The ARS ELECTRONICA FESTIVAL premiered on September 18, 1979. This pilot project was designed to take the Digital Revolution’s emergence as an occasion to face important questions about the future and to focus these inquiries on the nexus of ART, TECHNOLOGY and SOCIETY. With this philosophy—which remains Ars Electronica’s watchwords to this day—HANNES LEOPOLDSEDER, then director of the ORF – Austrian Broadcasting Company’s Upper Austria Regional Studio, electronic musician HUBERT BOGNERMAYR, cyberneticist/physicist HERBERT W. FRANKE and music producer ULRICH RÜTZEL laid the cornerstone for the ongoing success of this extraordinary undertaking.
FROM PILOT PROJECT TO INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS STORY
This Linz event soon developed into one of the world’s most important media art festivals. The program featured symposia, exhibitions, performances, interventions and concerts, each successive biennial production more multifaceted than the one before. Since 1986, the festival has been held annually and dedicated to a specific theme. The organizers are also constantly on the lookout for interesting new venues—indeed, the consistent effort to break out of the narrow confines of conventional conference rooms and artistic spaces, and to stage cultural and scientific encounters in the public sphere has become something of a trademark of Ars Electronica. Linz Harbor, a network of subterranean tunnels, a monastery and a tobacco processing plant have been among the settings of this festival that defines itself as a confrontation with prevailing circumstances and amidst them.
In 1979, the festival lineup was a short list: 20 artists and scientists. Three decades later, several hundred network nomads, theoreticians, artists and technologists from all over the world convene in Linz each year, and about 550 journalists and bloggers report from the Ars Electronica venue. Key contributors to the festival’s incomparable spirit are the approximately 35,000 annual visitors—a colorful mix of old friends and new faces.