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ARS ELECTRONICA CENTER. MUSEUM OF THE FUTURE

Gerfried Stoker, Wolfang Modera

Art, technology and society define the interface at which the Ars Electronica Festival has positiond itself since 1979. Art, technology and society determine the program of the Ars Electronica Center which-in what is tantamount to a total reversal of the conventional role of a museum-is dedicated to the presentation and communication of the challenges of the futures. And what is true of the missions and functions of the Museum of the Future applies as well to Ars Electronica´s activities and commitments in a number of areas beyond the museum´s confines.

In light of its origins as a spin-off the Festival and the Prix Ars Electronica, the Ars Electronica Center is not only to be understood as an acknowledged authority in matters of culture, but rather-as an upshot of an understanding of culture as techno-evolution-as itself a project of the art of this culture. Consequently, this project proceeds as would be expected of a work-inprogress-with respect to its capacity for integration as well as its compatibility with the interests of broad segments of the population. On the other hand, a project that has achieved such a high profile amidst the tempests of change and innovation necessarily possesses a strong identity that transcends evanescent technological fashions and short-lived hype. The Ars Electronica Center thus conceives itselfs not just as a supplier and gallery, but rather as a partner, as an infrastructural facility, and as a generator of momentum. This means that the Center itself takes part in the necessary creation of its own fertile envioronment. This undertaking has been a trend setter since its founding in 1996, and the tremendous response to it on the part of all segments of the population in Austria and around the world-from school children to senior citizens who utilize, experiment with, and experience the Museum of the Future-attests to its success. And this was officially confirmed in 1998 when Ars Electronica was awarded the Museum Prize of the Republic of Austria.

Education, living space & city planning/Cybercity, and virtual reality (VR) are this institution´s three essential domanins which directly involve art in the sense of Ars Electronica´s acknowledged authority and expertise in this cultural field. Particularly in dealing with the general public, art has taken on increased significance in conjunction with new strategies of mediation and facilitation based upon interactivity. The Ars Electronica Center is essentially an interface between advanced cultural technologies and the manifestions and projections of a technological culture. Many of the project presentations like Telegarden or Telezone are thus not only examples of a particular thematic realm, but rather, as integral components of th operating system, have themselves an integrative function: they enable visitors to feel that are a part of the exhibition itself.

It is especially in the educational field that new cultural technologies are leading to change, and this has impacted learning and teachting to an equal extent. In close cooperation with universities, schools, and other pedagogical institutions, the Ars Electronica Center has been operating the Electronic Classroom for the purpose of developing and optimizing a corresponding learning environment in which primary emphasis is placed upon telematic aspects.

The Ars Electronica FutureLab has become one of the most important factor´s in this undertaking. In what is Austria´s best equipped laboratory with technology related to art and media, staff members carry out research and development progrmas on-site and via teleworking on the exhibitions and installations in the Ars Electronica Center as well as within the framework of the Center´s Research and Residence Program that offers both technical and personal support to artist and technicians from a wide range of fields in science, research and industry. Their tasks include coming up with innovative developments for private firms, visualization applications in the fields of architecture and city planing, as well as contributing to video works, network project, and artistic productions initiated at the Center and by outside associates. In the field of VR, the Ars Electronica FutureLab deals mainly with the realization of stereographic real-time graphic applications such as those for the CAVE and the InmersaDesk. Special projects have been carried out in collaboration with associates in various commercial and industrial sectors including Siemens AG, VA Tech, Voest MCE, VAI Industrieanlagenbau, Wittmann KunststoffgerätegmbH, Fronius and Telekom Austria. In this respect, cooperation with the Christian Doppler laboratory for Software Wngineering is a central element of project implementation. Artists in Residence utilize the FutureLab facilities to create new CAVE worlds for the Museum of the Future and the Ars Electronica Festival. But the result might also be new visions and innovative exhibition concepts.

Its wide-ranging contacts and numerous collaborative ventures as well as the many fields in which it is an acknowledged authority have provided the Ars Electronica center with entrée into numerous EU Projects, primarily in the areas of education, telematic applications and culture. From 1997 to 1999, six projects lasting several years each were carried out.

For the last two years, the Ars Electronica Center has also been commissioned to carry out coaching assignments in the area of financing and management of EU projects. In response to an invitation from the European Commission, experts from the Ars Electronica Center regularly participate in so-called “expert groups” in the areas of multimedia, broadcasting and digital media. In this capacity, the Ars Electronica Center functions as a supporting member in analyzing needs and reaching decisions regarding Commission invitations to tender project proposals.

Furthermore, the center is solidly integrated within the most important umbrella organizations for art and culture: Medici, Efah, ECB and ECSITE. In the ECSITE network, the Museum of the Future is an active participant in the “Electronic Network Initiatives” working group which also includes the Cité des Science, Heureka, Explore@Bristol, the London Science Museum, the Deutsche Museum and the Experimentarium in Denmark. In 1998, the Ars Electronica Center was one of the prime movers involved in founding ENCART (European Network for CyberArt) whose goal is to develop artistic projects on the basis of broad spectrum link-ups, and to make them accessible to the general public. For the Ars Electronica Center, these activities and involvements offer the opportunity to present new projects in a way that achieves maximum impact with the public, to gain experience and know-how, and to establish itself in a leading position withing an international network whose focal point is new media.

The pioneering work that the Ars Electronica Center has been doing is also internationally known among those event impresarios, festival organizers and museum directors who have themselves been working on the redefinition and reconceptualization of their institutions, and have come in search of ideas and input. Delegations from Peru, Mexico, The US, China, Japan and numerous European countries have undertaken fact-finding trips to Linz to gather information on the Ars Electronica concept and to benefit from the Center´s experience.

 

 



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