistically addresses questions about the world in 50 years and whether there will still be flowers there. The title, consisting of letters and numbers, also seems to anticipate the language of the future—are they natural flowers or just images of flowers? Who knows?

This year, the Young Creatives u14 Prize goes to the multimedia project WarpCity. Students from the 6th grade of BRG Pichelmayergasse assembled a sculpture from electronic waste for this project. Resembling a futuristic building, a mountain-shaped skyscraper, this architectural sculpture towers upward. Through projection mapping, it comes to life, with words like “heat” or “climate change” projected onto the tower. People walk around the green area surrounding the sculpture, which they see from a bird’s-eye view. However, as one approaches the artwork and makes noise, more and more vehicles start driving through the green spaces, leaving less room for pedestrians. This extensive project straightforwardly and creatively conveys the relevance of issues such as soil sealing and urban planning.

The short film Lights Out, created by the Young Filmmakers, takes a cinematic approach to the theme of the city. The nearly ten-minute film impresses with its meticulous attention to detail and showcases the beauty of darkness contrasted with artificial light, as experienced during a drive through a city illuminated by lights. The darkness in all its shades—essential for the film’s atmosphere—is wonderfully captured.

Among the younger participants, discussions on structural issues such as war and redistribution were observed. Another major theme was the treatment of seniors in society and how caregiving might look in the future. Sustainability was also a prevalent theme in several submissions.

The initial idea behind the drawing Aus Waffen werden Werkzeuge (From weapons to tools) stemmed from the theme of sustainability, which most people associate with environmental protection. Environmental protection is deeply humanistic, as it concerns the survival of humanity on this planet. In this project, sustainability and humanism are linked in a different way, namely through a pacifist demand to repurpose war machines such as tanks into something that no longer destroys but is instead useful, such as a tractor. For this beautiful concept, presented in a colorful, vibrant image, David Gaulhofer receives an Honorary Mention from the jury in the u10 category.

As part of the project Nachhaltigkeitsziele und Stopmotion (Sustainability Goals and Stop-Motion), a series of short animated films delve into the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. The result is twelve stop-motion films that creatively and poignantly illustrate what we need to do to protect the environment, and more importantly, why we need to do it. For this achievement, this year’s Award of Distinction in the u14 category goes to the students of the 3rd grade of Frohnleiten Middle School.

The pressure to achieve and societal expectations placed on young people were also critically examined. Many works delve into the psychological stress and challenges associated with high academic expectations. One negative manifestation is bullying, which many students face.

With betterTogether, the five-member team from GRG 15 – Auf der Schmelz submitted an app for violence and bullying prevention and intervention. The app, still in the development phase, aims to enable students to seek support easily and report observed cases of bullying and violence (including anonymously). This community project, which received the Young Creatives u12 Prize, demonstrates that when working together as a team, one can advocate for the weaker members of a community.

A positive form of self-help comes from Sarah Hölzl. Her e-book Book to Go – das sprechende Buch (Book to go – The talking book) is a valuable resource for teaching children to read (in English). It is lovingly illustrated and turns learning animal names into a multisensory experience. By Sarah’s decision to offer the book online and for free, she also enables children with limited access to (English-language) books to participate in a reading community. For the sustainable mindset and user-friendliness of the e-book, she rightfully receives the u12 Award of Distinction.

To welcome new students to school, students from Telfs Weissenbach Middle School have baked cookies. Here, too, the desire for the school to be a place for togetherness is understandable.

The Future Cookies project really sparks excitement for school—and for cookies! The detailed process of producing cookie cutters with a 3D printer is documented, making it very understandable. Also impressive is the handling of mistakes, which were neither ignored nor discouraged but rather spurred further action.

It’s always a pleasure for us in the u19 category when video game projects are submitted. Some years, these submissions are quite numerous, while in other years, there are hardly any games among all the entries. This year, there were a few games that dealt with very different themes in very different forms—which is natural, given that the medium of games offers nearly unlimited narrative and formal possibilities. However, sometimes an important point is overlooked: that video games can simply be fun. Yet, it’s not easy to produce a video game that is genuinely enjoyable. To achieve this, the controls must work flawlessly, the objective must be clear, and the visuals must be cohesive. A sound track also contributes to a good video game. The game designers Benjamin Jurina, Benjamin Schäfer, and Emily Schiestek of Synth Cycles can check all these boxes and receive a Young Professionals Honorary Mention. In this auto arena battler, players compete locally against each other and must, like in an autodrome, bounce against the opponent’s car to push it off the platform.

It’s evident from the examples above that fun and more serious topics can coexist or even go hand in hand in the u19 category. However, a topic that often plays a significant role for young people was surprisingly addressed in relatively few projects this year: the exploration of gender identity. We would like to see more engagement with this topic in the future.

Finally, we would like to thank all participants for their inspiring contributions. Your dedication and creativity are a source of hope and inspiration for us all. We look forward to seeing your work in the future and working together to shape the world of tomorrow.


AI in Art

Capturing a Turning Point

Jürgen Hagler, Vanessa Hannesschläger, Veronika Liebl, Emiko Ogawa, Gerfried Stocker

Several times already in the history of Prix Ars Electronica, Special Golden Nicas have been awarded to highlight important developments that were equally impactful across the areas of art, technology, and society. 

For instance, in 1992, the Honorary Golden Nica which was awarded to Marc Dippé and his team at ILM for their groundbreaking liquid-metal-man animation in Terminator 2. This visual effect was unprecedented, marking a significant milestone in computer animation for many, and it clearly demonstrated how the continuous improvements in this field would impact all areas of visual design, both in art and entertainment. Although the term “Creative Industries” was not yet in vogue, it was evident that a new era of the fusion of art, creativity, and technology was emerging.

The impact of Alias|Wavefront and RenderMan back then is comparable with the impact of today’s generative text-to-image and text-to-video systems like Runway and Sora. These systems are not only new tools for creatives and artists, they have also begun to fundamentally change many of the conditions for artistic creation.

Artistic work with generative AI was therefore a primary focus in the search for suitable projects. The intention was not so much to define ‘legacy artworks’ (as we are still at the very beginning of these developments), but to mark turning points and highlight the important role that artists play in this process. These are turning points where not only new technological developments become visible, but also new questions arise about the role of art and artists, questions that are highly relevant to society as a whole. It is ultimately not very surprising that the impact of AI on art and creativity is being discussed with as much excitement and intensity as its effects on the economy, the job market, and democracy are.

While all these projects would not be possible in their respective form without the remarkable technological advancements in AI, the awards are fully and solely awards for the artists and their creative innovations.

The AI in ART award-winning projects have been selected from among all the submissions from the Prix Ars Electronica, the S+T+ARTS Prize, and the European Union Prize for Citizen Science. For example, within the category “New Animation Art,” AI-based works (those that explicitly mention the use of AI in the work) accounted for 25% of the total submissions in this category. Of these, 91% used generative AI Image, 89% used generative AI Video or Animation, 24% used Chat Bot or LLM, and 14% used generative Sound/Music.

Within the Prix Ars Electronica “Interactive Art +” category, AI-based works (those in which the use of AI is explicitly stated within the work) also accounted for 21% of the total entries in the category. Of these, 70% used materials created with generative AI, 19% pursued the critical social impact of AI, and 11% dealt with AI in an academic context, such as Research & Development.

Special Golden Nica, AI in ART

Washed Out “The Hardest Part”

Paul Trillo (US)

The breathtaking advancements in text-to-video systems represent one of the most significant and impactful developments in contemporary AI, particularly within the artistic realm. Paul Trillo, an esteemed and visionary artist and experimental filmmaker, is being honored with the Golden Nica for his early and innovative artistic exploration of generative AI systems and the possibilities it opens up for artists. His recent works, *The Hardest Part* and *Noted to my Future Self*, showcase his exceptional ability to leverage technology to enhance storytelling and filmmaking—a quality he has already demonstrated in earlier pieces, such as *Thank you for not Answering* and *Absolve*, where he highlights the profound aesthetic and narrative opportunities that AI offers to the arts.

In his most recent music video, a kind of infinite dolly shot and fly-through following a couple through episodes of their life—Trillo seized the opportunity to be one of the first artists to gain access to Sora. He generated approximately 700 clips with very extensive prompts, selected 55, stitching them together for the final video. While the high degree of character consistency achieved with Sora is impressive, it is Paul Trillo’s narrative and storytelling that truly stand out. As in his earlier short films created with Runway Gen2, he skillfully harnesses the unique characteristics of these systems, including their hallucinations and artifacts, for his artistic work.

“This was an idea I had almost 10 years ago and then abandoned. Finally I was able to bring it to life,” Trillo is quoted in several articles about his work. He further states:

“I really wanted to do something that was both unique to the hallucinations of Sora while also attempting to create something that felt timeless and works regardless of what technology was being used. Sora presents unique challenges and opportunities to artists. I think fundamentally, what works as a story, what works on an audience, will never change. But our process to get to that finish line is different. What is unique about AI is that it’s this more fluid, organic process where you’re ideating. You have your idea, it feeds into the final product, and then the final product gives you a new idea to go back into the writing phase and rewrite.”

Anticipating that many more remarkable works will emerge by the time of the award ceremony in September, the prize is not limited to the latest production by Paul Trillo, mentioned here as an example. It honors his ongoing work with AI and is an acknowledgment of his creative curiosity and the courage required to embark on new paths. 

The same applies to the two Awards of Distinctions, which will be presented alongside the Golden Nica, recognizing outstanding projects that showcase the breadth and diversity of current artistic work with AI.

Awards of Distinction

REPETAE

Sasha Stiles (US)

*REPETAE* by Sasha Stiles utilizes text-generating AI models, delving into the realm of co-creation with AI systems and seamlessly integrating the AI component into a multimedia configuration that captivates with its high degree of independence and artistic authenticity. Merging poetry with algorithmic art and generative AI, *REPETAE* explores the new possibilities as well as the consequences of extensive immersion into technological realities, not only for the creation of art but also for its perception and the agency of the audience.

Intelligent Instruments in Citizen Science: Understanding Contemporary AI through Creative Practice

Thor Magnusson (IS), Intelligent Instruments Lab (IS)

The Award of Distinction for the research group led by Thor Magnusson from the Intelligent Instruments Lab located at Iceland University of the Arts demonstrates another area where artistic exploration and research are of great relevance: interfaces and tools that enable intuitive creation, live performance, and improvisation with AI systems. Here, the focus is not on AI itself, but rather on what can be achieved artistically and creatively with it. The technical system is not the focus of this research; instead, emphasis is placed on humans and new ideas for musical instruments that can be played live to harness the possibilities offered by AI.

While all these projects would not be possible in their respective form without the remarkable technological advancements in AI, the awards are not accolades for companies and their excellent technical development teams—they are fully and solely awards for the artists and their creative innovations.