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Blog From Ars

by Josh Rubin in Culture on 08 September 2005

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Hana Iverson and Sabine Seymour have just wrapped up their extensive report on Ars Electronica. This year's Ars, called "Hybrid: Living in Paradox," was curated by Derrick de Kerckhove, head of the Marshall McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto. A bit about Hana and Sabine is below and their report is after the jump.

New media artist Hana Iverson is currently the Director of the New Media Interdisciplinary Concentration at Temple University. Her work spans digital, video and sound media and has received support from such institutions as the Covenant Foundation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).

Sabine Seymour, Adjunct Faculty at University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz/Austria and founder of the course ‘Fashionable Technology’ at Parsons School of Design, concentrates on on wearable/wireless technologies in sports, healthcare, design, and branding. She co-curated the "Wearable Experience" section at ISEA 2004, recently published Intelligent Wearables, presents at places like Viper and Cooper-Hewitt Summer Design Institute, runs her commercial entity, Moondial and website, Fashionable Technology. Sabine floats between New York and Vienna and is intrigued by the tension the dual continent living is offering.

Hana:

This year’s Ars Electronica conference, called "Hybrid: Living in Paradox," was curated by Derrick de Kerckhove, head of the Marshall McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto. Derrick is a fixture at Ars, a close colleague of Paul Virilio, who has also spoken at Ars (when I was here last, via teleconferencing). Gerfried Stocker and Christine Schopf, the Directors of Ars Electronica chose the topic. Derrick mentioned that he struggled with the notion until he decided to focus on the paradox, the cognitive experience of the paradox – reconciliation, tension, ambiguity – that allows us to carry much more in our reality. The information environment holds unresolved tensions that, when released, can cause great shifts to occur. This is a moment of meeting of media. And of course we are writing here in that great hybrid figure: the blog.

Music out my window now is Susan Deyhim: Turbulent, which I saw as a collaboration with Shirin Nishat at the Kitchen in New York two years ago. I love her music. She has been collaborating with Shirin for some years. I met her one night on a street in Chelsea, remembering the night, remembering New York, here in Linz.

Evening of day four and I offer a random sampling of impressions:

Linz – Austrian hillside beyond Danube River out my window, the Arcotel. Last night opened the window and watched Visualisierte Linzer Klanwolke Teilung am Fluss (translation: big spectacle on river), which was fantastic.

Staged by Lawine Torrén, a crew put together by artist Hubert Lepka devoted this evening to history. (Pictured below) The river and the bank and the surrounding building became the set for a piece of historical fiction. The hypothetical premise: what would have happened if Austria’s State Treaty had not been concluded in 1955 and the country had instead been partitioned like Germany?

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Tired like you can’t imagine from jam-packed conference. My desire to see everything and hear all the talks, pulls me in two directions. Talking to people, a true reencounter. In Europe the politics are sharper, the critique has a bite. I am in heaven.

Theo Jansen (NL) – Special Prize of the Jury in the Interactive Art Category of Prix Ars Electronica 2005, “Beach Beasts” (Pictured below)

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Symposium highlights and things learned: The symposium was broken into four categories: Drivers and patterns of hybridity, Hybrid Cultures and Politics, Hybrid Identities and Hybrid Ecologies. The speakers varied somewhat from those listed in the program and some of the highlights for me were Neil Gershenfeld, who teleconferenced from MIT, Aminata Traore from Mali, Ollivier Dyens from Canada, Marko Ahtisaari from Finland and Usman Haque from the UK.

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A sampling of people met and their work, starting with Meena Vari from the Srishti School of Art and Design in Bangalore, India on the airplane from Frankfurt to Linz. The University of Art in Linz serves annually as a venue for exhibitions by art colleges from all over the world. This year was was the Srishti School and their exhibition was “Tana Bana” (pictured above and below left), which translates as “warp and weft” and is meant to suggest “the integration of communities or societies”. Interesting exhibit and it certainly made me think about the level of student work that I can ask of my students in Philadelphia… Hope for more contact with them in the future.

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I was delighted to see Marc Downie, representing the team of Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar and Marc, who won the Prix Ars Electronica 2005 Award of Distinction for their piece: “how long does the subject linger on the edge of the volume…” a collaboration with the choreographer Trisha Brown. I had been interested in them since they did the wonderful piece “Loops” with Merce Cunningham in 2001 and I know that Marc had been working then with Judith Donath at MIT in the sociable media group. Great to talk to him four days after he officially graduated from MIT…

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And Esther Polak, who with Ieva Auzina had won the Golden Nica for Interactive Art for their MILKproject. Their work was a mapping project by means of GPS satellite to produce cartographic representation of milk shipments from Latvian dairy farmers to the consumers in the Netherlands. “From the cow to the mouth of the consumer”… wonderful social documentary. (Pictured above right) Esther said she had been influenced by the classic James Agee/Walker Evans book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.”

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Tomek Baginski (Poland) won the Golden Nica for Digitial Animation for his movie “Fallen Art." (Pictured above left) A very strong and edgy work about an old general who makes animated movies from photographs of dying soldiers. All of it dreamed up and realized by his 15 person crew in 8 months, before Abu Graib… He had an Academy Award nomination for his previous work “Cathedral City."

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We all loved Used Clothing (pictured above right) by Martin Mairinger from Austria. “The Used Clothing” project has RFID chips sewn into second-hand garments; people “renting” the garment can add their own annotation to the garment (which speaks to the network and stores the information there) as well as access stories that have been stored by previous renters. Used Clothing was the winning project in the next art and technology grant competition sponsored by voestalpine.

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Cockroach Controlled Mobile Robot #3 (#2 was listed in the book but #3 made it to the show) by Garnet Hertz (Canada) was a fun though slightly squeamish project. (Pictured above left) Listed as a bio-robot (a what?) in this case a mechanical system that transforms the movement of a cockroach (a BIG live cockroach) into the movement of a three wheeled machine. Garnet promised that each cockroach was only “on” for about an hour. He had a box of about a dozen of these nasty creatures, eating apples between “sets”. Cockroach showbiz - the project was a huge hit with the audience.

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Steve Heimbecker, exhibited POD (Wind Array Cascade System, pictured above right) which I had seen at ISEA in Helsinki last year. I loved the piece as it was set up then, I loved it less in this setting. Sensors measure wind speed and direction, send this data to a web site. At the installation location, this data is received and controls a sculpture consisting of 2,880 light emitting diodes. The wind movements are measured by the activation and deactivation of the lights resulting in a multi-dimensional portrait of the wind. Great guy from Canada (there seem to be a lot of Canadians in this festival…) He is working on a songs project now, which creates sonic portraits of cities. Love that. Would like to get him to Philadelphia.

People I know:

Lev Manovich whom I met through Susan Burks, my friend whom I met through George Legrady, whom I met at College Art Association conference in the Spring of 1999. Erkki Huhtamo, whom I met when he was (I thought) a high-end 3 D guy from Denmark, but is, in fact, a high-end theory professor from UCLA. Kathy Rae Huffman: Cooking all night (fresh crab tacos and I insisted on mining the crab myself from crabs I bought in Chinatown. An obsessive endeavor that took about 6 hours) in preparation for a FACES dinner at the loft of… Gosh, I wish I could remember her name.

People Sabine knows:

Kathy Rae Huffman: Gosh, I have know Kathy for years now and I am glad she initiated ‘FACES,’ which is now based in Linz with Ushi Reiter being the ‘technical’ brains behind it.

Everybody: Well, that’s not entirely true – it just seems like that. Though, I had coffee (my beverage of choice in Austria – besides a white spritzer in the summer) with Erich (Berger) [TEMPEST @ electrolobby and Listening between the Lines @ Lentos @ Ars Electronica 2005; Seven-Mile-Boots @ Ars Electronica 2004] and sat down with his wife Laura Beloff to chat about life [Boots @ Ars Electronica 2004]. And I ran into P (which I was informed is his ‘actual name’) alias Martin Pichlmayr the #3 in the Seven-Mile-Boots project. The last time I saw him was at my bday party at few months ago which started in the afternoon at Mole West in my beautiful homestate Burgenland/Austria.

I might have had a beer or two at Strom - after the usually notorious OK Night which thinned earlier due to the lack of beer – though, I saw Jussi (Angesleva) again since the Doors of Perception Round Table in Amsterdam.

I was chatting with Christa (Sommerer) and Laurent (Mignonneau) who established the Interface Cultures department at the University of Applied Arts and Industrial Design in Linz which was present with some works, Casey Reas and Ben Fry. It was great to see Casey Reas again. He and Ben Fry won the Golden Nice 2005 for Processing

I met wonderful Amanda Parkes. (Honorable Mention, Interactive Art, 2004 Ars Electronica Festival.) “Girl power here we come!” And Ivan Poupyrev (LUMEN Ars 2005.) And …

The first time I met Ingeborg (Reichle) was in Helsinki in this wonderful restaurant I don’t remember name nor where it was. And she told me about a book she is working on – it’s finished now – “Kunst aus dem Labor” (Springer Verlag). Since I am already in Berlin I have to mention Joachim (Sauter), whom I was introduced by wonderful Christopher (Lindinger) from the Futurelab. And another Berlin ‘person’ is Andreas (Broeckmann) – who has been the artistic director of Transmediale for 4 or 5 years and whom I remember being based in the NL. Am I getting old or what?

And there was Zach ( Lieberman), who is/was also at Parsons, though, being tired as we both were we really did not have what you’d call a Meaningful talk. His performance at the Gala of Drawn was ‘sarcastically funny’; I am a sucker for his work.

Alberto Levy Macedo, a fellow ITP grad and now based in Mexico City, ‘appeared’ at ‘Gelbes Krokodil,’ the restaurant at the OK. And it was a ‘blast.’ Looking forward to hanging out in Vienna at the end of the week. He did a piece called “Live Participatory Cell Phone-based Multimedia Performance” with my good friends, Chloe Gottlieb and Richard Ting, a while back.

And just when I wanted to leave Eric Dalbin approached me and we finally figured out where we met the last time – it was at Numer02 in Paris.

I remember vividly the place I had Sushi in New York with Julian (Bleeker) of Pussy Weevil but I almost walked by him. Gosh, someone please work out a neurological nanobot soon to help me out with my face-to-name matching recognizition software that might have a little mis-function in my brain. Or I might need some sleep – mhh – I guess I have to work experience that right now. GOOD NIGHT after an exhausting but wonderful Ars again.

And today Liz from luxliz was sitting with Armin (Medosch). Honestly, I am so tired I am VERY happy to go to bed now.

Hana:

Back to hotel room, and watching news of Katrina on CNN and BBC. Keeping in touch with school, monitoring my classes from afar. Heaping all this on top of Venice Biennale, reunion with old friends, Italian pasta on the Lido. All the way back to first flight out of Philadelphia airport to upcoming flight home and back in class on Wednesday. Non-stop and maybe I am dizzy from lack of sleep and input overload. Done in a whirl, with a travel diary of SMS messages. Still promised Rolf to have frittensoup and schnitzel but have not eaten at Austrian restaurant yet. Ars has done a spectacular job of organizing a great gathering of some of the most interesting digital work I have seen in a while.

Sabine:

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Sitting outside at Lentos, the relatively new Art Museum on the river bank, is wonderful to get a time-out. (Pictured above left.) And at one of the last days we (Hana, Susan Burks, John, … and I) discussed our time at Ars. Susan spoke my mind about the conference, which I have to admit I did not attend too thoroughly this year, “They did not set the level of speakers consistently high enough to generate the type of intellectual discussion that makes Ars dynamic.”

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