Curatorial Statement

Ars Electronica in Berlin 2017

A project produced jointly by DRIVE Volkswagen Group Forum and Ars Electronica Linz

This is the sixth time that carmaker Volkswagen and Ars Electronica Linz are working together on a summer exhibition and a lineup of ancillary events being staged in DRIVE Volkswagen Group Forum in Berlin. As always, human beings occupy the focal point of these inquiries into issues at the nexus of art, technology and society. This year, the discussions spotlight new forms of encounter, relationships and the challenges they entail.

After all, humankind has developed rapidly and thereby engendered a setting for life whose complexity, dynamics and dimensions take some effort to grasp and comprehend. Even if current global challenges are based on the historical elaborations of the concept of industrialization, we can only speculate as to which direction this path is taking us now. It appears that social development and transformation are lagging behind technological progress—from automation to the Digital Revolution to self-learning systems. Nevertheless, at this point, due to the self-reinforcing dynamics at work here, the traditional principle of industry and the explosive growth of global population are colliding with their limits. The resulting consequences confront us daily: breakneck urbanization and the concentration of human coexistence, political conflicts and cultural challenges, problems satisfying needs and distributing wealth, and the complexity of energy issues, climate change and dealings with our environment in general.

The upshots of these phenomena are the obvious erosion of humanity and what it means to be a human being, and thus, in times of economically oriented moral compasses, scant cognizance of a sense of responsibility for others, and little attention paid to or openness towards new forms of human coexistence. Accordingly, we invoke the philosophical discourse that, ever since technological progress got underway, has been permanently attuned to the role of humankind, has radically maintained it in the focal point of consideration, has critically questioned how we deal with one another and with nature as well as the technical second nature the we ourselves have created, and has been meant to function as a sort of corrective to these developments. What we put forth here is a new culture of encounter, a solution-oriented proposal that could counteract the dilemma of our estranged present. Thus, these artistic works are designed to initiate a discussion.

The exhibition and the accompanying actions, workshops, performances and round-table discussions treat the subject of encounter. They are meant to make us aware or sharpen our awareness of what we as individuals can do, and make possible “new action,” a new ethic in the economic exchange with ecological sustainability, a culture of encounter that makes it possible to reconfigure conventional pairing and to come upon new forms of getting together, coexistence and cooperation.

“However that may be, the fundamental experience behind the reversal of contemplation and action was precisely that man’s thirst for knowledge could be assuaged only after he had put his trust into the ingenuity of his hands.” – Hannah Arendt, “The Human Condition”

In our exhibition project as well as the framework program of events, we showcase artists whose projects evince recognition that action—and, above all, joint action—is a chance to overcome the alienation of our world. These are people who exhibit the courage not only to see but also to do things differently. All of the projects showcased here represent an attitude from which potential for social and economic innovation can be derived. The aim is the emergence of a habitat that enables or even provokes hopeful, visionary, critical and self-critical interpersonal encounters. The exhibition venue itself—a location conceived from its very inception as a place of encounter—features a design that is conducive to bringing people together. For visitors, the DRIVE Volkswagen Group Forum will be a parcours of encounter with themselves and others, a setting in which to address questions having to do with our first and second nature. In collaboration with product designer MARCH GUT, the communications designers from MOOI Design came up with an exhibition & communications concept that, as a space between art and those beholding it, gives rise to an extended display for unfolding the potential of encounter, communication and interaction. The metaphor they have chosen for this is the hexagon, one of nature’s most stable geometric forms. Consider, for example, a honeycomb or the six arms of a snowflake: the hexagon functions, first and foremost, as an imparter of information, a shape conducive to relationships. As the central formal element of the exhibition, it presents the complex interrelationships that encountering people, coming to terms with them and actively working together make possible.

Ars Electronica Linz

Art, technology, society. Since 1979, Ars Electronica has been investigating how they are connected and where they interface, seeking primary causes and effects. The ideas that emerge here are innovative, radical and offbeat in the best sense of the word. They influence our everyday lives, our lifestyles and ways of life every day. The Ars Electronica Festival as test environment, the Prix Ars Electronica as competition of the best and brightest, the Ars Electronica Center as Museum of the Future, and the Ars Electronica Futurelab together with Ars Electronica Solutions as R&D hotbeds have branched out into all directions of science and research, art and technology. Ars Electronica’s divisions inspire one another. They form a unique cycle of creativity designed to put visions to the test, an integrated organism constantly reinventing itself.

The curators of the exhibition: Manuela Naveau, Martin Honzik