I recently attended the opening weekend of this years Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria.
The festival changes locations in Linz every year and this time around was set in a former tobacco factory (Tabakfabrik) near the Danube, a massive space spread over about 6 large buildings ranging from cavernous warehouse space to low, murky basements. The programme for the festival is enormous and I think I probably managed to see about 75% in a full 4 days.
It did take me about 2 of those days to get my head around the space; it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in there.
The show is a mixture of disciplines and to my mind some of it erred on the interactive for the sake of it side, sort of pretty and funny but not much to it and then there was work that was truly impressive. The winner of the Prix Ars Electronica in the music and sound art category, Ryoichi Kurokawa was one of the most satisfying digital works I have ever seen.
A beautiful installation of 5 vertical screens, described as a time-based sculpture Rheo: 5 Horizons from the Greek meaning river, it showed landscapes which were broken into digital analyses with corresponding audio tracks.
It was so beautifully realised in every way that I would of happily spent 4 days looking at it.
One of the big surprises for me came on the last morning, I’d been recommended to seek out an installation in one of the basements called ‘Song for Earth’, generic sample viagra a truly woeful title but by all accounts a lovely piece. I finally found the right corner of the complex and found a low basement space with a single electric guitar on a stand plugged into a small practice amp, there was an electric screwdriver attached to a mic stand which rotated a piece of cord against the frets of the guitar creating a nice sustained drone, as you moved through the space other guitars were placed throughout creating a shifting phased drone that followed you. A really simple piece that was really effective. It was made more impressive by the fact that it turned out to be the work of an 8 year old boy. Sort of demystifying both modern sound art as well as the avant music scene. Nice work.
It’s impossible to adequately describe the scope of the work due to the sheer amount going on but some highlights for me were Merrick by Daan van den Berg, 216 prepared dc-motors / filler wire 1.0mm, 2009 by Zimoun, Chapter I: The Discovery by Félix Luque Sánchez and Earth by Finnbogi Pétursson. There were also some great performances going on over the weekend, notably the Braun Tube Jazz Band by Japanese artist Ei Wada, I don’t know how he did it but he managed to make a collection of old CRT televisions behave like bastardised Theremins and he gave a really joyous demo of what he was capable of, a weird mix of Taiko drumming and Gabba.
On the other hand Telenoid was massively disturbing and it made me feel a bit funny. Why the flipper arms?
Ars Electronica has been running in Linz for 31 years and is testament to the forward looking nature of the city, I will hopefully return next year for another showcase of great work.