Ars Electronica is in its 21st year. Digital media is necessary as an art today. In a dramatic transitional period when electronic music / media art are evolving, the festival showcases the division between a hackneyed approach and things suggestive of the coming age of digital media. You can now explore that contrast here.
This year’s theme is Next Sex. The pursuit of Life Science has continued from last year. With the development of DNA technology to produce clones, the sexual act itself won’t make sense as a means of procreation in the near future. In such a situation, this year’s festival raised the question of what the next sex means, but it was a little too far in terms of the original idea of the festival – an interdisciplinary festival that merges electronic art, culture and technology.
The science historian Manuel De Landa, who had curated splendidly for each year’s symposium centered on a main theme, had just left the festival. Therefore, this year’s symposium was not enough to make us excited with intellectual curiosity. It was a big disappointment this year. Everything was unsatisfactory. A case in point, the report of artificial uterine experiments animals by Dr.Nobuya Umino (obstetrician and gynecologist) at the University of Tokyo. Another example of a disappointing event was the admiration of the Pill by Carl Djerassi, a professor of chemistry at Stanford University and an inventor of the Pill. They’ve already came to a conclusion and the rest are unfinished projects. Also, Randy Thornhill, a professor of biology at New Mexico University made the audiences roar in anger with his comment, ‘Rape is a natural generated culture’. The last one was the performance by a trans-gendered individual. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any materials to ask myself what Next Sex was.
I really hoped that they went back to a few years ago and worked out their original idea more. That would create a real scene full of excitement to develop the latest technology into culture.
On the other hand, all of the art performances were a lot of fun.
‘The File Cabinet Project’ by Istvan Kantor created a strange atmosphere for the whole space of Brucknerhaus, using the huge file cabinet as a metaphor of virtual sex. ‘Sperm Race‘ developed in the center of the Linz Square, Austria, and ‘D.A.V.E.’ showed us the new possibility and beauty of body expressions using a dancer as a screen. These radical and completed performances were gathered at this year’s festival and they carried the audience with them from the beginning to end.
The thematic event ‘Sperm Race’ focused on the problem of decreasing human sperm counts that are on the increase and aimed to choose the strongest sperm in the world. It’s a gambling event where the female visitors place a bet on their personal favorite. ‘Bug Race’ was held last year based on the theme ‘Life Science’ to choose the most fastest cockroach in the world and this year’s nomination was a sperm. Both races were organized by a local casino in Linz and it was developed as a legal gambling event.
The ‘Sperm Race’ was held in the center of the Square with enlarged visuals from a microscope, and it was really amazing to see someone shouting ‘sperm!’ ‘sperm!’ repeatedly through a microphone.
The winner of the first day was a British sperm. It was not popular and was rated highly because it was a foreign sperm. The most popular sperm of the second day was the sperm called ‘Sportsman’. However, only 1% of people bet on the eventual winner. The theme itself was no more than a satire, but the audience fully enjoyed themselves. I found a great possibility that these fun and interesting events could change electronic art into something that everybody could admire.