Humanity has a timeless longing to invent ways and means to overcome oneself, to outgrow oneself and to change the natural course of things oneself. By virtue of creativity, courage and ingenuity, humanity has been able to direct knowledge and skills towards coming ever closer to these desires and realizing its visions. This is rendered possible by another formative quality which, as a gift, has brought us to our unique status in the hierarchy of nature – the gift of invention and creation. This results in two decisive parameters for the success of the project. The power of imagination, deeply rooted in the DNA of the idea, and the quality of those instruments and technologies to make our goals a reality or get closer to them. So we see ourselves endowed with wonderful talents and experience ourselves indulging in them without restraint – with all our passion, devotion and courage. We find ourselves in a world that is more and more formed and created by ourselves, but which, because of the ingenuity of its instruments and technologies, constantly increases in complexity, making it a permanent challenge to find one‘s own position.
“In life there is nothing more foolish than inventing.“ (James Watt, 1736-1819)
Why James Watt, who made significant contributions to developing the steam engine (1769), would make this statement, we can only guess. Probably it was just a moment of temporary exhaustion or frustration. Nevertheless, the whole complexity of our quest is inherent in this statement. For as much as we need to fight to preserve qualities such as passion and courage for humanity, and as much as we need them to develop ourselves further, we also need a position that supports us in our own actions through critical reflection, that helps us to think about the situations in which we could find ourselves in the future.
In the exhibition, we look specifically at the last 40 years, approximately the period in which the so-called “Digital Revolution” has sparked a rapid, global dynamic and become one of the central, global challenges for society. While it initially seemed a logical further development of the Industrial Revolution in its orientation towards purpose and efficiency, over time it came to pervade and digitalize the classic industrial model. Today, as a society, we are facing another paradigm shift with regard to our technology and our relationship to it. From automation to its autonomization, it is practically the independence of the digital self. This paradigm shift will not only have an effect on industry, but will also be felt deep in our everyday lives, forcing us to question our concept of being human.
The main focus of the exhibition is on those “species” from the art world – media artists who have been and continue to be permanent critical companions. They were and are capable of positioning “new technologies“ in society with their alternative approaches and ways of thinking; with their philosophical farsightedness and their technical ability – far beyond critical, catalytic reflection – to make them accessible and draw new, unexpected connections. The focus is always on the human being, not on technology – HUMANAZING TECHNOLOGIES.
In the exhibition, we focus on artistic projects that are capable of establishing direct connections to an increasingly complex environment far beyond the artistic discourse, and which manage to integrate all areas of society through an open, new culture of collaboration. The exhibition should be seen as a tribute to the relationship between art, society and technology. It is shaped by two important positions and institutions in the global field of media art: CAFA, a longstanding driving force in China for budding media artists, and Ars Electronica, one of the world‘s most important media art institutions, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The Prix Ars Electronica – one of the most important international prizes for media art – has generated an archive of more than 60,000 submitted artistic works from the field of media art. Every year, Ars Electronica also hosts one of the world’s largest and most important media art festivals. Works by international Prix Ars Electronica prize- winners will encounter Chinese artistic positions in media art. Together, they will show how media art intersects with society and what concrete role it plays there.