The traditional rituals of access to the world of art are irrelevant, and many no longer even bother to seek accreditation from the art establishment.

The scene is defined by self-reinventors and spin-offs who have acquired their softskills in direct dealings with the material or as byproducts of the media design institutes, most of which are oriented on the training of media workers. Its is rife with the massed potential of pros proceeding with self-assurance and possessing all the prerequisites and skills to really implement their own ideas and not just to provide content to fill the design vacuum of commercial software.

Once we stop regarding the Internet as nothing more than a technical form of communication and instead take it seriously as a social and cultural realm, then it becomes clear what gigantic dimensions the Internet as a design work-in-progress has - and that doesn't mean just screen and web design, but also design in the sense of putting something functional in place. The noble-minded withdrawal to art-immanent positions may appear to be an option to some, but this doesn't work as a basis upon which to design alternatives and potentially fruitful concepts, nor is it a suitable way to insure the role of contemporary art in social and cultural development.

The debates now raging in the humanities and the great moral discussions are being initiated and advanced directly by scientific - and hardly at all by artistic - inquiry. Science is upstaging art as far as the media spotlight is concerned, and thus also with respect to direct influence upon public opinion formation and the sociopolitical discourse.

The avant-gardiste principle of art striving to be a driving force and to impart momentum to the development of society as a whole has undergone a shift: science, pop culture and subcultural niches, business & entertainment, software engineering, etc. are the epicenters of the exciting current developments...

The question concerning the makers of art, however, will deal not only with those who create it, but also with those who manage it and make money off it. Branding and franchising as strategies of market positioning and market dominance, and the efforts to recontextualize and canonize media art in order to negotiate its return to the formal realm of art elicit great skepticism.

The inertia of traditional art institutions and the increasing privatization of the funding process of art are reinforcing the trend among a young generation of artists to establish their own platforms, collaborative undertakings, and business models, whereby the ongoing brain drain into the media and advertising industries threatens to soon leave the art world behind like a ghost town.

Let's take a look at the thing formerly known as art!

What once could have been subsumed under the heading of media art has since branched out into a multiplicity of new artistic genres, symbiotic forms whose definitions are rather more oriented on scientific and technical disciplines, on interface development and information architecture or on net culture and the lifestyle of gaming communities than on the isms of the artistic discourse. This development is being carried forward by individuals whose identity is bounded by the parameters artist, engineer, social worker and experience designer, and who act out of a clear understanding of its technological as well as its associated social and cultural aspects. Coders and hackers, open sourcers, circuit benders, who acquire mastery over technological components, ignore rules found in user's manuals, and who deploy devices and systems in ways unintended by those who market them, participate, with this analytical and critical processing, in the design of the way our world is now.

Art as a Test-Drive of the Future.

Ars Electronica 2001 sets out on the trajectory of this burst of creativity to track the scenes, sites and protagonists of the art of tomorrow. Experimental arrays by these protagonists are being developed further in order to provide these models and motifs of artistic activity with compatible forms of presentation that are capable of also stimulating suitable situations in which to encounter them. The scientific method of some projects plays just as integral a part in the whole as the proximity of others to experimental entertainment. The festival as an art institution functions as a transfer node, as a marketplace of ideas, processes and ways of working.


Gerfried Stocker
Director of Ars Electronica