Poetry in Motion – A Synthesis of Art, Technology and Science

Ars Electronica featured at Automobil Forum Unter den Linden

Ars Electronica, one of the world’s top names in digital art and media, is
making its first appearance at VW’s showcase venue in Berlin, Automobil Forum Unter den
Linden. “Poetry in Motion,” an exhibition created especially for the German capital, will run
until September 5, 2010. The works that comprise it constitute a fascinating synthesis of art,
technology, science and socio-cultural development.
“Poetry in Motion” features kinetic artworks that present mechanical motion as an aesthetic
experience. These are interactive installations—visitors are invited to engage in hands-on
encounters and marvel at the magical moments that result. Here, technology isn’t the usual
means-to-an-end, but rather a medium conveying beauty, elegance, grace and charm. Artistic
machines created by 10 artists from Europe, Japan and the USA tell stories that make this
exhibition a fascinating experience. Thoroughly grounded knowledge of scientific principles
in fields ranging from physics to programming languages and robotics provide artists with a
whole new way to approach art—through interplay with the rapid progress being made in
science and research.
Volkswagen’s Automobil Forum Unter den Linden, in light of its substantive and conceptual
orientation, is a most appropriate setting for Ars Electronica’s first exhibition in Germany.
This high-profile venue is a showroom of mobility—here, Volkswagen AG showcases its
Bentley, Bugatti, SEAT, Skoda, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Utility vehicles—as well as a
place of encounters in which visitors experience an interesting lineup of photographic, artistic
and scientific exhibitions.
Automobil Forum Unter den Linden: http://www.automobilforum-berlin.de
Ars Electronica: http://www.aec.at/
Works & Artists
Morpho Tower / Sachiko Kodama (JP)
The black material that seems to be alive is a ferrofluid, a liquid medium in which magnetic
particles a few nanometers in size are suspended. This means that the fluid reacts to a
magnetic field. Here, it surrounds an electromagnet with an enlarged iron core in the form of a
helix. This configuration makes it possible for the fluid to seemingly defy gravity and spiral
up to the tower’s pinnacle.
Sachiko Kodama is a physicist. Nine years ago, she came upon ferrofluid, which was first
developed for NASA and is used today to stabilize skyscrapers exposed to very high winds.
“Morpho Tower” was created in 2006. The Japanese artist’s works have been shown in
leading galleries worldwide including Kyoto and Los Angeles. “Morpho Tower” is on loan
from ARtFutura.
Moony / Akio Kamisato, Takehisa Mashimo, Satoshi Shibata (all JP)
Magical worlds of imagery whose sensuous effects are due to their fragility and transience—
in “Moony,” Akio Kamisato, Takehisa Mashimo and Satoshi Shibata have conjured up virtual
butterflies on clouds of water vapor. The butterflies seem to want to play with those observing
them. They entice, signaling a wish to be touched, and yet they withdraw from the observer’s
approach. They flutter away like creatures from another world, only to reemerge shortly
thereafter and begin the game anew.
Akio Kamisato, Takehisa Mashimo and Satoshi Shibata met at the prestigious International
Academy of Media Arts and Science (IAMAS). At the 2004 Prix Ars Electronica, they were
singled out for recognition with a [next idea] grant for their extremely promising but not yet
produced project.
Tool’s Life / Kyoko Kunoh, Motoshi Chikamori, minim++ (all JP)
Technical implements cast their shadows upon a tabletop. When they’re touched, the shadows
suddenly come to life and start to form ornamental lines back and forth. Or to bloom like
flowers. In contrast to the objects themselves, each shadow manifests a character all its own.
With “Tool’s Life,” minim++ sheds light on everyday objects—not on each one’s designated
function, but rather on its background and significance.
Since it was founded in 2000, minim++ has produced numerous works and exhibited them
worldwide. Minim++ uses simple, everyday objects and events, which are continually
modified until they reach the point at which they get their message across.
Machine with 22 Scraps of Paper / Arthur Ganson (US)
A swarm of birds or butterflies, leaves scattered by an autumn breeze—many of nature’s
spectacles fascinate us with their inherent harmony. This is what inspired “Machine with 22
Scraps of Paper.” Each of these 22 little scraps of paper is affixed to the tip of a vertical
aluminum rod, which are then moved up and down by an electric motor. Air resistance
induces the paper “birds’ wings” to develop a life of their own. And the swarm of birds begins
to fly!
Thinking Chair / Arthur Ganson (US)
A small yellow chair on a flat, natural stone plate. A chair that suddenly begins “to walk” and
does so in what seems to be an incredibly human way. Arthur Ganson had the idea that led to
“Thinking Chair” while taking a walk. Near his studio, there’s a small rock outcropping on a
trail, which he likes to walk around in slow circles, deep in thought, whereby each cycle finds
him back at the same physical location but in a slightly different emotional place.
Machine with Concrete / Arthur Ganson (US)
The idea is as simple as it is fascinating. And the diametrical opposite of what one normally
expects. “Machine with Concrete” uses 12 cogwheels to so radically decelerate the rotational
speed of an electric motor that the last cogwheel can be encased in concrete. The entire
machine consists of a motor-driven axle, one end of which is stuck into a concrete block.
Cogwheels, gears and reductors transmit the angular momentum of an electric motor into the
concrete block. The first cogwheel takes approximately 14 seconds to complete one rotation;
the last one—the cogwheel encased in concrete—needs no less than two trillion years With his
“Machine with Concrete,” Arthur Ganson reminds those partaking of it that the human being
is the only creature on Earth to build machines that (are meant to) outlive their creator. And
that the world, despite its purportedly fast-moving pace, changes very, very slowly.
Margot’s Other Cat / Arthur Ganson (US)
“Astronauts on the Moon” is ones first impression upon beholding “Margot’s Other Cat.” Yet
the external appearance of this installation gives no hint at all of outer space. It consists of a
small model cat and a miniature chair attached to the end of an approximately 30-centimeter-
long aluminum tube. Pushed to the left or right, the cat repeatedly bumps against the chair,
which makes the chair fly through the air in a high arc. But somehow as a delayed reaction. In
“Margot’s Other Cat,” Ganson seemingly deactivates the laws of nature—here, Earth’s
gravitational field.
Arthur Ganson is one of the best-know creators of kinetic sculptures. He was born in 1955 in
Hartford, Connecticut and studied at the University of New Hampshire. He has exhibited his
works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at museums and galleries throughout
the world. His “Machine with Concrete” brought him international renown.
Absolut Quartet / Jeff Lieberman, Dan Paluska (both US)
“Absolut Quartet” was inspired by the tradition of musical automatons. This six-meter-long
installation made a name for itself with an appearance in a commercial for Absolut Vodka.
“Absolut Quartet” consists of three robotic musical instruments; completing the foursome is
an installation visitor, who prescribes the musical motif. Software developed in collaboration
with composers uses this sequence as a point of departure for the computation of a three-
minute piece. Here, the user-input sounds don’t serve as a melody; instead, they’re interpreted
as a set of rules. Finally, the piece is performed by a robot orchestra. A marimba is played by
firing balls with incredible accuracy from several meters away at the instrument’s five-
centimeter-wide wooden bars; 42 robot arms and a hundred rubber balls keep the sounds
coming. Harmonies are provided by a wineglass organ whose 35 hand-made glasses are
played by high-tech robot fingers covered by rawhide tips soaked in a special solution that
displays the same properties as water but doesn’t evaporate. The rhythm is delivered by a
percussion section consisting of a djembe, a cajon and various basins. The theme of Jeff
Lieberman and Dan Paluska’s “Absolut Quartet” is human-machine interaction.
Jeff Lieberman is a gifted all-rounder: moderator, actor, musician and artist. He’s fluent in
more than 12 computer languages and familiar with the operating system of every computer
made since 1983. Dan Paluska studied robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and carried out a wide array of research projects having to do with mobile robots. In his
collaborations with numerous artists, he has employed kinetic machines as well as a variety of
other media. Lieberman and Paluska were honored with an Award of Distinction in the 2008
Prix Ars Electronica’s Interactive Art category for “Absolut Quartet.”
Nemo Observatorium / Lawrence Malstaf (BE)
Belgian artist Lawrence Malstaf will unleash a cyclone right in the middle of Automobil
Forum. Rousing and hypnotizing at the same time, “Nemo Observatorium” puts installation
visitors under its spell. Using five fans and a walk-through PVC cylinder, Lawrence Malstaf
creates a localized tornado in which the installation visitor occupies the eye of the storm.
Nevertheless, the effect is incredibly calming. The chaotic spectacle suddenly becomes a
uniform, almost hypnotic sensory impression.
Lawrence Malstaf was honored with a 2009 Golden Nica in the Prix Ars Electronica’s
Interactive Art category. The Belgian artist began his career by studying industrial design and
then worked in the theater. His efforts evoke multi-sensory physical experiences that are by no
means limited to the audiovisual. His current work occupies a place at the nexus of design and
stage set design.
Drawn / Zachary Lieberman (US)
“drawn” awakens pen-and-ink sketches to life. Freed from the paper on which they were
created, the lines and forms can be animated via the installation visitor’s hand movements.
“drawn” is, to some extent, an update of the “blitz sketches” technique used by filmmakers to
animate individual images in order to create the illusion of a drawn figure running off a piece
of paper. Specially developed software augments a video signal in real time and generates a
seamless, organic and almost magical world of spontaneous and improvised performances via
hand and ink.
Zachary Lieberman’s works utilize technology in a playful and puzzling way to thus approach
the essence of communication and to shift the boundary between the visible and the invisible.
Lieberman is an alumnus of stints at the Ars Electronica Futurelab, Eyebeam and the Dance
Theatre Workshop, where he encountered the possibilities afforded by technology in
conjunction with the choreographic process.
Perfect Time / h.o. (JP)
“Perfect Time” focuses on time itself, its inexorable passage, its presence and its transience. A
“wall” of trickling sand forms a flat surface onto which multicolored images are projected. If
the sand runs out, they disappear. If an installation visitor tries to touch them, they dissolve.
Visitors thus become active protagonists—without their participation, the virtual world
remains a hidden realm.
h.o. is a Tokyo-based international artists’ group whose 14 members bring mutually
complementary skills to the collaborative process. Their concept art is a mix of media art and
digital techniques. Their name is derived from the chemical symbol for water, H2O. The
centerpiece of the group’s work is an interest in various forms of interpersonal communication
and critique of a society that concentrates strictly on information. The members are Hideaki
Ogawa, Satoshi Onodera, Shota Ishimura, Sakura Toyabe, Tomonori Kondo, Yukiko
Okamura, Kaori Honda, Yuichi Tamagawa, Mizuya Sato, Yoko Minagawa, Yuichiro
Haraguchi, Emiko Ogawa, Junichi Yura, Taizo Zushi and Ayano Urabe.
Garden / Kohei Asano (JP)
Poetic, playful and fleeting—Kohei Asano’s “Garden” is a virtual one. It blooms only as long
as visitors in the installation space keep tossing confetti into the air. The more they throw and
the faster they do so, the prettier, more luxuriant and more colorful the garden gets. Celestial
sounds underscore the dreamy effect as the floor of the installation space morphs into a carpet
of blossoms.
Kohei Asano studied art at the Tokyo Institute of Polytechnics. He prefers to describe his
works with three words: communication, community and computer-interaction. His
installations always call for those partaking of them to get actively involved—painting,
dancing or singing. What is of particular importance to him is that strangers viewing his works
come together and, for a brief time, develop a feeling of community.
Spacequatica / The Sancho Plan (UK)
“Spacequatica” invites you on a journey of discovery like you’ve never experienced before.
Imaginary 3D underwater worlds teeming with robot sharks and other exotic creatures form
the visual backdrops of musical adventures during which the user navigates via drum pad.
In their audiovisual media works, the artists’ group named The Sancho Plan investigates real-
time interaction between music and video, and the artistic potential of this coupling. Via a
well-coordinated combination of animation, sound, music and technology, the artists conjure
up fantastic worlds in which animated musical figures are activated by electronic drum pads.
Flow 5.0 / Daan Roosegaarde (NL)
“Flow 5.0” is an interactive landscape made up of hundreds of fans that react to sounds and
movements. As they pass by, installation visitors interact with the fans and thereby create
landscapes full of transparency and artificial wind. Through the installation’s interactive
power, visitors experience themselves as a collective part of a dynamic interplay with space
and technology.
Studio Roosegaarde undertakes encounters with interactive art that explores the dynamic
relationship among architecture, human beings and technology. Frequently located in public
spaces, these installations let visitors blend with their surroundings and become a unitary
whole. Founder and creative director Daan Roosegaarde lives and works in Rotterdam. His
works have appeared at such leading museums as the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tate
Modern in London and the National Art Museum in Tokyo.
The Inherent Beauty in a Failed Attempt to Reconstruct / Jonathan Schipper (US)
The evidently most important moments of life are nowadays banished to video where, via
REWIND button, they can be viewed over and over again. In this sense, birth and death seem
to be separated only by the push of a button on a video recorder. Jonathan Schipper’s ironic
and fascinatingly beautiful installation captures the moment at which a teacup crashes to the
floor and breaks into hundreds of shards. Computer-controlled robot arms enable the viewer to
stop the action, to rewind and advance the tape, and to observe what occurred from various
points of view. Nevertheless, the cup will never return to the way it was before its collision
with the floor. In reality, once something is destroyed, it can’t be reconstructed.
Jonathan Schipper’s works are frequently destructive. They remind us that natural systems are
as complicated as they are sensitive; accordingly, it’s no simple matter to reproduce them once
they’ve been destroyed. Schipper studied in San Francisco and Maryland. He has exhibited his
works at leading galleries worldwide.

via aec.at