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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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2006 Prix Ars Electronica – Winners of the Golden Nicas

  • On September 5, 2006

I've just got back from Ars Electronica after an enjoyable weekend meeting many artists and others interested in the whole field of digital art. A total of six Golden Nicas were awarded out of a total 3,177 entries from 71 countries. I will be reporting on some of the projects I saw at Ars Electronica but in the mean time here are the winners of the Golden Nicas.

'458nm ' by Ilija Brunck, Tom Weber and Jan Bitzer from the Film Academy of Baden Württemberg were the winners of the Computer Animation / Visual Effects category.

'ItÂ’s midnight. A smattering of moonlight falls upon the forest floor. Two mechanical snails move slowly through the darkness. They confront one another and briefly take the measure each otherÂ’s powers before uniting in love play. With mounting ecstasy, their transparent bodies begin to glow,but just before climax a dark shadow looms over them'

The Digital Music category was awarded to sound pioneer Eliane Radigue for a contemplative piece entitled '“LÂ’îIe re-sonante.'

According to Eliane Radigue, “LÂ’îIe re-sonante” (The Resonating Isle) was inspired by a moment in which the musician saw an island in a lake while the water reflected her face. Such an image is twoelements in one— a “real” picture and an optical illusion. The depth of the water is reflected by thedeeper tones; the higher tones float above them like the island jutting out of the water.

Eliane Radigue composes electro-acoustic music. In the early ‘50s, she was one of the pioneers of this genre (together with Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry). The same consistency and economy with which she works exclusively with an ARP synthesizer has characterized her musical mode of expression for decades. Lately, she has been discovered as a model by a younger generation of musicians.

Interactive Art winner was Paul DeMarinis for his installation '“The Messenger'

E-mails from all over the world are received by a computer and distributed to three systems of bizarre output devices that enable installation visitors to experience the messages sensorially. First, to 26 washbasins arrayed in a large oval; the number of basins is identical to the number of letters in the alphabet, and a different voice is assigned to each one. Built-in loudspeakers serially in tone the individual letters of the incoming e-mail.

Second, thereÂ’s a chorus line of 26 dancing skeletons;each skeleton wears a small poncho prominently displaying one of the letters of the alphabet. The individual letters of the message activate the corresponding skeleton and the chorus lineÂ’s dance reproduces the text of the e-mail.

And third, thereÂ’s a series of 26 electrolytic jars with metalelectrodes in the form of the letters A to Z that oscillate and bubble when electricity is passed through them and let the letters of the e-mail glow in color.

The system stores no information and has no data processing capabilities. If the signals are not observed, written down and interpreted, then the installation is the end of the line for messages that had traveled around the world to meet their demise here. The installation thus becomes an allegory for messages whose final destination is a total void —a phenomenon that has become a standard component of everyday life in the modern world. According to DeMarinis, “The Messenger” is based on early ideas about telegraphy and especially those of Catalan physician and naturalist Francesc Salva. He designed an “output device” for his telegraph equipment that involved an array of 26 servants who, following “stimulation” in the form of an electrical shock, would each call out a particular letter of the transmitted message, which could then be understood by a listener. The installation takes this as the point of departure for a consideration of the interrelationships between electricity and democracy, and how electronic communications technologies have led to loneliness and isolation just as they have contributed to the enrichment of our lives and experiences.  

“The Road Movie” by the Japanese artists group exonemo takes the Golden Nica in the Net Vision category.

“The Road Movie” is what might be called a mobile installation that originated in conjunction with a live project entitled “MobLab” in which young Japanese and German artists undertook encounters with art and communication during a journey by bus through Japan. While the group was traveling through a wide variety of landscapes, the webcam mounted on the bus produced five images of the surroundings every five minutes. The image files were uploaded to the Internet in the form of a piece of origami art.

canal*ACCESSIBLE was winner in the Digital Communities category

As its name suggests, canal*ACCESSIBLE addresses the accessibility or inaccessibility inherent in the topographical surroundings of people who have difficulty walking. The city of Barcelona is taken as an example. 40 handicapped individuals document the problems they encounter on their waythrough the city by using images and, in a few cases, sound recordings. This material is posted to the website, and the places at which each one was created are specified on a city map. These locations can then be accessed using a built-in “find” function. The result is a map of Barcelona’s inaccessibility for those confined to wheelchairs, a cartographic representation of the parts of town that are closed to people with handicaps. In this way, 3,336 architectural barriers and stumbling blocks have been documented on canal*ACCESSIBLE since December 2005 —thus, empowerment of disadvantaged segments of the population as something other than empty phrases for once.

The winning project in the u19– freestyle computing competition for young people was “Abenteuer Arbeitsweg,” an animated film by Alexander Niederklapfer, David & Magdalena Wurm and Ehrentraud Hager, Linz youngsters age 13 to 15. The project also featured a highly polished website including a trailer and a news service. 

images are copyright of ars electonica


  1. regine

    do you plan to write something about the cybernetic talks? i’d love you to of course as i suspect that you’d have a better take on it than me,

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