Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria

From Poland we were working our way south in a loop towards the seaside country of Montenegro.  It was convenient to pass through Austria, but since it is on the expensive side for us, we just made a couple quick stops.

First, on May 16th, we stopped at Ars Electronic in Linz.  For those of you who went to grad school with George, think MAT all the way!  Ars Electronica has all kinds of interactive art/music exhibits.  Any one of the many exhibits would have made an awesome thesis project!

Linz is a convenient city to stop in for a day while en route to Vienna.  We arrived around noon and left in the evening, giving us plenty of time to visit Ars Electronica.  The Shuttle Lobo van from Cesky Krumlov dropped us off at the Hauptbahn Hof (main train station) in Linz.  First, we had to withdraw some money, so that we would have Euros, then we needed change, so I bought a soda. Then once we had change we were able to use one of the lockers at the train station to leave our big backpack and other items we didn’t need to carry around for the day (3.5 Euros/ 24hrs).  Next we headed downstairs to catch the metro, for which we bought day passes (Maxi ticket good for 24 hours) for 3.6 Euros/person.  It was easy to take the metro to the other side of the river, where Ars Electronica is located.  When we arrived we saw that there are also lockers at Ars Electronica, so if your bag isn’t too big, that might be a better option than leaving it at the train station.  Now it was time to explore!

George at Ars Electronica Center, Linz, Austria

Our favorite exhibit was this reactive web that would reach out or quiver as you walked through it.  I read that the sensors were triggered by the air moving, so I tried clapping and waving at it, but no response.  George started singing and growling at it, and got lots of reaction.

Reactive Web at Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria

There was another fun exhibit based upon a robot where children (including me) can dance/wave/walk behind a screen and a robot image on the screen would react and play along.  Here I am waving and the robot image is waving too.  The scenery on the screen would also change to keep it interesting, from stars to strolling through a spring park.

Robot Screen at Ars Electronica, Austria

George even found an exhibit, Fluid Forms, that he had come across in his research about sensors for his MAT (Media Art and Technology) thesis.  In fact, Fluid Forms deserves a lot of credit in the success of George’s project, since they showed in detail how they made their sensors!  Fluid Forms is a punching bag with sensors in it that sculpts an image on a screen based on how hard and where you hit it.  I tried, but apparently I don’t punch hard enough, as my sculpture image hardly morphed at all.

George with Fluid Forms Punching Bag, Ars Electronica
Heidi with Fluid Forms, Ars Electronica, Linz

I found another cool exhibit where you put on 3D glasses and use this wand thing to draw a 3D image in the air.  I tried to draw a cat, but it’s difficult and I didn’t quite get the hang of it.  Once you’re done you can save the image and email it to yourself.

Heidi Airdrawing, Ars Electronica
Heidi's Airdrawing

There was also an area explaining how eyeballs work, and George had a photo taken of his retina.  Apparently our retinas are all unique and can be used like fingerprints to identify individuals.

One of our favorite sections was upstairs where there is a series of machine/artworks by Arthur Ganson.  The combination of simple mechanics and art is quite unique.

Bouncing Chair with Cat, Ars Electronica
Slowly Turning Wheels - last cog will take 2 trillion years, Ars Electronica

“The human being is the only creature on Earth capable of building machines that can outlive their creator. The speed at which the cogwheels in ‘Machine with Concrete’ turn is slowed down by 12 pairs of reductors. The last cogwheel needs two trillion years to complete one rotation.” – from Ars Electronica

We also watched a short robot demonstration that the kids gathered around really enjoyed.  This robot even did a cartwheel!

Robot Demonstration, Ars Electronica

The photo below is of a machine, Quartet that uses ping pong balls that shoot up and land on the marimba to create the sounds of the musical piece.  You are the forth member of the quartet as you play a few notes on the computer and the computer generates the musical piece.  There are also wine glasses and drums that create a variety of sounds.  Quartet was amazing and and inspiring and well deserved its award of distinction!

Quartet, Ars Electronica

There was also a 3D movie playing at certain times of day.  You sit on the floor and the movie is shown on the wall and floor in front of you.  We didn’t understand the narration, since it was in German, but we were still impressed with the 3D footage, which was the highest resolution 3D we had seen.  The movie was our last stop before heading back to the train station to catch our evening train to Vienna.

Ars Electronica is a great place to visit for adults and children, alike.  For George, it was like being a kid in a candy store ;).  It is inspiring and cutting edge, as well as fun and entertaining.  Highly recommended if you’re ever in Austria!

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