Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What Inspiration can ArsElectronica09 be to a Hackerspace?

The 5:16pm train brought me back from Linz/Upper-Austria yesterday. It also brought some blisters, exhausted legs and an innumerable array of impressions from Ars Electronica 2009, some of which I'll try to relay in this blogpost.

I bought a daypass on Sunday, which might or might not have paid off, I'm not quite sure.. 33€ is quite a lot of money, especially when the train ticket already cost you a hundred bucks. To anyone going to Ars in 2010 I suggest to buy a festival pass, spend at least 3 days on the various exhibitions and talks and prepare yourself a schedule (because theirs clearly sucked).

Ars Electronica Center (AEC)
The labs
The Ars electronica center clearly has an abundant array of interesting stuff sitting around. With their Fab-, Brain-, and Bio-labs on the -3 floor, they touch a broad variety of subjects, from cyborgs via sensor-enhanced art to 3D printers and lasercutters. This is actually somewhat like MIT's Medialab in Boston, only that this is clearly more exhibition-focused and less a working space. And clearly a lot smaller.

The picture above is a web made of wire straps.

The sculpture in the above picture does actually sense when you go near it and it reacts by moving its various "body"-parts.

Knock! Music Program (by Novmichi Tosa)
The second floor actually has some cool hands-on stuff that you can't actually touch, which is sad. But anyway, the Knock music machine is a pretty cool concept of an semi-electric music instrument. There were several components to it, the picture below is just one of them.
I actually found a couple of youtube videos of the machine in action. I just hope you understand some japanese ;) (Another resource I found is Novmichi's sketchblog.)

loopScape (by Ryota Kuwakubo)
Another great thing on the second floor was obviously loopScape. In contrast to ordinary computer games, this is one where you actually have to move around the "screen", which is made out of leds. Steering your fighter-jet with a wireless controller, your goal is to shoot down the enemy's fighter. To get all of the action, you can't stand still but have to move around to actually see everything that is happening in this fast-paced game.

Quartet is a huge machine that produces sounds from resonating wine-glasses and golf-balls being projected onto wooden xylophone bars. I hope I managed to capture some of that motion in my still.

Höhenrausch was an exhibition above the roofs of Linz. Walking on a wooden structure, you get from exhibit to exhibit while having a grandiose view over the city. You could even take a ride in a Ferris wheel.

One exhibit was really awesome! If you stood below the sprinklers with an umbrella, you'd hear 8-bit music as produced by the frequency of the water being released. The umbrella's tissue serves as a simple membrane and produces astonishingly clear sounds.

Cyberarts Festival
Tantalum Memorial - Residue (website)
Relay station for a social phone network used by the congolese diaspora in London.
And yes, though this thing is not your most recent asterisk pbx, it actually worked and was relaying calls for people on that network. From the project's website:

"'Tantalum Memorial' is a series of telephony-based memorials by the artists group Harwood, Wright, Yokokoji, to the people who have died as a result of the “coltan wars” in the Congo. The installation is constructed out of electromagnetic Strowger switches – the basis of the first automatic telephone exchange invented in 1888. The title of the work refers to the metal tantalum, an essential component of mobile phones"

Pursuit of the unheard
One of the things that kept me awake on Sunday evening was the "Höllenmaschine", one of the first, if not THE first synthesizer ever. Built by Bob Moog for Max Brand. As it says in the brochure: "The first wiring diagrams for the Max Brand synthesizer by Bob Moog are dated 1957."

On Monday morning, I decided to check out the MIT Impetus exhibition nonetheless, even though I thought I had already seen most of it in the Medialab itself.
And oh and I was so wrong!

littleBits (website)
Again, a little excerpt from their website:
"littleBits is an opensource library of discrete electronic components pre-assembled in tiny circuit boards. Just as Legos allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers and designers."

Various impressions from Linz

One thing that I noticed already on Sunday were these "stencils". Only, it only came to me on Monday though that these weren't your ordinary stencils. What is so uncommon here is that the stencils are actually areas that are cleaner than the area around it. So what you see here is kind of a 'cleaner's graffiti'. (No, I'm in no way affiliated to Mazda or any other automobile manufacturer)

Finally, a last picture of the "Fassadenfestival":

A couple more pictures will be made available on my soup.
(All images contained herein are subject to the CC-BY-SA license.)

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