Ars Electronica visit

March 16, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz, Austria with a view to working with them in our MediaCityUK activity.

Ars Electronica started life as an electronic arts festival and has expanded rapidly since building a dedicated centre with exhibition space, public engagement and research activity. The model used for their research – that of putting together trans-disciplinary teams that can bring unique solutions to problem – is one that is core to research at our new building at MediaCityUK and ahead of our opening in autumn this year it seemed a good time to talk.

Colleagues at the University such as Paul Sermon and Matthias Fuchs already have links with the centre, Paul having been awarded the Prix Ars Electronica “Golden Nica”in 1991 and contributed other installations since. It seems there’s a bunch of other stuff they do that crosses over into our research at University of Salford too. Take Deep Space. Deep SpaceDeep Space is an enormous visualisation facility – it is has a 16m x 9m 8K projected wall for a a screen together with floor projection. Some of the visualisations in here are just stunning. watch  Scaling The Universe for a nice example and imagine what it looks like when the universe is in the room with you. Full 3D interaction (via an iPod) with a visualisation of the universe populated with every known star is something special. The installation has been combined with live music performance and is used for both exhibition and education.  Some of my colleagues at Salford work on our Octave visualisation facility which is a full 360 degree display but you couldn’t get 120 people into it to demo your work! Some of the research work carried out makes for excellent examples of how a team incorporating scientists, technologists, psychologists and artists can develop much more effective and intuitive interfaces between people and technology.

terminal light control

Passers by can plug mp3 players into a terminal on the riverside and their music will control the LED facade of the Ars Electronica Centre

The building itself is impressive, all glass and an interesting angular shape, it’s facade is lit by colour changing LEDs and, true to Ars Electronicas community facing remit, a terminal has been installed by the riverside. Passers by can plug mp3 players into a terminal on the riverside and their music will control the LED facade of the Ars Electronica Centre, touching the screen can transfer a visualisation of your pulse onto the building wall.

Ars Electronica Showcase Transmediale 2010 shows some of the work the team are creating there.

We will be welcoming visitors from the centre to Salford in a few weeks to talk more about how we can collaborate and interesting (and fun) stuff we can do.

Sometimes I really like my job



  1. Amazing center. thank you for introducing it to us..wish I was there also.

  2. Thanks for the comment – I was hugely impressed as you can tell 🙂 We’re going to be working with them at MediaCityUK too so some of their ‘interesting stuff’ will find its way to Salford I’m sure.

  3. Sounds awesome Ben – great video too. What about the hands/mirrors? What’s going on there?

    • I wondered too till I turned around. The hands rotate and move independently, there’s a really bright spotlight shining on them and if you look behind you about 20m away each mirror reflects a spot of light onto the wall. The hands are programmed so that the spots move in a semi-random way but with a shoaling instinct so the light spots move around the wall like fish. Cool.

  4. Great return visit from Horst, the Ars Electronica FutureLab Director last week. It sounds like there are going to be a number of collaborative activities between Ars Electronica and University of Salford at MediaCityUK over the next few years. I can’t wait. Things are going to be very different and a lot of fun when we open our new building, not least because of the partnerships we are building as part of the project.

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