u19 – create your world

Golden Nica

A black blanket on the floor, recognizable contours of a person apparently lying under it, and on the blanket, in white letters, a text about the blanket as a metaphor for depression: In its unambiguous and uncompromising character, this sculpture is a direct kick in the gut. It initially renders one speechless, but then it triggers a discussion and reflection about mental health, the many taboos surrounding the topic, the current situation for youth, and the lack of psychological support for them. It requires courage and strength to confront depression with such openness. And doing this in a way that really gets under the viewer’s skin also requires artistic talent. But Die schwarze Decke (The Black Blanket) is not merely an oppressive work; it also gives hope, because it shows how one can use art to give expression to thoughts and feelings in a manner that makes them comprehensible even to strangers. And it shows that art is a crucial means for processing and also for educating. These are the kinds of works that the young artists have to get out of their system because they have no other choice; works that on the one hand make this category an important platform for young creative types and on the other make it possible for the general public to see the current thoughts and feelings of the coming generation as if through a magnifying glass. Die schwarze Decke has much to say about what it is like being young in these times. But it also tells us a great deal about the strong artist behind this work.

Young Professionals (14 – 19 years)

The work 171 touches one not only because of its subject matter but also due to its well thought-out and unusual execution through the use of mezzotint. The strong connection between visual art, animation, and sound conveys the dreadful dynamics of a nuclear accident. The music, composed and played by the artist, sets a beat that unifies dance and catastrophe rhythm, one that is at once familiar and unsettling. It forms a clear thread through the animation that gives rise to additional emotional and interpretive interpretations.

This year’s entries included a large number of works dealing with a wide variety of fears and the emotional pressure put on young people. At first glance, the “fear of missing out” may seem relatively innocuous, but it is, in fact, a very important issue that should not be underestimated in terms of the tangible burden placed on youth in a society dominated by social media and digital communication. /_holofear conveys this very abstract emotional state in an installation that can be experienced emotionally and interactively. On a holographic projection screen, one sees a stereotypical lively party that one definitely would not want to miss, but as the viewer draws closer, it is transformed into a real situation that is distinctly more boring. The installation is controlled by a 3D camera that constantly measures the distance between viewer and screen. This solution is an extremely smart trick both technically and with regard to content in order to enable the viewer to experience this gap between imagination and reality—which in everyday life is never immediately tangible—in a very direct manner.

BONGOS shows a father-son relationship. The son is curious, agile, and adventuresome, while the father is apathetic, mourning his supposedly best years. The “real” day-to-day life of these two is animated in gloomy colors in 3D. The absolute opposite is represented by the part into which the son flees in his 2D fantasy world, one that is colorful, diverse, vibrant, loud, and rhythmical—a world full of shapes and colors. It is this very contrast between 3D and 2D that makes this animation so very appealing.

A minigame with many features that emphasize this game’s retro pixel world, and even the keyboard has been adapted correspondingly. The generative design of the cyberfish and the idea of a fishing cat with a wireless fishing pole only add to the appeal. The entertaining gameplay, typical for an arcade game, in combination with the very inventive reward system and the trophy cabinet, fascinate and sharpen the players’ instinct for collecting and hunting for cans of fish.<

From the very beginning, this film captivates the viewers with its bold and refreshing mix of styles. The integration of current, controversial images, such as of international sporting events, shows very clearly how strongly content and design were interwoven in this work. Quick cuts, distorted images, and a skillfully made soundtrack make this film unfailingly interesting.

This film project is fascinating both for its lucid and coherent script and for its acting efforts. LOST touches viewers with a question that was also present in many other projects this year as well: Is it possible to really help? Can a society that often offers no assistance or simply ignores calls for help effectively intervene? “Oida – we lost!” (“Dude, we’re lost!”) This short statement expresses something that was present in many submissions: a demand and an appeal for help!

This work is a courageous and profound exploration of the question of identity and identity formation. Gender is not a constant, and the idea of a rigid assignment to a predefined gender group has long been refuted. In the performative depictions, the artist achieves a connection between self-expression and staging that simultaneously expresses a vulnerability and susceptibility that can characterize a life that does not correspond to norms.

Algorithms that result in the perpetuation of only one’s own opinion, deficient regulation of online communication, hate speech, and the possibility of spreading fake news as if it were real facts have increasingly shaped and divided society in recent years. This project examines the question of how it can happen that someone is increasingly radicalized through his or her online behavior. An experimental design is used to test how quickly one can slip into dubious filter bubbles and be increasingly isolated there. This experimental approach vividly illustrates how these mechanisms work.

This performance has an incredibly mesmerizing effect on the viewer. Although from beginning to end nothing “bad” happens, the gestures and actions have an enormously menacing effect. Through a precise eye for detail and thanks to perfect props, a stringent color mood emerges that further underscores the intense atmosphere of the setting: on the one side only white and beige, the wash basin, the clothing, and the cleaning utensils. Everything feels distant and anonymous. On the other side dark-blue light and black. It is dusty and dirty and reminiscent of a dark club. Reinigung (Cleaning) allows a great deal of space for interpretation. The strict hygiene measures of the pandemic come to mind, and in contrast to this the longing to be able to simply be dirty. But the stringent cleaning can also be read in the context of the compulsion to be perfect that is propagated by distorted images of beauty on social platforms. The constant pressure to perform that weighs on young people is another way to interpret this short film. The film’s impact is additionally reinforced by the sophisticated sound.

This film narrative strikes a successful balance between the depiction of the distress and desperation of the main character and the gloominess of his situation on the one hand and the search for an escape on the other. This escape lies in his creativity—that is, in art. The sound design and the filmmaker’s feel for silence, music, and noise levels are impressive.

In Unity, one of the central questions of our time is brought into a lovely and fascinating interplay: the image and the self-image of the human being, realized with modern-day tools—namely with software and hardware and the ability to make something new from them. The viewer is moved on an aesthetic as well as a metaphoric level: What would a world be like in which everyone acted with the welfare of all of society in mind?

The steadily increasing amount of trash in the world and the challenge not only of avoiding producing trash but also of ensuring its proper disposal and recycling is a problem facing many municipalities. Waste-Bin-GO is a trash-collection app based on gamification and current AR technologies. Here, trash seekers are encouraged to design a challenge for others, and people are motivated to actively search for trash and dispose of it in a proper manner.

Young Creatives (<= 14 years)

Transporting the story of the fateful love of Orpheus and Eurydice to the here and now is a clever device that produces humorous moments, such as when Eurydice posts her relationship status online. And simply turning the ancient music star Orpheus into a central female character is a wonderful contemporary staging device. Cinematically, the film has much to offer: a precise feel for shots and cuts, great locations like the underworld, and lovingly designed costumes. In Orphea und Eurydike an ancient fable is recounted with an imaginative twist, a high degree of professionalism, and subtle wit.

In the stop-motion film Chaos in Wien (Chaos in Vienna), different sequences as well as seemingly unconnected sequences are interwoven. The individual teams have created a logical and coherent sequence for the video. The music is inspiring and gives the stop-motion film additional depth.

This film succeeds in creating tension—beginning in the classroom with a lesson on self-driving cars to the idea of trying to build one themselves. All the way to the rousing finish, the story is well structured and is able to maintain the tension. A clever script has been turned into a very cool, funny video.

This project surprises with an abundance of construction ideas and LEGO prototypes. The programs for controlling the printer, plotter, and drafting machine were self-written, and the LEGO Technic components are utilized in a manner that is both creative and functional: the printer with three-axis controller plus output, the drafting robot, the circular saw, the punch, and the jury’s favorite—the plotter, which can be used to draw creative geometric figures. The stamping machine rounds off the LEGO creative workshop.

The music, the sound design, the splendid collages, and the ingenious story about resource waste make watching this great fun, and the convincing interview with Peppa Pig is very effective in holding the film together. Please, more adventures of Peppa Pig, Spiderman, and the Astronaut!

There is a war going on. The idea of continuing to beguile the president with flattery and status symbols until he narcissistically takes off into space has something Dadaistic and very bizarre about it. This is realized with collages that are cheeky, associative, and “rough and dirty.”

In this project, several important research areas are covered: the reduction of light pollution, climate protection, and the use of alternative forms of energy. The idea is to replace lamps and lanterns with low-light glow sticks that draw their energy from Armillaria mellea, or honey fungus.

This is a film that explores the destruction of animal habitats. One sees real forestry workers who fell trees, and a family of small animated monkeys that credibly interact with each other. The stop-motion camera accompanies father and son on their search for a new home. A well-structured story with regard to its subject matter, skillfully told, and with a hopeful ending.

These landscape images reflect the awakening of nature and the seasonal harvest of wild garlic. The shimmering lightness of the images and the harmonious color balance, which gives these pictures a very special radiance, are impressive.

In this refreshing explanatory video, one recognizes immediately that Leopold Kastler has given a great deal of thought to robots. He explains their functions and that there were setbacks because not everything worked immediately. His motto: keep trying!

Jury Statement

The Kids Are Not Alright

Sirikit Amann, Reni Hofmüller, Martin Hollinetz, Conny Lee, Martin Retschitzegger

The past several years have placed great demands on all of us. As if the life-threatening environmental catastrophe that we as a society have been knowingly heading for, and the pandemic that has been determining our day-to-day life for nearly three years were not enough: there is now a war taking place in Austria’s immediate vicinity as well. While all of this unnerves and stresses us all, it nonetheless affects some of the population more than others, particularly the generation of young people. In the course of the pandemic, they were required to put their own needs on the back burner, behind those of other demographic groups as well as those of business and tourism. Their need for contact with their peers was denied, as was their right to a friction-free school education. Their right to protest climate crimes that have a direct effect on their future was simply put on hold. Particularly in childhood and adolescence, when every year represents its own era, many children and young people bravely carried on, despite being denied many crucial experiences in their life. Consequently, in the past two years, the pandemic was naturally also a prominent topic in the projects that were submitted for the Prix Ars Electronica in the u19–create your world category. However, until last year, the focus was still on devising solutions and developing ideas to avoid becoming lonely and desperate. But this year, the tone changed drastically: The dominant theme of this year’s entries was the alarming mental state of the young generation. They are not simply sad or angry; their health and their very existence are at stake.

Mental health issues that developed, or that were brought on by experiences made during the past years, the feeling of falling apart as a person, and drug and alcohol addiction was a sad common thread running through this year’s entries. It was therefore important to us, the jury, to also reflect this thematic focus in our selection of the winning projects and particularly of the Golden Nica.
The situation is dramatic, and this year’s u19 projects should both serve as an outcry as well as elicit one—on the part of the viewers, the public, but also and in particular policy-makers, who must urgently take measures to help the future generation. For what we in the jury have seen is only the tip of the iceberg. After all, those young people who submitted projects at least still have creative means and methods for giving expression to their emotional state and for coping with it. But how many others do not have these possibilities?

Normally, the u19 category leaves us with a feeling of confidence that in the future, young people and their ideas, dynamism, and fresh energy will fix everything. This year, this feeling must give way to the worry that these young people are simply at the end of their tether. They are exhausted by always having to be understanding and sensible, by tilting at metaphorical windmills and being ignored by the public. Many kids are not, in fact, alright, and if we want to again look to the future with confidence, we must become active right now in order to provide help. We as a society cannot give young people the feeling that it will be up to them alone to sort out this mess when it is finally their turn to run things. We all must work together in solidarity to ensure a brighter future.

This year’s projects for the u19 category thus demonstrate particularly impressively how important art and creative expression of all kinds are for us humans. It is evident with many works that they were not created in the context of a specific task but rather that they virtually exploded out of the young people like steam from a whistling overpressure valve. Art, in addition to social contacts, is presented in many of the projects as a solitary ray of hope. This year as well, there was a preponderance of film submissions, which on the one hand is certainly due to the fact that a good smartphone is now sufficient to produce high-quality videos, but on the other also because the gaze of young people has been shaped by various image-heavy online platforms. At the same time, another trend has become evident as well, namely an increased longing for analog media. After the many hours spent in front of a computer screen because of the pandemic, there appears to be a great urge to again create something tangible and to pursue more classical art forms.

Something that was scarcely represented among the entries, on the other hand, was video games. This is very regrettable, as there are creative developers out there whose games address social and political issues or are simply fun to play. We hope that they will submit their games again next year. We in the jury would be very interested in them. The research work behind a project is also something we would like to see a lot more of. The finished project would often be much easier to assess if the participants included the project process in their submission.
This year’s u19 projects, above all the Golden Nica, should demonstrate how art and creativity can serve to give expression to something for which we have no words. And they should initiate a dialogue between the viewers and their children, between audience and artists, and above all between those affected and those responsible.

The Golden Nicas of the Young Generation since 1998