Ars Electronica Festival ’21: The New Digital Deal

(c) Ars Electronica 2021

The festival has discovered “the art of deal” for itself

Dealing is cool. Stock market speculators do it. Politicians do it. When Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the slogan “New Deal” during the 1932 U.S. presidential campaign, he himself didn’t know exactly what he meant by it. But it sounded good and went down well with the population, which was still in shock from the stock market crash of 1929.  After winning the election, Roosevelt had to fill this “New Deal” with substance. A major infrastructure investment program to overcome mass unemployment was set in motion.

Today, we stand in similarly shocked perplexity before the consequences of climate change, which have already become abundantly clear, and the unclear future that awaits human beings in a world increasingly dominated by artificial intelligence. This is where the Ars Electronica Festival 2021 hacks in and offers us a “New Digital Deal”.

This year’s festival has yet to write the body text under this heading. But the demands of the festival organizers are already clear: “Together with artists, scientists and activists from all over the world, the Linz Festival for Art, Technology and Society is calling for a fundamentally new approach to the challenges of the 21st century. A way of dealing that presupposes two things: Room to maneuver, which we urgently need to assert, and the ability to act, which we just as urgently need to acquire. In view of ever greater ecological and social dislocations, it is clear that the time for playing around is over once and for all,” reads the festival’s program text.

What could this “New Digital Deal” look like? The central program tracks of this year’s festival are intended to find answers to this question. In the new “Festival University,” 100 creative and committed people between the ages of 16 and 24 will explore the question of what learning in the 21st century might look like.

The “CyberArts Exhibition” explores how 21st century civil society might use new technologies for this “New Digital Deal”. In the “Loops of Wisdom” exhibition, students from the Linz University of Art explore the question of why we have more knowledge than ever before, yet develop so little wisdom given the current state of this world.

The Ars Electronica Center will host the show “There is no Planet B,” which makes visible how incredibly fragile the earthly ecosystem is. And the LIT Exhibition at the Institute of Technology in Linz is on a quest for “Creative Convergences between Art and Science. 

Because offering a “New Digital Deal” is not an art. Completing it requires everything we are capable of.

Ars Electronica Festival 2021
08. – 12.09.2021
Ars Electronica Center
Ars-Electronica-Straße 1
4040 Linz