I’m at the halfway point of my time here in Linz, Austria working at the internationally renowned Ars Electronica Center for exploring innovative creations and ideas combining art, technology and society. My time so far has been a combination of feeling inspired and excited by the energy and activity that is growing, and will come to a climax at the Big Picture Festival at the end of this month. The four day event will bring over 35,000 people from around the globe here and I cannot wait! The Festival is an annual event that has been taking place here in Linz since 1979, and is Europe’s most significant media arts event. Coming predominantly from a performing arts background, being here exploring media arts creations has been an eye-opener. One of the highlights will be the annual Klangwolke (sound Cloud) that I’ve been involved in, looking at the logistical challenge of putting this ambitious event together. Breathtaking technical effects, spectacular interplay of human and robotic protagonists, thousands of glowing letters and artistic illumination of the cityscape of Linz itself, lightning bolts and worlds of sound compose this Klangwolke, an account of the interconnectedness of our world. It is a participatory event that will attract around 100,000 people into the city. Anyone can become a part of this “cloud in the Net”; everyone can contribute their own musical fragments or homemade letters of light to this once in a lifetime event.
I’ve been talking to some of the artists in residence and competition winners from around the globe about what drives their work, and how changes in society and politics cannot be separated from their projects. They use new technology to support communities to access information, communicate and have greater ownership of their lives in our contemporary complex world system. I feel extremely lucky to be here, talking to world-class engineers, computer scientists, animators and much more that have challenged my very own thinking of creativity, and the limitless possibilities this has beyond what I have traditionally thought of as art. Someone recently called me an artist but I promptly corrected them saying that I am a producer and facilitator, and not a creator. But being here discussing the thought behind creating practical tools, and reflecting this on myself in the way that I work, think, write and live my life from both a personal and professional perspective has lead me to realize that yes, I am an artist. Indeed we all are.
What I love about being here is that creativity is discussed in a wide context, against a backdrop of geographical, economical and political changes on a global scale. This is the perfect marriage between my experience as an arts manager, and my current pursuit of an Msc in Gender and International Relations.
Linz is a small city and rather quiet of late with the students away for the summer. I have had ample time to reflect on my passions and career to date, and absorb much of the new information I am receiving at Ars Electronica on a daily basis. Little did I know that coming here would continue my leadership journey, as well as increasing my knowledge of current developments in media arts.
Although only a few hours from England by plane, there is most definitely a different culture here in Austria. It is much more relaxed, slower, and calm in the big cities (that don’t really feel that big) compared with home. The crime rate is much lower and the population no where near as culturally diverse as England. I’ve taken the time to visit Salzburg and Vienna to get a flavour of Austrian contemporary dance and modern art, and met with friends living here that are both local and from outside to build a better picture of the culture; things I always find interesting when visiting any country. Not to mention the food! Some great coffee and cakes to be enjoyed, as well as traditional dishes such as schnitzel and dumplings that I’ve been devouring.
As we get older and wiser, our spiritual selves and the need for honesty and humanness becomes stronger. We all want to feel needed, loved and connected, hence the popularity and growth of the internet and social networking sites. As the world becomes smaller in many ways, and so many social and economic problems continue around the globe with conflicts and oppression flourishing in this century, the necessity for discussing art becomes greater. It has always provided the freedom and outlet for self-expression and often a sharing of a higher state of being that what we merely are expected to believe on a day to day basis, in a world driven by consumption and greed for material wealth. To be able to throw all of this information into a pot and discuss it here at Ars Electronica is invigorating, sexy and fun to say the least! I cannot wait for The Big Picture Festival to begin!