The 2014 Ars Electronica Festival is set for September 4-8. This year’s theme is “C … what it takes to change,” an inquiry into the prerequisites and framework conditions necessary to enable social innovation and renewal to emerge and make an impact. The focus will be on art as catalyst. The in-depth elaborations, lively discussions and bold provocations will feature, as usual, artists, scholars and scientists from all over the world—renowned intellectuals confronted by young contrarians, top experts encountering interested laypersons, the pioneers of the Digital Revolution face to face with the shooting stars of today’s media art scene. From September 4th to 8th, Ars Electronica will once again be a setting for reciprocal exchange and networking, a one-of-a-kind forum in which perspectives and opinions are negotiated and presented in the form of speeches, artistic installations, performances and interventions. It will be taking place at multiple locations throughout the city, in established artistic venues and public spaces alike.
C… what it takes to change, Ars Electronica 2014
Knowledge, creativity, ideas: the raw materials of the future. Yeah, OK, granted! This undeniable insight has been making the rounds for quite a while now, and opinion leaders in politics and business are only too eager to hop on the bandwagon. Everyone’s for creativity, everybody calls for a better trained staff, and all want to profit from new ideas.
So far, so good! But who’s prepared to contribute to this? Who understands that these raw materials don’t have to be depleted, they have to be maximized; that they can’t be harvested, they can only be invested?
Only when we grasp the workings of the ecosystem of creativity and innovation, when we respect it and provide it with sufficient nourishment, only then can we hope to profit from it.
Creativity and innovation don’t just appear out of the blue, and they resist being conjured up, no matter how clever the design thinking and strategic innovation management methods implemented to bring them forth. Interdisciplinarity can’t mean that lots of people share the same pie and everybody gets a slice; rather, that together they bake a cake into which everyone has input a piece. Common knowledge? Of course it is! But then again, maybe you need to spend some time chatting with CEOs, R&D execs, marketing directors, cultural managers and policymakers.
So then, what is this going to take and what do we have to do? What’s actually more important: trying some new approaches or heading off in a completely new direction?
Open spaces, settings for encounter and exchange, surprises and inspirations, the experience of making, designing and developing things on one’s own, the courage to fail, the fun of sharing one’s own ideas with others.
the fun of sharing one’s own ideas with others. Artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, leading-edge thinkers, imitators and tweakers, mavericks and team players, malcontents and co-conspirators, tinkerers and dreamers, all of us …
… or is it just an illusion to even think we can change the shape of things to come?
The C in the title of Ars Electronica 2014 stands for confidence and for the craving for change, but also for creativity, for collaboration and for catalysts.
When the aim is to initiate a chemical reaction, energy has to be added to the equation. But sometimes that’s not enough and what’s additionally called for is a catalyst, a material that makes it easier for the elements that are supposed to interact to engage one another and launch something new. To put this in concrete terms: a catalyst reduces the amount of free energy necessary for a reaction to occur without itself being consumed in the process.
And come to think of it, isn’t this a terrific description of the impact that art can bring to bear on social transformation and renewal projects?
Artists as catalysts—a concept that’s worth considering more thoroughly.
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