Tag Archives: Ars Electronica

Ars Electronica and gender

A Sept. 12, 2016 essay in the Guardian by Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Addie Wagenknecht, Camilla Mørk Røstvik, and Kathy High discusses the festival’s top prizes and the preponderance of male winners (Note: Links have been removed),

Today [Sept. 12, 2016] is the last day of the annual Ars Electronica festival, held in Linz Austria. Over the past 37 years it has aimed to provide an environment of “experimentation, evaluation and reinvention” in the area broadly defined as art, technology and society. Its top award, the Golden Nica, honours forward-thinking work with broad cultural impact, in an effort to “spotlight the ideas of tomorrow.” However, the prize, hailed by many in the field as the top honour for artists working with science and technology, has a gender problem.

This was uncovered by artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg after she received an honourable mention in the Hybrid Arts Category last year. The prize’s online archive showed that throughout its 29-year history, 9 out of 10 Golden Nica have been awarded to men.

It was only weeks before the festival and her work was already shipped. Unable to withdraw, Heather began discussing the problem with other artists to develop a plan. A painstaking review of the statistics confirmed that more than 90% of winners self-identified as male. Although fewer women had applied, there was no shortage of great female artists among the applicants: the archive included internationally recognized women such as Rebecca Gomperts, Lillian Schwartz, Mariam Ghani, Pinar Yoldas, Daisy Ginsberg, Holly Herndon, Kaho Abe, and Ai Hasegawa. In response, Heather and the other artists developed a social media campaign: #KissMyArs.

There was an interesting response to the campaign (Note: Links have been removed),

… While many were supportive, some voiced disagreement, including 2013 Golden Nica winner Memo Atken. He commented on what he viewed as the campaigners’ misrepresentation of statistics, focusing only on the winners rather than diversity of submissions. After being confronted with a significant backlash to these comments on social media, pointing out among other things that the prize was not a lottery and there was no shortage of impressive female applicants, Atken apologised.

On the flip side artists Golan Levin and Mushon Zer-Aviv critiqued the campaign as not being radical enough for their liking and calling for a “feminist revolution across media arts.”

The two artists criticizing the campaign are both male and far less likely to suffer the kind of repercussions that women do. From the Sept. 12, 2016 essay,

In an insular field like art and technology, making a statement means that you risk your career. Heather Dewey-Hagborg writes, “My participation in this campaign stemmed from a frustration that this highly esteemed prize was one designed for men, and others need not apply. As women in art and tech we are consistently under-recognised, under-funded, and written out of history. We are made to feel that our work must simply not be as good as that of our male peers, and if only we made better work we would attain the same accolades and accomplishments as they did. Last year I finally realised that this was bullshit.”

Addie Wagenknecht, a collaborator on the campaign, became aware of issues of gender bias in the tech industry when she joined a game development company out of college. Constantly surrounded by “a few thousand men” at game conferences started to feel suffocating, although a decade later she felt a shift in attitudes, not only toward women but also people of colour and from LGBTQ communities.

Nevertheless, Addie sees Ars Electronica’s top prize, as “the perfect metaphor of how women are represented”. It is a golden sculpture of an idealised female form, with her head cut off: “I find the irony in the ‘award’ being of a headless woman, to speak volumes towards how we commodify women within the communities in which we claim to be honouring.” She sees the male-bias of the prize as connected to a larger systemic problem which excludes women from exhibitions, under-cuts and discounts women’s work in galleries, and ultimately cuts women out of the larger canon of contemporary art.

The systemic issues mentioned by Dewey-Hagborg and Wagenknecht can also be seen in the world of film. A July 12, 2016 article by Nico Lang for Salon.com discusses film criticism in the context of the ‘all women Ghostbuster’ reboot (Note: Links have been removed),

After months of fanboys arguing over a movie no one has even seen, critics finally got a peek at Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” reboot, in which comedians Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy suit up to fight the supernatural. And much to the relief of everyone who has spent months preparing themselves for the worst, the consensus is mainly positive: The film currently holds a 77 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

There is, however, a growing gender divide over the film’s reception. As of the time of writing, the film’s scores from female reviewers are considerably higher, with 84 percent of women giving the movie a thumbs up. Time’s Stephanie Zacharek comments, “The movie glows with vitality, thanks largely to the performers, who revel in one another’s company.” Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis writes that it’s “cheerfully silly” and Kate Muir of U.K.’s The Times says it’s a “rollickingly funny delight.”

On the flip side, 77 percent of the critics who gave the film a thumbs down are male.

Roger Ebert’s one-time sidekick, Richard Roeper, called it a “horror from start to finish,” while David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter referred to “Ghostbusters” as a “bust.” That disparity has hampered the film’s reception: Currently, there’s a 10 percentage point difference between male and female opinion on the movie. If reviewing were left up to male critics alone, “Ghostbusters” would have a 74 percent approval rating.

What gives? As Meryl Streep pointed out in a 2015 speech, this discrepancy is likely due to the fact that in a way, these critics are watching two different movies.

“Women are so used to that active empathizing with the active protagonist of a male-driven plot,” Meryl Streep said during a 2015 panel. “That’s what we’ve done all our lives. You read history, you read great literature, Shakespeare, it’s all fellas. But they’ve never had to do the other thing. And the hardest thing for me, as an actor, is to have a story that men in the audience feel like they know what I feel like. That’s a really hard thing. It’s very hard thing for them to put themselves in the shoes of female protagonist.”

Because men are commonly treated as the default in movies—the everyman who stands in for the audience—they rarely are forced to empathize with others’ perspectives. If cinema does not reflect men’s experiences, it can, thus, be difficult for male audience members to see themselves in the picture in the way women are forced to. That affects not only the way that men interact with movies but also how they review them.

I wonder if this same type of bias, the man’s perspective and approach to art and technology as the default might also affect the Ars Electronica prize system?

In any event, there’s much food for thought in both the Guardian piece (which offers some suggestions for positive change) and the Salon piece (which has some fascinating statistical information on how female critics and male critics differ in their judgments).

Digital artist at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory): apply by Sept. 26, 2012

CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, is accepting applications from digital artists for a residency. I mentioned the first competition in my Sept. 21, 2011 posting and briefly profiled the chosen artist, Julius Von Bismarck, and his CERN project in a Mar. 20, 2012 posting.  Here’s some information about this second competition which closes in two days, from the Arts@CERN website,

The 2012 open call for artists working in the digital domain to win the Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN award has just opened. It closes September 26th 2012. For further details and to make your online submissions please go to www.aec.at/collide.

We are  looking for digital artists who will be truly inspired by CERN, showing their wish to engage with the ideas and/or technology of particle physics or with CERN as a place of scientific collaboration, using them as springboards of the imagination which dare to go beyond the paradigm. You might be a choreographer, performer, visual artist, film maker or a composer – what you all have in common is that you use the digital as the means of making your work and/or the way of presenting it.

The award includes prize money, a production grant and a funded residency in two parts – with an initial 2 months at CERN with a CERN scientist as mentor to inspire your work. The second part is a month with the Futurelab team and mentor at Ars Electronica Linz with whom the winner will develop and make new work inspired by the CERN residency.

I have found more information about the 2012 digital artist  residency competition on Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN,

The aim of the Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN prize is to take digital creativity to new dimensions by colliding the minds of scientists with the imaginations of artists. In this way, we seek to accelerate innovation across culture in the 21st century – creating new dimensions in digital arts, inspired by the ideas, engineering and science generated at CERN, and produced by the winning artist in collaboration with the transdisciplinary expertise of the FutureLab team at Ars Electronica.

The residency is in two parts – with an initial two months at CERN, where the winning artist will have a specially dedicated science mentor from the world famous science lab to inspire him/her and his/her work. The second part will be a month with the Futurelab team and mentor at Ars Electronica Linz with whom the winner will develop and make new work inspired by the CERN residency. From the first meeting between the artists, their CERN and Futurelab mentors, they will all participate in a dialogue which will be a public blog of their creative process until the final work is produced and maybe beyond. In this way, the public will be able to join in the conversation.

This final work will be showcased both at the Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN, in Geneva and at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz. It will also be presented in the Prix Ars Electronica’s “CyberArts” catalogue.

The winning artist will receive

10,000 Euros prize money

Rent, subsistence and travel are funded from a designated limited fund that is in addition to the prize money. The awarding of this prize is thanks to the generosity of Ars Electronica and the funding of the creative residencies made possible by the generosity of anonymous donors. All artists insurances for the residencies are funded by the Exclusive Sponsor of all artists insurances for the Collide@CERN programme, UNIQA Assurances SA Switzerland.

….

Each submission has to be online and include the following parts:

Checklist for Submissions:

  • A personal testimony video which introduces the artist who describes why and how this residency will inspire new work (Up to 5 min.)
  • An outline of a possible concept/idea which the artist wishes to pursue at CERN and Futurelab
  • A draft production plan with costings and timeline
  • A selected portfolio of work which showcases work the artist is proud of

….

collide@prixars.aec.at

Tel. +43.732.7272-58

Prix Ars Electronica

Ars Electronica Linz GmbH
Ars-Electronica-Straße 1
4040 Linz, Austria

Please do check the 2012 digital artist  residency competition webpage for full details.

 

Fish and Chips: Singapore style and Australia style

A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), located in Singapore, has announced a new platform for testing drug applications. From the April 4, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

A cheaper, faster and more efficient platform for preclinical drug discovery applications has been invented by scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), the world’s first bioengineering and nanotechnology research institute. Called ‘Fish and Chips’, the novel multi-channel microfluidic perfusion platform can grow and monitor the development of various tissues and organs inside zebrafish embryos for drug toxicity testing. This research, published recently in Lab on a Chip (“Fish and Chips: a microfluidic perfusion platform for monitoring zebrafish development”) …

From the IBN April 4, 2012 media release,

The conventional way of visualizing tissues and organs in embryos is a laborious process, which includes first mounting the embryos in a viscous medium such as gel, and then manually orienting the embryos using fine needles. The embryos also need to be anesthetized to restrict their motion and a drop of saline needs to be continuously applied to prevent the embryos from drying. These additional precautions could further complicate the drug testing results.

The IBN ‘Fish and Chips’ has been designed for dynamic long-term culturing and live imaging of the zebrafish embryos. The microfluidic platform comprises three parts: 1) a row of eight fish tanks, in which the embryos are placed and covered with an oxygen permeable membrane, 2) a fluidic concentration gradient generator to dispense the growth medium and drugs, and 3) eight output channels for the removal of the waste products (see Image 2). The novelty of the ‘Fish and Chips’ lies in its unique diagonal flow architecture, which allows the embryos to be continually submerged in a uniform and consistent flow of growth medium and drugs (…), and the attached gradient generator, which can dispense different concentrations of drugs to eight different embryos at the same time for dose-dependent drug studies.

Professor Hanry Yu, IBN Group Leader, who led the research efforts at IBN, said, “Toxicity is a major cause of drug failures in clinical trials and our novel ‘Fish and Chips’ device can be used as the first step in drug screening during the preclinical phase to complement existing animal models and improve toxicity testing. The design of our platform can also be modified to accommodate more zebrafish embryos, as well as the embryos of other animal models. Our next step will involve investigating cardiotoxicity and hepatoxicity on the chip.”

As a pragmatist I realize that, to date, we have no substitute for testing drugs on animals prior to clinical human trials so this ‘type of platform’ is necessary but it always gives me pause. Just as the relationship between human and animals did the first time I came across a ‘Fish and Chips’ project in the context of a performance at the 2001 Ars Electronica event in Linz, Austria. As I recall Fish and Chips was made up fish neurons grown on silicon chips then hooked up to hardware and software to create a performance both visual and auditory.

Here’s an image of the 2001 Fish and Chips performance at Ars Electronica,

Ars Electronica Festival 2001: Fish & Chips / SymbioticA Research Group, Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, Guy Ben-Ary

You can find a full size version of the image here on Flickr along with the Creative Commons Licence.

The Fish and Chips performance was developed at SymbioticA (University of Western Australia). From SymbioticA’s Research page,

SymbioticA is a research facility dedicated to artistic inquiry into knowledge and technology in the life sciences.

Our research embodies:

  • identifying and developing new materials and subjects for artistic manipulation
  • researching strategies and implications of presenting living-art in different contexts
  • developing technologies and protocols as artistic tool kits.

Having access to scientific laboratories and tools, SymbioticA is in a unique position to offer these resources for artistic research. Therefore, SymbioticA encourages and favours research projects that involve hands on development of technical skills and the use of scientific tools.

The research undertaken at SymbioticA is speculative in nature. SymbioticA strives to support non-utilitarian, curiosity based and philosophically motivated research.

They list six research areas:

  • Art and biology
  • Art and ecology
  • Bioethics
  • Neuroscience
  • Tissue engineering
  • Sleep science

SymbioticA’s Fish and Chips project has since been retitled MEART, from the SymbioticA Research Group (SARG) page,

Meart – The semi-living artist

The project was originally entitled Fish and Chips and later evolved into MEART – the semi living artist. The project is by the SymbioticA Research group in collaboration with the Potter Lab.

The Potter Lab or Potter Group is located at the Georgia (US) Institute of Technology. Here’s some more information about MEART from the  Potter Group MEART page,

The Semi living artist

Its ‘brain’ of dissociated rat neurons is cultured on an MEA in our lab in Atlanta while the geographically detached ‘body’ lives in Perth. The body itself is a set of pneumatically actuated robotic arms moving pens on a piece of paper …

A camera located above the workspace captures the progress of drawings created by the neurally-controlled movement of the arms. The visual data then instructed stimulation frequencies for the 60 electrodes on the MEA.

The brain and body talk through the internet over TCP/IP in real time providing closed loop communication for a neurally controlled ‘semi-living artist’. We see this as a medium from which to address various scientific, philosophical, and artistic questions.

Getting back to SymbioticA, my most recent mention of them was in a Dec. 28, 2011 posting about Boo Chapple’s (resident at SymbioticA) Transjuicer installation at Dublin’s Science Gallery (I’ve excerpted a portion of an interview with Chapple where she describes what she’s doing),

I’m not sure that Transjuicer is so much about science as it is about belief, the economy of human-animal relations, and the politics of material transformation.

On that note I leave you with these fish and chips (from the Wikipedia essay about the menu item Fish and Chips),

Cod and chips in Horseshoe Bay, B.C., Canada, December 2010. Credit: Robin Miller

CERN’s artist-in-residence speaks

CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics) in conjunction with Ars Electronica was looking for an artist-in-residence last fall (my Sept.21, 2011 posting). They found one, Julius Von Bismarck. From the Arts@CERN webpage,

Creative collisions between the arts and science have begun at CERN with the first Collide@CERN artist, Julius Von Bismarck starting his digital arts residency at the world’s largest particle physics laboratory outside Geneva. He was chosen from 395 entries from 40 countries around the world from the Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN competition launched last September 2011.

To mark this special occasion, the first Collide@CERN public lecture open to everyone will take place on March 21st 2012 at CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation, with a drinks reception at 18.45 and with presentations starting at 19.30 [CET].

This talk will be livestreamed tomorrow (March 21, 2012) at 11:30 am PST (or 19:30 CET, which is GMT + 1 hr).

There’s not much text on Von Bismark’s website but I did find this on the about him webpage,

1983
born in Breisach am Rhein
raised in Riad (Saudi Arabia), Freiburg and Berlin
2003
Abitur in Berlin
from 2005
student of “visual communication” at the UdK Berlin
from 2006
student at “Digitalen Klasse” by Prof. Joachim Sauter
2007
student at the MFA-Programm of Hunter Collage New York
from 2009
student at Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments) “Klasse Olafur Eliasson”

Clicking on the art pieces will get you more images and some (very little) additional text. I clicked on Versuch unter Kreisen; Ordinary lamps become circles over time to find not only images and more text but a couple of videos including this one (for which he offers no explanation),

I recognized Gale Sondergaard, Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby because I love old movies (Road to Rio).

As for what Van Bismarck will be doing at CERN, here’s how they describe it on the Arts@CERN webpage,

Julius Von Bismarck is one of the most exciting artists of his generation, being awarded the first Collide@CERN residency by the jury for “his proposal and work which manipulates and criticises our notions of reality in unpredictable ways, often with inventive use of video, objects and public interventions”. His works are also characterised by his fascination with complex philosophical and scientific ideas as well as his profound interrogations about the purpose of the invention of technology. He is studying with the great Danish/Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson in Berlin.

There is more about Van Bismarck and his work here at ‘the creative project’ website in a Dec. 6, 2011 blog posting Julia Kaganskiy. The accompanying video is in German with English subtitles; the posting is in English.

Collide@CERN dance/performance prize

The Collide@CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics) arts project has announced a second arts residency this time for a dancer/performer (I mentioned the first residency, which was for a digital artist, in my Sept. 21, 2011 posting). This second competition has a deadline of Dec. 20, 2011. From the Nov. 23, 2011 notice on the International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts,

The new Collide@CERN dance and performance prize is funded by the City and Canton of Geneva to celebrate Geneva as an important place for the arts and science past, present and future.

The chance to win this funded residency is open to choreographers and performers born in Geneva, or international artists from any country currently working or living in Geneva. The organisers are looking for dynamic artists in dance or performance who enjoy stretching boundaries, will be truly inspired to feed their imagination with the science of particle physics, and is interested in engaging with the laboratory in a multiplicity of ways.

The Collide@CERN Geneva prize comprises a bursary of 15,000CHF which allows the winning artist to work for 3 months at CERN, including giving two public lectures at the Globe of Science and Innovation, contributing a blog about the creative arts/science process and regular lunchtime advice sessions at CERN. The winning artist will be assigned a special science inspiration partner for the duration of their residency and have an office on site.

The prize also includes a grant of up to 15,000 CHF to cover the costs of developing a new CERN-inspired work with associate artists during the 3-month residency. Submissions open 4 November must be received by 20 December 2011. The winner will be announced in January 2012.

There is no age requirement, you must either have been born in Geneva or currently living and/or working there; you will receive a total of up 30,000 Swiss francs (15,000 as a bursary for living expenses and another 15,000 for a new CERN-inspired project).  Also (from the Collide@CERN Geneva Prize in Dance and Performance page on the CERN website),

To apply, you need to send the following:

  • A personal testimony and a description of a proposed project no more than 3 pages
  • A curriculum vitae, including examples of projects in DVD or website

They do very much expect a project that speaks to particle physics, from the Collide@CERN dance/performance prize page,

Space, time and gravity are the fundamental forces in dance and performance, just as they are in particle physics.

There will be more arts projects from the Collide@CERN initiative,

Collide@CERN explores elements even more elusive than the Higgs Boson – human ingenuity, creativity and imagination. It is CERN’s new experiment in arts and science: a 3-year artist’s residency programme initiated by the laboratory.

The Collide@CERN prize – an open call to artists working in different art forms – will be awarded annually until 2013. It comprises prize money and a residency grant for up to 3 months at CERN. The winning artists will interact and engage with CERN scientists in order to take their artistic work to new creative dimensions. Two domains were announced in 2011 – Digital Arts and Dance/Performance. We aim to add additional awards in new art forms when we achieve additional external funding – so sign up to Twitter and our RSS feed to keep posted.

They have quite a list of artists and sponsoring organizations for this arts project,

Some of the greatest artists working today are creative patrons of the Collide@CERN project: Swiss architect Jacques Herz, Japanese artist Mariko Mori, German photographer Andreas Gursky, British sculptor Antony Gormley, musician Brian Eno, wildlife artist Frans Lanting, and Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist. These world-famous artists have all have visited CERN and been inspired by the work we do here.

Our international cultural partnerships with leading arts organisations support the project. Our renowned cultural partners include the digital arts organization Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, the sound and music conservatoire IRCAM in Paris, France and the Free Word centre literature house in London, UK.

I look forward to hearing more about future residencies as they are announced. Meanwhile, good luck if you’re applying for the dance/performance prize.

Arts residency collides with CERN and Ars Electronica

Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN Artists Residency Prize is inviting submissions.  CERN, for anyone unfamiliar with the institution,  is the European Laboratory for Particle Physics which is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). From the Arts@CERN page describing the residency in Geneva (Switzerland),

CERN’s latest experiment colliding the minds of scientists with the imagination of artists opens with the Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN prize in digital arts. This is the first prize to be announced as part of the new Collide@CERN Artists Residency 3 year programme initiated by the laboratory.

This new prize marks a 3 year science/arts cultural partnership and creative collaboration between CERN and Ars Electronica – which originated with CERN’s cooperation with Origin – the Ars Electronica Festival in 2011.

We are looking for digital artists who will be truly inspired by CERN, showing their wish to engage with the ideas and/or technology of particle physics or with CERN as a place of scientific collaboration, using them as springboards of the imagination which dare to go beyond the paradigm. You might be a choreographer, performer, visual artist, film maker or a composer – what you all have in common is that you use the digital as the means of making your work and/or the way of presenting it.

You need to register (here) to make a submission. Multiple submissions can be made by either the artist(s) or other interested party.

Full details can be found at the Ars Electronica ‘CERN artists residency’ page,

The aim of the Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN prize is to take digital creativity to new dimensions by colliding the minds of scientists with the imaginations of artists. In this way, we seek to accelerate innovation across culture in the 21st century – creating new dimensions in digital arts, inspired by the ideas, engineering and science generated at CERN, and produced by the winning artist in collaboration with the transdisciplinary expertise of the FutureLab team at Ars Electronica.

The residency is in two parts – with an initial two months at CERN, where the winning artist will have a specially dedicated science mentor from the world famous science lab to inspire him/her and his/her work. The second part will be a month with the Futurelab team and mentor at Ars Electronica Linz with whom the winner will develop and make new work inspired by the CERN residency. From the first meeting between the artists, their CERN and Futurelab mentors, they will all participate in a dialogue which will be a public blog of their creative process until the final work is produced and maybe beyond. In this way, the public will be able to join in the conversation.

This final work will be showcased both at the Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN, in Geneva and at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz. It will also be presented in the Prix Ars Electronica’s “CyberArts” catalogue.

It’s a pretty exciting opportunity that includes a prize of 10,000 Euros plus accommodation and travel.

We are looking for digital artists who will be truly inspired by CERN, showing their wish to engage with the ideas and/or technology of particle physics and with CERN as a place of scientific collaboration, using them as springboards of the imagination which dare to go beyond the paradigm. You might be a choreographer, performer, visual artist, film maker or a composer – what you all have in common is that you use the digital as the means of making your work and/or the way of presenting it.

Here’s a checklist for the submission(s),

  • A personal testimony video which introduces the artist who describes why and how this residency will inspire new work (Up to 5 min.)
  • An outline of a possible concept/idea which the artist wishes to pursue at CERN and Futurelab
  • A draft production plan with costings and timeline
  • A selected portfolio of work which showcases work the artist is proud of

The submission platform was opened Sept. 15, 2011 and will close on October 31, 2011. For anyone working up till the last second to make a submission, you may want to keep in mind the timezones. I assume the submission platform is being operated out of Switzerland. Good luck!