Europe's Largest Art and Technology Festival: Ars Electronica 2023
From September 6th to 10th, the annual Ars Electronica Festival took place in Linz, Austria, known as Europe's largest and oldest platform for art, technology, and society. During these festival days, the city becomes a meeting point for artists, art enthusiasts, scientists, developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and activists from around the world. This year, participants from 88 countries took part in the festival with the theme "Who Owns the Truth?". The festival recorded over 88,000 visits in total at the main venue, the POSTCITY, as well as at various locations throughout the city, such as the Mariendom, the University of Art and Design Linz, and the Ars Electronica Center.
APES as Part of the Theme Exhibition: (Co)Owning More-Than-Truth
Deep within the catacombs of the steel-gray POSTCITY, the former postal distribution center with over 80,000 square meters of floor space, storage for 10,000 packages, spiral slides, and an atomic bunker, the CASA artwork APES was exhibited as part of the thematic exhibition. Under the motto "(Co)Owning More-than-Truth," the exhibition also delved into the concept of truth: The showcased artworks explored the complexity and multifaceted nature of truth, for instance, in the form of data, facts, or narratives, shedding light on its incompleteness and bias. The exhibition encouraged the audience to perceive truth as a social construct, embrace various perspectives, and critically contemplate who "owns" the truth. This theme is also reflected in the artwork APES, which not only employs deepfakes and illustrates cyber events and data but also raises awareness about digital development, IT security, data consumption, surveillance capitalism, disinformation, and energy consumption.
The Creation of APES: Art and IT Security in Dialogue
The work APES was created during the art-science residency "RE:SEARCHING IT Security" from autumn 2021 to April 2022 at the Cluster of Excellence CASA at Ruhr University Bochum. The artwork was crafted by Berlin-based media artist Marco Barotti. Various scientists from different research areas of CASA, as well as the Horst-Görtz Institute for IT Security and the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy, actively participated in the project. They provided the artist with insights into their research, contributed research findings, and supported the artwork in various ways. The project aimed to explore the connection between art and IT security, open up new perspectives, and provide innovative impulses for scientific work. The resulting artwork invites the public to view IT security from an unconventional perspective.
APES consists of kinetic sound sculptures created from recycled Wi-Fi sector antennas. The metallic primates are mounted on a 2 ½ meter-high tower of trusses and are controlled by algorithms. Above their heads, screens continuously display rising numbers representing data consumption and cybersecurity events, as well as moments of digital well-being. The artwork is based on the concept of surveillance capitalism and data consumption, with the movements of the apes being determined by these numbers.
Interactive Experiences with APES at the Ars Electronica
The exploration of IT security not only influenced the researchers but also the festival visitors of Ars Electronica. Many took the time to observe and circle the artwork at their own pace and watch videos featuring statements from our scientists. Furthermore, they actively engaged in conversations with the artist, Marco Barotti and discussed with him the topics of data consumption and IT security.
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