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Festival: Ars Electronica 2021, conveying hybrid dimensions & the duality of the present

Text by Giulia Ottavia Frattini

Algaphon, Harpreet Sareen, Franziska Mack & Yasuaki Kakehi (2021)

Ars Electronica is one of the leading events that brings together art, technology and society to shape a festival relevant and embedded into the present. The gaze is drawn to our current times to foster action towards new approaches and perspectives that can enable us to cope with the ever-changing patterns we constantly have to deal with.

This convergence of disciplines, personalities and visions hosts and offers its stage to the entries of artists, scientists, scholars, researchers and activists eager to propose and show through their manifold practices the shifts or developments that can benefit our era.

The title of the forthcoming edition is The New Digital Deal, which identifies both the overarching theme unfolding for the duration of the festival – which will run from September 8 to 12, 2021 and its core purpose. The idea is not solely to promote initiatives, research and projects but to make them operational as real prototypes and thus endowed with an actual agency. With the use of a term with economic overtones, such as “deal”, the title calls for an approach that is not purely speculative but highly concrete. How to channel economic value into new forms of technology that can complement human activities and contribute to increased ecological and social sustainability appear to be the key drivers of the festival.

Furthermore, the 2021 edition can be regarded as dual, as it will take place in both the physical and virtual worlds by keeping them as independent dimensions and platforms. Specifically, the host city will be Linz (Austria), plus the inclusion of 86 gardens – named precisely Ars Electronica Gardens – scattered throughout the globe, which will serve as disseminated incubators for the programme.

As for the digital part, the projects developed and presented online will have autonomous forms and follow their own specific path. Unlike the last edition in 2020, which can be defined as hybrid – suggesting a tighter interplay between the two spheres -this year, the intention is to ensure that it will be dual as if to allow each realm its own specific space for action, rather than merely specular unfolding.

All continents are covered and invited, thus widening the discourse around the subjects outlining our reality to expanded and multifaceted spectrums of experience and knowledge. In the meantime, such a global format permits participating institutions – such as Museums, galleries, universities, labs and associations – to articulate locality through their individual cultural and geographical agendas and address their audiences.

A daily calendar will feature a range of lectures, presentations, exhibitions, concerts, performances, interactive workshops and virtual tours. Thanks to the platform Swapcard, purposely set to browse through the festival virtually, visitors are encouraged to organise their own personalised visit and participation path and interact with other visitors in chat.

In Linz, and hence with regard to the physical unwinding of the event, Ars Electronica’s artistic-scientific exploration comes together on the Festival Mile around the city centre. It will spread from the OK in the Upper Austrian Cultural Quarter to the University of Art and Design Linz, in the area nearby Salzamt, and then reach Ars Electronica Center and the STADTWERKSTATT. Eventually, the event comprises an additional venue in Kepler’s Gardens, situated on the campus of Johannes Kepler University.

Concerning the 86 participating international Gardens, Auckland (New Zealand), Tokyo (Japan), Mumbai (India), Abuja (Nigeria), Helsinki (Finland), Dublin (Ireland), Valencia (Spain), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Lima (Peru), Mexico City (Mexico), Los Angeles (USA), are just a few of the sites involved and which will act as an organic constellation for the propagation of the festival presenting a myriad of compelling projects.

With a collaboration between Leonardo/ISAST and the University of Art and Design of Linz (AT) an interesting initiative will be held under the name of Garden LEONARDO LASER: [Anti]disciplinary Topographies. The programme here will revolve around the themes of inclusivity and equity so as to open space during the debate to under-represented voices. Ensuring a more comprehensive conversation and embracing transnational positions inspires to boost community-building processes against the digital divide, among other challenges characterising our times.

Besides, special attention for CLOT Magazine is geared towards what will take place in Barcelona. The series of events that will be staged through the garden format is called Hybrid Times-Interdependence. It will also see the participation of artists who are already familiar with CLOT’s community, such as Andy Gracie and Solimán López.

Together with other figures, they will have their say on the particular subject sustained in this Garden. As the title indicates, the focus will be on the hybridity of our contemporaneity, both in terms of nature and feasible responses to emerging questions and phenomena. The recognition of the interdependency of different strata of knowledge, culture, history, and society is an urgent step towards the design and consolidation of a resilient reality that can accommodate more fluid and, at the same time, conscious structures, where economy, politics and technology are networked actors.

Ars electronica is, therefore, an occasion for exchange, learning, and in-depth examination, but above all, an opportunity for taking action for a present that necessarily determines the skeleton of our shared future. Present and future visions ask to be expanded but not dispersive, intending the dissemination as a facilitator of connection and not a cursory allocation of resources.

More info here.

(Media courtesy of Ars Electronica)
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