Ars Electronica 2020 / Linz

FallingUp / re.riddle, California, San Francisco (US) © Michail Michailov, Hannes Anderle

Are they nuts? Not despite of, but because of Corona, this year’s Ars Electronica will be the biggest ever. “We cannot and will not accept that this pandemic forces us to simply abandon everything that constitutes our pluralistic society,” says Gerfried Stocker, artistic director of Ars Electronica, with regard to the decision for this year’s festival format. “Especially because we’re in the midst of this crisis, and especially because all the rules of distance and hygiene are reasonable and necessary, we can’t just stay at home, but must actively and creatively try out new forms of dialogue and exchange.” 

For the first time, the festival will not only take place in Linz, but at 120 locations worldwide, bringing together projects from art, technology and society that will merge with the festival on location via streams. 

The crisis is fundamentally changing the world, leaving behind a general uncertainty that affects us humans as individuals and as a society. The Ars Electronica Festival will journey from Asia and Oceania to North and South America, Africa and Europe, asking the simple question: “What to do now?” 

In metropolises as well as in small towns, people have already begun not only to think about the problems of the present, but to work on concrete ideas and solutions: From the Tokyo Garden to the Pan-African Garden in Johannesburg, from Los Angeles and Auckland to the Garden of Curiosity in Buenos Aires and the Garden of Lust in London, exhibitions, conferences, performances, concerts and workshops are taking place that deal with current issues such as AUTONOMY and DEMOCRACY as well as TECHNOLOGY and ECOLOGY. 

This year’s motto “In Kepler’s Gardens” not only stands for the connected “gardens” worldwide, but also for this year’s new Festival main location on the campus of the Johannes Kepler University, where a program is offered on three stages. In addition to regular events such as the AIxMusic Festival and the STARTS Exhibition, this year there will also be a show by the LIT Linz Istitute of Technology and a Garden Exhibition in which strange machines pluck one margarite petal after another. With his installation lovesmenot, the German artist Sebastian Wolf questions our relationship to machines and the absurdity of over- automation. 

In Kepler’s Garden

In the university buildings around the park, exhibitions are shown and conferences are held, which this year can only be visited as part of a guided tour. One of the key- note speakers is U.S. artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, whose work Shadow Stalker won the Prix Ars Electronica. The installation on the subject of secret surveillance demonstrates how a single data point can reveal a cache of personal information.

These days, one or another may feel like the artist Michail Michailov: disoriented on a roof, searching for new paths and answers for the future. The Performance Roaming is part of the Gallery Spaces Garden, which brings together digital art projects on the web, another central venue of the festival. 

In addition to the WILD STATE exhibition at the University of Arts and program highlights at the Ars Electronica Center, the Cyber Arts Exhibition in OÖ Kulturquartier presents a selection of this year’s best media art works. 

One of them is Appropriate Response by German artist Mario Klingemann, a destination board as we know it from airports and train stations of days gone by, equipped with artificial intelligence. Kneeling in front of it, the visitors receive a unique wisdom of life, which is up to each and every one to interpret for themselves. The gesture of kneeling stands for the balance between hope and fear, as we know it from religion, but also from future designs. 

Connected minds around the globe 

Last but not least, “In Kepler’s Gardens” is also a clear commitment to science and a fact-based and responsible way of dealing with each other. The Ars Electronica Festival sets an example for science and art as a basis for culture and civilization and aims to maintain intensive intellectual, artistic and human contact, exchange and dialogue. “We’re doing this because right now – not in spite of, but because of Corona – an incredible number of people all over the world are asking themselves what’s going to happen to us,” says Stocker. “And because just as many people at the moment – not in spite of, but because of Corona – have the hope that this time we will bring about real change.” All that remains is hoping. 

Ars Electronica Festival In Kepler’s Gardens
09.09. – 13.09.2020

Tag 1: 09.09.2020
Exhibition WILD STATE at the Kunstuniversität Linz
Deep Space 8K im Ars Electronica Center

Tag 2: 10.09.2020
Opening Cyber Arts Exhibition at OÖ Kulturquartier

Tag 3: 11.09.2020
Opening Kepler’s Garden at Campus of the JKU

Tag 4: 12.09.2020
Kids- and Youthfestival CREATE YOUR WORLD, AIxMusic Festival Campus JKU