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What Machines Dream Of

Humankind has been building machines for millennia. But aside from the fact that deploying them makes some truly difficult tasks a lot easier or makes it possible to complete them in a fraction of the time, machines have always exerted a fascination all their own upon us, a fascination that raises interesting questions about the timeless motivations behind our strivings to create new automatons, robots and androids. Is it the urge not only to comprehend nature and its processes but also to recreate them? Or perhaps even our audacious pretensions to be capable of improving on the world as it is? Do we construct artificial devices in response to the boundaries we feel have been imposed upon us—to shift them outward or, if we can, abolish them altogether? Or is it simply our boundless curiosity that demands to be satisfied?

When we think of machines, our most immediate associations are with wheezing, throbbing mechanical equipment driven by steam, a diesel engine or electrical current, apparatuses that incessantly, autonomously and precisely accomplish what they’re supposed to and generate an incredible amount of power in doing so. But what would be if all of these tirelessly working machines all suddenly shifted into neutral? If they stood still for a fraction of a second or lay down atop one of civilization’s scrap heaps and waited to be recycled? What might they dream of then? If we take a moment to ponder this essentially preposterous idea, we are confronted by images and narratives that tell us less about the machines than about ourselves. About the fantasies, wishes and fears we associate with progress and the ever-accelerating technological development we continue to push forward.

14 Works by Artists from Europe and the USA

“What Machines Dream Of” is a collection of art-machines that have little in common with their industrial and commercial counterparts. Here, there’s no trace of rationality, perfection or efficiency-optimizing logic. This show presents machines and robotic apparatuses that don’t produce a single thing besides the stories they have to tell us. And even if no machine in the world will ever come close to equaling what nature is capable of creating, every single one of them is nevertheless impressive testimony to humankind’s striving to discover, to comprehend and to master the world around us. A total of 14 works by renowned artists from Europe and the USA span an arc that includes futuristic design projects, ironically witty mechanical apparatuses and purportedly offbeat visions of the future that, as a rule, come true sooner rather than later. All these works are on display in a giant red-walled labyrinth that visitors reach via escalator. There they’ll find a dreamlike world in which every change of direction opens up new perspectives, new outlooks and insights. And they constrain visitors to go with the flow, to move from one space to the next, from exhibit to exhibit, until the labyrinth sets the visitors free again and they’re at liberty to move up to the next level. Here, the twists and turns continue but in a most surprising way as the labyrinth becomes oddly intuitive, clearly structured and transparent.

Ars Electronica Makes a Return Appearance at Automobilforum

At the interface of technology, society and the future is where the trajectories of Volkswagen AG and Ars Electronica meet. Both organizations deal with the question of how technology and society can be brought into harmony. What demands will society place on technology—and, with respect to Volkswagen, mobility technology in particular—and what are the especially promising solutions to these questions? Ars Electronica did its first guest shot in Berlin in 2010, when more than 60,000 visitors attended the “Poetry of Motion” exhibition. The objects that make up this year’s show entitled “Ars Electronica – What Machines Dream Of” are by a stellar lineup of international artists. This constellation of works has been curated especially for Berlin.
Both the substantive and conceptual orientation of Volkswagen AG’s Automobil Forum Unter den Linden make this an ideal venue for an Ars Electronica showcase in Germany: as a showroom spotlighting the mobility options offered by Volkswagen AG’s makes—Bentley, Bugatti, SEAT, Skoda, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles—and as a meeting place where interesting people gather to enjoy a diverse lineup of photographic, artistic and scientific exhibitions.

Ars Electronica – What Machines Dream Of
7. Juli – 28. August 2011
Automobil Forum Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden 21, 10117 Berlin
Opening Hours: Monday bis Sunday von 10.00 – 20.00 Uhr
Admission is free.

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