Ars Electronica center

The Ars Electronica this year was situated at the Tabakfabrik, an old tobacco factory that was built in 1850 and was closed recently in 2009. The exhibition was spread across many floors of four huge buildings with large open spaces and very confusing link bridges between them but the fun of it was to discover more exhibits on a floor that you accidentally stumbled upon. The theme of the festival was REPAIR and it seemed perfectly suited to have this festival set against the backdrop of this factory – a place where things were made/produced, to discuss the future of how we make things.This year the call was really to take action, to mend our ways and get things moving in the right direction out of the mess the world seems to be in right now. A group of artists, designers, engineers and scientists brought their creativity and idealism to show through their work an alternative future.

The festival had a series of talks, performances, workshops and exhibitions. Ambikraf was part of the Future Factory section of the exhibition, along with other works such as Oribotics, Hostage (The blackest painting done with nano particles), Telenoid robot etc. An impressive exhibit in our category was a simple but extremely impressive 3D display that was created for iphones...the solution was so simple that it was just incredible! Apart from the exhibits, there were talks and some of the talks I attended were under the theme of Human Robot Interaction Design, Human Robot Harmony and Media Façade symposium. I presented a talk on looking at crafts as a place to learn to make things that are repairable, sustainable and long lasting. I used Ambikraf as an example of our exploration of artefacts that lie in between the category of craft and gadget. Another series tried to answer the question “The Labs as Repairshops?” Prof Inakage presented ideas about how KMD, with its new approach to design and teaching is looking to ‘repair’ systems, policies, design and business. This was a very interesting panel of talks and something that would be beneficial for us as a lab to discuss as well. The author of the book The Craftsman, Richard Sennet gave a talk about how we the first generation users of mediums such as facebook and sms use it in a very primitive way, the next generation will use for very different purposes. He pointed out that we need to celebrate cooperation and create more technology for cooperation and collaboration. Create environment for more personal collaboration and as developers of technology, we need to be more reflective.

One of the lovely moments in the exhibitions was when I returned to the Ambikraf installation after walking around looking at other works, and as I approached the installation I saw a la


Future Factory presentation

dy I had met the day before standing and explaining Ambikraf to a group of friends she had brought along to show the work. I had met her a day earlier and had explained the work to her as she really loved the work. It was just awesome for me to see her share her excitement with others and so enthusiastically spread the word about Ambikraf. I knew we had hit the nail on the head when I saw this J

There were several talks that were inspiring. Discussions on Robot Human love was particularly engaging as Antony Dune presented work that took a critical look at this topic. His last work was a human impersonating a robot singing Yesterday by The Beatles. The worlds of the song was put through a speech system and was sung out in the English the robot would have translated that song into its on language…and at the end of the song there is a humming that is written as ‘mm….mmmm….mm…” and of course the robot translated and sang this as “millimeter…millimeter millimeter..millimeter” – I guess the point was made! Along side this was the presentation of Asimo robot and the team that has spend the last two decades building it. Seeing Asimo for real was exciting and as soon as he stepped out on to the stage there was an immediate fondness one feels towards it cause it seems like a little boy, walking so gently, softly across the floor, doing tricks to impress the audience…it really was heartwarming and after a 20min interaction with Asimo, it was sad to see him leave. An interesting point that was raised during the talk was that it would be great to have one Asimo, he is cute, we all love him but do we really want hundreds of them walking amongst us.

One of the most moving and deeply touching performances was ‘Sounds like Universe’. This was a 3D film of images of the earth and universe, there were many images from the NASA hubble telescope that was used for this presentation. Amidst the 3D show was a live concert, musicians on piano, different kinds of flutes and violins – it was almost as if through their music they were awakening the earth, stars and the universe. The images started with the earth and zoomed out all the way past thousands of galaxies into outer universe…it was such a beautiful performance and everyone had tears in their eyes at the end…it was deeply moving. After a performance like this it is difficult to speak, to discuss it….it just had to be left to linger, to be absorbed by the mind and the body.

In contrast to this was the Babyjet performance which was a large scale choreography of everything from trains, helicopter, cranes, big boats with large display screen and people that was performed along the Danube. The narration of the story was in German so it was hard to follow everything, but the dance or play was about the story of a few scientists who were developing a new and better train Babyjet (underground magnet train) and the various struggles they had along the way. This whole performance was the work of artist Hubert Lepka who has done other works 108 EB – Chamber Music for Four Motors and Service Personnel in 1989 and we got to see a glimpse of it again here at the festival when he resuscitated the same four combustion engine once again to play a line of music.

A quick look at a handful of other works:-

+ Braun Tube Jazz Band by Ei Wada - he uses electromagnetic properties to transform light into sound and back. He does this with old tube TVs and video recorders

+ I walked around with artist Jan Vormann filling up cracks and holes with lego bricks

Lego for 'repair'

+ Plant by Akira Nakayasu – interactive installation inspired by grass blowing over wind. Robotic plant has 169 artificial leaves that gently move when a hand approaches over them.


+Ocean of light – Surface -

Ocean of light

+The Toaster project – the result of an attempt to make an electric toaster from scratch, starting with digging up raw materials from the ground

+Earth by Finnbogi Petursson - captures and makes visible the resonance of the earth’s electromagnetic frequency which is at 7.8hertz, Schumann Resonance.

+Fade out by Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi – portraits on Phosphorescent screen that slowly fades

+rheo: 5 horizon by Ryoichi Kurokawa – Digital Musics and Sound Art

+Dropping knowledge, film Problema

+As an artist I need to rest by Sonia Cillari – the artist uses her breathing and the CO2 produced to create a dymanic artwork where the feathers are generated and controlled by the artist’s exhalation.

+Cycloid -

+Whispering table – porcelain cups of different shapes narrate stories about food, eating and ritual around the table from different cultures. Different stories are revealed depending on the different arrangements of the other cups on the table.

+Capacity for (urban eden, human error by Allison Kudla – a printer that can print moss and seeds. These are suspended in a gel growth medium that the printer prints based on the Eden growth model, representing both urban growth and cellular growth.

Whispering table


3D dispaly




Toaster project