ARs Electronica 2020 - In Kepler's Garden

It was something different. And a huge success! The first hybrid Ars Electronica Festival during a pandemic. The event was sold out, the very first "Kepler's Garden" at the Johannes Kepler University's beautiful campus.

After initially reviewing the past days' event, Gerfried Stocker remarked, "The decision on whether or not to hold the festival was difficult to make but in the end, holding the festival was absolutely the right decision." Everything on-site went smoothly; the security concept worked, and the audience and guests were also understanding when it came to complying with the required rules and regulations. Festival organizers were pleased to welcome 668 artists to Linz as traveling during the current situation is not a given.

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Meinhard Lukas, Rector of the Johannes Kepler University Linz, was also impressed by the first on-campus Ars Electronica Festival: "I believe everyone who walking around campus during the festival were no longer asking themselves whether or not this would work, but rather why has it taken so long for Ars Electronica to collaborate with the Johannes Kepler University Linz." He believes the new fusion of art and science to be groundbreaking for Linz. "The new Technical University should also be committed to this fusion of scientific research and technological innovation that includes artistic creativity and reflection. This opens up enormous opportunities to create an internationally important hub in Linz that is dedicated to addressing hot button issues regarding new technologies such as AI: How can we turn technological innovation into social innovation? How can we add an urgently needed socio-political and democratic dimension to technological development?"


„Das Prinzip des Festivals, das mittlerweile als international bedeutendstes im Bereich Digitale Kunst gilt, lässt sich auf einen in diesem Jahr sehr vertrauten Nenner bringen: Man bleibe daheim und treffe sich online. In diesem Fall sind es 120 Orte oder «Gärten» weltweit - von der Antarktis bis nach Jerusalem - an denen Künstler oder Forschungsinstitute jeweils ihre eigenen Projekte veranstalten.“

English translation: "This year, the festival's principle, now internationally considered most important in the field of digital art, can be summed up in a very familiar denominator: One stays home and gets together with others online. In this case, there are 120 locations or "gardens" around the world - from Antarctica to Jerusalem - allowing artists or research institutes to each organize their own projects."

„Nachdem die Welt der elektronischen Kunst mehr als zwei Jahrzehnte lang die Vorteile einer digitalisierten Gesellschaft und einer vernetzten Gemeinschaft angepriesen hatte, war sie gezwungen, ihren intellektuellen Ansatz in die Praxis umzusetzen. Mit Covid ist es unmöglich, ein Festival wie sonst zu organisieren, deshalb hat Ars Electronica, das weltweit wichtigste Festival, das sich den Verbindungen zwischen Kunst, Technologie, Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft widmet, das Festival in diesem Jahr in einer neuen Form gestaltet."

„Das Ars Electronica Festival findet jedes Jahr in Linz, Österreich, als globales Festival der Medienkunst statt, bei dem sich Kultur, Kunst und Wissenschaft / Technologie überschneiden. Durch das Corona-Virus wird es heuer, 41 Jahre nach seiner Gründung, zum ersten Mal auch online ausgetragen. (…) Von den 120 weltweiten Gärten wird der TOKYO GARDEN ein Ort zur Erforschung der Gegenwart und Geschichte der japanischen Medienkunst sein.“

„Mind-reading dress changes shape and colour through your brainwaves: Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht has created a dress that changes its shape based on the wearer’s brain activity. The clothing itself is made from a lightweight nylon material, with the interface between the brain and the dress made by the Institute for Integrated Circuits at Johannes Kepler University Linz and neurotechnology company G.tec. (…) The dress is shown at the Ars Electronica festival in Austria.“

„One of the world’s leading media arts festivals, Ars Electronica is holding its 2020 edition, themed In Kepler’s Gardens: A global journey mapping the ‘new’ world, both online and as a physical event. Twelve virtual reality works by Taiwanese artists are represented online in this year’s Ars Electronica Festival.“

„The Korea National University of Arts (KNUA) kicked off the Ars Electronica Garden Seoul Festival to present diverse ideas on how society would transform after the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival is part of the 2020 Ars Electronica Festival, the international new media art festival held annually in Linz, Austria, every September.“

„The collaboration (…) reveals, how emerging technologies will enable new modes of art and interaction. The virtual world will host a new exhibition during this week’s Ars Electronica festival.“

„Be Water by Hong Kongers wurde beim Prix Ars Electronica mit einer Goldenen Nica ausgezeichnet. Angesichts der Tatsache, dass alle Demonstranten in Hongkong Anteil am Gewinn der Trophäe haben, hatten die Organisatoren die geniale Idee, dass alle Einwohner von Hong Kong die Daten kostenlos herunterladen, und die Goldene Nica in 3D ausdrucken können.“

„Während des Ars Electronica Festivals öffnet die AIR-Kunstresidenz erstmals ihre Türen - der erste Galerie-Workshop in St. Petersburg für die Zusammenarbeit zwischen Künstlern und Wissenschaftlern. Es wird eine Offline-Plattform sein, auf der die Zuschauer die Möglichkeit haben, Live-Projekte mehrerer Künstler aus St. Petersburg zu sehen."

„Die Installation Appropriate Response ist etwas Besonderes. In einem normalen Ars-Electronica-Festival wäre sie vielleicht nur ein weiteres Kuriosum. Aber dieses Jahr ist sie gleich doppelt speziell: Die Zitate der Installation spielen mit dem Thema Künstliche Intelligenz mit einer Leichtigkeit, die gut tut nach den schwermütigen Corona-Monaten. Und es tut gut, eine physische Installation und einen Künstler zu sehen.“

English translation: "The installation "Appropriate Response" is something quite special. During a normal Ars Electronica Festival it would have perhaps just been another interesting exhibition. This year, however, it was especially interesting as the installation's quotations interplay with the topic of artificial intelligence, providing a sense of brightness that feels good after the past gloomy months dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. And it feels good to actually see a physical installation and watch an artist."

Festival Images at the JKU Campus

The Linz Art of Engineering - JKU Festival Exhibits

30 inventions per 100,000 residents. This statistic places Linz far above the Austrian average. As the UNESCO City of Media Arts, the city plays a key role in developing state-of-the-art technologies and materials. Much of the action happens at the JKU's Linz Institute of Technology (LIT) where expertise in research and innovation are fused together with art. This year's Ars Electronica Festival at the JKU was the backdrop for 14 selected LIT projects that symbolized the Linz art of modern engineering.


Pangolin Scales

A new way to access the human brain. *The Pangolin Scales* exhibit introduced the world's first 1,024 channel brain-computer interface (BCI) designed to extract information from the human brain using previously non-existent resolution. This information is then used to interactively control the Pangolin scales which were presented live on a model during the Ars Electronica Festival.

The 1,024 channel BCI interface was also used for the BR41N.IO Designers' Hackathon that was held during the Ars Electronica Festival.

Exhibit Manager: Thomas Faseth, Institute for Integrated Circuits, opens an external URL in a new window

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Pangolin Scales @ Anouk Wipprecht


Lush green branches or rotting branches - trees of knowledge show just what's real. Aided by data visualization, *Treeversity* explored the prospects of conveying complex amounts of information at a glance. The JKU database contains approximately 268,000 studies conducted over 153,000 students. As an image of student life, successes and failures are recorded equally... Treeversity depicted images of academic life - both successes and failures - in the form of trees. Classes, grades and examinations together form the trees’ different shapes. Some were picture perfect or still growing - others were misshapen or scrawny and withering away.

Exhibit Manager: Johann Höller, Institut für Digital Business, opens an external URL in a new window

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The Transparency of Randomness

 *The Transparency of Randomness* provided insight into the world of unpredictability. The interactive installation allowed visitors to personally experience the importance and connection between the complex interaction of chance and probability that are part of current research in math and physics.

27 transparent boxes continuously floated in space, generating random numbers through the familiar medium of the dice. Using a variety of natural materials, the process of random number generation is influenced by the complexity of nature and its structures. The totality of all generated random numbers will create the foundation for real-time calculations, comprehensibly demonstrating their impressive roles in science.

Exhibit Manager: Mathias Gartner, Institute for Theoretical Physics / Vera Tolazzi, opens an external URL in a new window

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Transparency of Randomness

Enacting Innovation

What influences innovation? A stage play brought the concept to life. *Enacting Innovation* was a production featuring audience participation and focusing on socio-material structure surrounding current practices of innovation. Participants negotiated the role patterns and situations play as they repeatedly arose as part of the innovative process, as well as the conflicts and options that arise as part of innovation spaces with people and technical infrastructures. The simulation was based on the sociological analysis of "scripts of innovation" – ways of dealing with the ubiquitous social pressure associated with demonstrating innovative abilities. By aesthetically dramatizing these scripts, visitors were able to experience the dynamics of innovation that will ultimately provoke questions about our power and powerlessness in shaping social change and renewal processes.

Exhibit Manager: Judith Igelsböck, Institute of Organization Science / Friedrich Kirschner, Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch

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How to Become a High-Tech Anti-Discrimination Activist Collective

Just how racist or discriminating are computer programs? Whereas new technologies are indispensable in our everyday lives - promising infinite advances and ways to simplify our lives – in many cases, the base algorithms for these new technologies are not neutral, nor do they treat all people equally. They are as biased as the structures, institutions and developers that have created them. Racism and sexism are systematically programmed in the function and output of these technologies - mostly subconsciously. This installation addressed the problem and questions how discrimination can be addressed and overcome when developing and applying technologies.

Exhibit Manager: Doris Weichselbaumer, Institute of Women's and Gender Studies

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Wie man ein High-Tech Anti-Diskriminierungs-Aktivist*innen-Kollektiv wird Copyright: Adriana Topaga Torres

Exposed Building

Guests were amazed as they walked in and realized that an office building had been transformed into a musical instrument. A maze of pipes, cables and hoses are tucked away behind the smooth surfaces of the floors and walls that give the building its required infrastructure. Computer networks and technological controls give the building a certain degree of "intelligence" and the building ‘came to life’ with the ability to communicate. At the same time, this also created a certain degree of weakness and vulnerability. If we open the 'shell', such as a maintenance cover or circuit control panel, we could control multiple areas in the building, such as the networked door locking systems. Buzzers had been built into the door locks, transforming the Science Park 2 building into an orchestra with sounds similar to a giant 'walk-in' instrument. This playfully designed installation encouraged visitors to think about the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of today’s modern technology and the potential risks to society.

Exhibit Manager: Michael Roland, Institute for Networks and Security

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Magic Darts

While darts is a popular game, hardly anyone can throw a perfect game. In this version however, players always hit the center of the target. What seems like wizardry turned out to just be a system of mechatronics, meaning a network of microwave sensors that can detect an oncoming dart. Algorithms analyzed the trajectory and then estimated the time and location of target impact. Ultra-fast hydraulic actuators were used to place the dartboard in a target position in just a few hundredths of a second. These kinds of technologies will influence life in the future in countless ways, assisting self-driving vehicles, for example, by using microwave radars so they can "see" in the dark and fog and by creating algorithms for self-driving vehicles to determine how potential obstacles will move. Once common drives advance, they can be used for a wide range of applications, such as being incorporated into exoskeletons to support maximum compactness, low weight and low-energy consumption.

Exhibit Manager: Andreas Stelzer, Institute of Communications Engineering & RF-Systems

Exhibit Page

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Magic Darts

Dancing Water

Based on a simple physical principle that uses water to generate electrostatic charges, the charged water droplets danced and moved fluidly around copper rods, reacting to nearby objects. The charged water made a light bulb glow and generating long flashes of light at times.

The underlying physical phenomenon for this exhibition is referred to as ‘Influence’ and identical charge-carriers repel each other while opposite ones attract each other. The energy from the falling water droplets was converted into electrostatic charges. There was no need for any electronics and or hidden energy sources; just electricity for the water pump.

Exhibit Manager: Leon Kainz, Institute for Semi-Conductor and Solid-State Physics

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Dancing Water

Robots Talking to Me

How should robots communicate with humans? What kind of voice should an AI assistant have so that we feel that we can trust the robot? Should we even have to pay attention to a robot's signs and words or should we always have the last say? *Robots Talking to Me* by the *LIT Robopsychology Lab* is a hands-on installation that invited participants to actively take part in one of four installations designed to address psychological aspects and make human-machine interaction more tangible.

Ready to dive into the VR world of human-machine interaction? Click here, opens an external URL in a new window to sign up for a study that will continue after the Ars Electronica Festival.

Exhibit Manager: Martina Mara, LIT Robo-Psychology Lab

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Robots Talking to Me

The STEAM Pop-Up Lab

As the peripheries of subjects taught at school can tend to be fairly artificial, scarcely reflecting the diversity of understanding required to better understand important issues on a deeper level, the STEAM Pop-Up Lab aimed to blur these parameters by emphasizing just how important collaboration between the sciences is. The STEAM Pop-Up Lab allowed users to create a personal approach and move around in a network of educational experiences in which guests chose the direction they wanted to take.  The experience was a virtual journey with the goal of understanding the meaning of patterns that surround us. Patterns are everywhere - from fractals in nature and blood vessels in the human body to oscillating signals generated by a phone's sensors. You could control robots, fold origami patterns, measure the signal from a playground swing, attend a live chemistry lab session, and much more.

Exhibition Team: Barbara Sabitzer, Zsolt Lavicza, Milan Kracalik, Markus Hohenwarter, School of Education

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Steam Popup Lab

Digital Government in a Box

*Digital Government in a Box* demonstrated potential operating principles and the limitations of digitized public administration services. A futuristic kiosk and visual effects were used to interact with a digital authority. A short film helped visitors experience the kiosk as they selected from an array of digital administrative procedures. The *AI-Truth Machine* focused on the opportunities and challenges to seek out the truth using a machine. Set in a mock courtroom, the goal is to determine just who is better suited to tell a lie apart from the truth during a court case: AI or a judge?

Exhibition Manager: Michael Mayrhofer, Institute for Administrative Law and Administrative Education

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Digital Government in a Box

The Elephant in the Room

How can we make technological development more sustainable? Our quest to pursue technological advancement through cutting-edge research is resulting in growing volumes of e-waste - 50 million tons in 2019!  Research and technological advancement must include a sustainability concept as part of a basic research philosophy. New trends - ranging from biologically inspired robotics to custom, preventative health care and monitoring - are opening never-before-dreamt of opportunities and we are experiencing a future worth being a part of. Innovation based on sustainability is innovation that will endure. In line with this idea, *The Elephant in Space* demonstrated ecological advancements as robots made of bio-degradable and edible materials represent state-of-the-art human-machine collaboration. The soft, nature-inspired designs imitate living beings in terms of materials, shapes, and movement, thus embarking on a path toward a smart, sustainable future.

Exhibition Manager: Martin Kaltenbrunner, Department of Soft-Matter Physics

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The Elephant in the Room

Robots in Action

Robotics in general - and industrial robotics in particular - are ubiquitous yet perceived as unfamiliar entities by most. Created and controlled by humans, robots are being built with the intention of helping mankind. As control systems become increasingly intelligent, it seems at times that robots are exceeding human capabilities. Laboratories at the JKU's Institute of Robotics used selected examples to not only demonstrate just what modern industrial robotics is, but show that it can be fun, too. Two industrial robots served up beverages; one filled a cup and the other served the beverage on a tray. Before that though, the robot whirled a full cup through the air like a flair bartender and the second robot balanced a tray of four full cups while moving around the room. A second demonstration featured two collaborating robots solving a Rubik's cube.

Exhibition Manager: Andreas Müller, Institute for Robotics

Robots in Action

K – The JKU’s Interactive Robocar

Named in honor of the JKU's namesake, Johannes Kepler, this self-driving vehicle took on changing terrain, predicted pedestrians' movements, and playfully interacted with its surroundings. Technologies such as SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), reinforcement learning, and image recognition helped the vehicle manage and master challenging situations and deduce fast-driving maneuvers. *K* uses an LED-enhanced shell and non-verbal cues to communicate with those nearby as to how it ‘feels’ and what its intentions are. Our Robocar perhaps got a little annoyed if if its path was blocked for too long, but on the whole, *K* was very good-natured!

Exhibition Manager: Bernhard Nessler, Institute for Machine Learning


Cross Perception - A Work in Progress

A limitless space. Everything was moving. Light, shapes, and colors. Man and machine let their eyes wander as they tried to make sense of what they saw. Mankind is looking for direction; the machine calculates. The machine had been optimized and provided information. The machine recognized an object and imagined aloud how it sounds. The sound influences man's expectation: Machine and human perception intertwine. The machine is not always right, its wealth of experience is limited. It transfers its bias to the human being.

Our experimental setup supported the interaction and interplay between machine and human perception. The goal was to make the machine's algorithmic bias perceptible to the viewer.

Exhibition Manager: Jan Schlüter, Institute for Computational Perception

Projekt Cross Perception


A hands-on composition. Artists and academics/scientists from the Department of Digital Art at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Institute of Technical Mechanics at the Johannes Kepler University Linz came together to develop "Site-Inflexion": a multi-sensory, immersive experience in a full-dome environment. The project aimed to create a tangible, audiovisual composition revealing the inseparable nature of space and sound. Acoustic parameters manifested themselves in visual distortions and allowed users to experience the spatiality of sound through the multi-sensory perception of our (urban) environment. The production included real-time visualization and sound reinforcement software, ubiquitous computing, sensor networks, tracking technologies, photogrammetry, 3D scanning, microphone arrays, laser scanning vibrometers, pre-rendered material, and mobile positioning technologies.

The installation was a joint art and science project as part of Innovation by Universitas (University of Applied Arts Vienna and Johannes Kepler University Linz) and a TRANSFORM project, together with Johannes Kepler University and Danube University Krems.

Exhibition Manager: Alexander Humer, Employees: Andreas Brandl, Astrid Pechstein Institute for Technical Mechanics

Management on behalf of the University of Applied Arts: Martin Kusch