Ars Electronica festival, Linz, Gerfried Stocker
Gerfried Stocker (AT), born 1964, is graduate of the Institute for Telecommunication Engineering and Electronics in Graz. Since 1990, he has been working as an independent artist. In 1991, he founded x-space, a team for the realization of interdisciplinary projects. In this framework numerous installations and performance projects have been carrried out in the field of interaction, robotics and telecommunication. Stocker was also responsible for the concept of various radio and network projects and the organization of the worldwide radio and network project "horizontal" radio. 1992/93 he was responsible for the program of "Steirische Kulturinitiative". Since 1995 Stocker has been the artistic director of the Ars Electronica Festival and the managing director of the Ars Electronica Center Linz.
During presentation, Gerfried Stocker gave a general overview on Ars Electronica activities. He has explained that Ars Electronica is the name for certain tipe of activity; it's not just a festival, just a museum, just an organization. It's a kind of arrangement of activities wich are centred around one very specific topic and that is art, technology and society, which has carried that name starting from 1979. Festival was founded in very early year of computerization and digitazation; it was founded just few years before IBM brought first PC on the market. In the early stage of Ars Electronica, this was recognized as a point that will be significant not just for developing of industry, science and technologies, but for art, culture and society as well. It was a place for exchange of information, for the critical analyzis, discusions how these technologies are going to change our culture, how is going to change our society. This is a main point for Ars Electronica in past 25 years. In the same time, omnipresent information and communication technologies are creating a critical platform towards how these technologies are influencing our lives, the way that we are making buissines, a war, art, the way how we communicate. Starting from 1979, it is one of the most significant events of media art, in close up connection with technology and society in general. In that period every year, Linz is becoming meeting point where serie of talks, symposia, numerous exhibitions and performances are happening. Subject, who persistently tries to feature latest achievements from the 'border' of art and technology in a way, frames every festival. Some of the subjects that Ars Electronica was dealing in past were dedicated to the: memesis, wired world, infowar, life-science, next sex, unplugged, which are always general, in sense that they pose general questions on subject, not tending to give any answers. During these 25 years, Ars Electronica has developed instruments and different strategies. In 1987. Prix Ars Electronica, international award competition was established and in 1996. Ars Electronica Center, Museum of the Future was settled as a permanent space with its permanent exhibition of digital art works. Ars Electronica Center has strong educational character, as well as Ars Electronica Festival, especialy for a local community. There is also a Futurelab, interdisciplinary media laboratory for different kind of research, for artists in residence, production, etc.
What is interesting is a position of Ars Electronica institution in Linz, as a former steel-industry city. During seventies, Linz has shifted his focus on atracting electronic industry representatives in. Simultaniously, city government invested in University and in the culture. Consequently, institution which has bridged relation between technology, art and bussines was Ars Electronica that was created bipolarly, like narrow chanell for some specific scientific achivements, but in the same time, very popular and atractive events for local community. Making connections between art and bussines is one of indirect intentions of Ars Electronica. Stocker mentioned that only very small percent of artists, somewhere around 1.5% is able to live from their art. This should be opportunity for them to earn for living by bringing their creative talent into industry. Also, he was mentioning that he, as a director of this kind of manifestation, is higly aware that these kind of connections with bussines and industry could be big compromise which could bring into question some priorities. Also, city of Linz is the owner of Ars Electronica, so they are basicaly independent from industry's and sponsors' demands.