A colorful mix of workshops, do-it-yourself projects, games, leading-edge technologies and, amidst it all, an exhibition of the prizewinners in the Prix Ars Electronica’s u19 category—that’s CREATE YOUR WORLD, the future festival of the next generation. As always, it’s embedded with the larger Ars Electronica Festival, and extends an invitation to kids as well as grown-ups to do research, get hands-on experience, make discoveries and be amazed.
We met with Hans Christian Merten, head of CREATE YOUR WORLD, to learn more about what awaits us in September.
Hans Christian Merten. Credit: Tom Mesic
CREATE YOUR WORLD encompasses a wide array of projects. What’s the story behind the name?
Hans Christian Merten: CREATE YOUR WORLD (CYW)now has three primary components. The first is the Prix Ars Electronica’s u19 category to which Austrian youngsters can submit projects of all sorts. The second is the CYW Festival, which is a sort of “festival within the Festival” at Ars Electronica. And since 2015, there’s also the CREATE YOUR WORLD Tour that takes Festival and Prix projects on the road to schools in the region. The primary aim here is to bring a CREATE YOUR WORLD spirit into everyday life at school but also to deliver outside input into classroom instruction. That’s the third division, whereby the three mutually enrich each other substantively.
Credit: Tom Mesic
What happens at the CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival?
Hans Christian Merten: It’s a sort of experimental facility at the Ars Electronica Festival. The target audience is youngsters since they’re the ones who’ll really be using these new technologies in a future society. We pose a question to these kids: How do you imagine the world of tomorrow? And we make an effort to take their answers seriously. This is the context in which we produce the CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival. On the other hand, we also invite grown-ups who are into experimentation to experience the world from the perspective of young people. The centerpiece of the festival is the u19 exhibition—that is, the prizewinners in the Prix Ars Electronica’s u19 category.
Credit: Tom Mesic
So you’re saying that the CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival isn’t only conceived for kids?
Hans Christian Merten: Not at all; it’s open to everyone from 3 to 107. CREATE YOUR WORLD is the future festival of the next generation. We place great importance on age groups intermingling at our festival. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense to ask young people about their ideas if adults didn’t take them seriously.
The 2017 theme is “perspectives.” How will that manifest itself in POSTCITY?
Hans Christian Merten: Just as the Ars Electronica Festival has an annual theme—artificial intelligence this year—the CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival also has its own area of emphasis each year. This time, we gave some thought to the question: What different perspectives does artificial intelligence have? So this time around, the accent is on perspectives, and we’re shedding light on this theme with a variety of projects. On one hand, this has to do with what affects human beings individually—what are the prospects in life of people, of young people? Secondly, we’re inquiring with regards to artificial intelligence: How much weight does that have in our future prospects? So we’re regarding perspectives/prospects in very plastic terms. We’re inviting visitors to consider: How would a machine see life? How do human beings come across to machines? The third perspective we’re working with is the very clear point of view in a spatial context. For example, there are anamorphosis projects in which various artistic contours are drawn into the existing structure of POSTCITY and out of which, from a particular point of view, a three-dimensional object develops.
The youth encounter project also has to do with perspectives …
Hans Christian Merten: Our basis idea was a sort of perspective machine, which is now playing a part in the youth encounter project, which is being led by New York artist Joseph Herscher. At the festival, he’ll be getting together with 20 young people from five European countries and constructing a complete analog machine. This Unintelligent Machine will be a conglomerate of various everyday objects that trigger each other mechanically, whereby the trigger and the end product, the issue and the solution, will be repeatedly realigned. The path will be the destination. At this point, we’re all used to getting answers very quickly when we want to know something; we’ve already internalized Google et al. We quickly become impatient. Together with Joseph Herscher, we want to assume a different perspective, which means that we’re inviting young people to produce things that seem to be totally senseless, but that actually achieve the same result.
What are the highlights of this year’s CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival?
Hans Christian Merten: This year, we’re organizing a series of workshops jointly with BFI Oberösterreich [regional occupational training facility] that will definitely be a highlight. This project also constitutes a perspective—i.e. sustainable future career prospects. We’ll stage five workshops to provide individual counseling to young people who don’t seem to fit in to the existing system. The young people take part in this voluntarily and design their own project for the CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival. They’re already hard at work on self-driving toy cars, they’re doing programming, and are strongly committed even though they have scant knowledge or skills in this area.
At every CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival, visitors can try out the latest technologies. What can we get hands-on experience with this year?
Hans Christian Merten: Once again this year, we have lots of different gaming projects. Radio station FM4 will be represented by a Twitch program that youngsters can make themselves right at the festival—for example, Let’sPlays. And there’ll be CoderDojo Linz again for kids to program their own computer games. An incredibly inspired group from Bad Leonfelden High School will be back to present a computer game they programmed in conjunction with classroom instruction.
We have various projects related to robots and artificial intelligence. A very playful example is Tinkerbots, robots featuring a RECORD button that makes it easy to instruct the robot how it’s supposed to move. The robotic system registers the movement and can repeat it exactly.
Once again, we’ll offer a FabLab with equipment like a laser cutter. Visitors can come by with their ideas, create their projects right on the spot, and take the finished products home with them. Microsoft will be coming to the festival with their new Hololens and presenting the Holodeck project. There’s also a new space at the Ars Electronica Center dedicated to virtual reality, so that’s a really good fit.
Hans Christian Merten has headed Ars Electronica’s u19 – CREATE YOUR WORLD division since 2013. He studied audio technology & design in Vienna and completed various programs at Bruckner University in Linz. From 2002 to 2010, he taught at the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences’ Hagenberg Campus (media technology & design) and at the High School for Communication and Media in Freistadt. 2010-13, he served as artistic director of the multiple-prizewinning festival “kult – das neue Mühlfestival” in Freistadt. Since 2005, he’s been a freelance artist and director of the Music for Film & Media project studio in Gutau, Upper Austria.
The CREATE YOUR WORLD Festival takes place during the Ars Electronica Festival September 7-11, 2017 in POSTCITY Linz. To learn more about the festival, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al., subscribe to our newsletter and visit our website at https://www.aec.at/ai/en/.