Pavol Rusnak #cypherpunk #hacker #openhw #privacy #bitcoin #newmediaart

Ars Electronica Festival 2012

Last week I attended Ars Electronica Festival with an additional title “The Big Picture”. This was quite a new experience for me, because I usually visit technical conferences, while this one was more about art (but tech was of course present as well!).

The first evening in Linz I decided to spend with folks from hackerspace Linz called DevLoL. Technically, it’s not a hackerspace yet, because they are still waiting for their premises, but once they get them, it’s gonna be great! They are promised around 1000 square meters of space in a former tobacco factory, now a culture centrum called Tabakfabrik. Hopefully they’ll be able to do some amazing projects there soon. We had a great discussion about stuff we do at brmlab and I got some valuable input as well. It’s always nice to see more and more hackerspaces to appear in new places.

The other days were mostly about Ars Electronica. I attended quite a lot of expositions, talks and events. If you’ve never been to Ars Electronica Center, go there, their main exposition is amazing and the tickets are quite cheap (8 EUR full price).

During the festival these two projects caught my eye: CogniToo and BioBookCover. The first one is basically a tattoo of your fMRI scan. The times when people were tattoing the names of their loved ones are past, the future is having a fMRI scan of your brain while thinking about your love. :-) The second one is an attempt to create biodegradable (starch based) plastic, which can be made in amateur environment (like a kitchen) and will dissolve in few days (in contrast to few centuries) in nature if thrown away.

From the talks I mostly enjoyed the talk from Golan Levin. He started with the following image:

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I think it’s really a good way how to describe current efforts in technology. He didn’t said that explicitly, but my opinion is that artists are leaning towards interesting-beautiful side and hackers towards useful-interesting side of things. There are also other groups like for example designers, which are positioned somewhere else in the triangle. Golan showed us some examples of interesting-beautiful projects like: Most Wanted and Least Wanted Paintings by Komar Melamid, Every Playboy Centerfold by Jason Salavon or The Secret Lives of Numbers by himself.

Other nice talks I attended were about about Free Universal Construction Kit and Apertus, an open source camera. It’s nice to see that an idea of open-source hardware is advancing in these more-or-less artistic fields as well.

But undoubtedly, the main attraction of the festival were so called Klangwolke (Sound clouds). This is a tradition that happens on the bank of Danube river every year and this time there were around 90000 participating people. Around one thousand of them used an opportunity to make a big blinking letter during the festival and these were connected via network during the performance. The letters were not the only things blinking, we also had a chance to see buildings with projections and 50 quadcopters flying changing colour and flying in nice formations. See the video for yourself:

I’d like to thank all people I hanged out with (especially Prokop who made the trip possible and Szara who kindly sheltered me) and I hope I’ll be able to visit the event next year as well!