A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Field Trip

Ars Electronica

Students exhibit at the famed art and technology festival in Linz, Austria

by Jason Foumberg (MA 2006)

Changyeob (C.Y.) Ok (MFA 2018), The One that Shatters in the Air, 2018, microcontroller, electronics, fiber optics, and LEDs
Changyeob (C.Y.) Ok (MFA 2018), The One that Shatters in the Air, 2018, microcontroller, electronics, fiber optics, and LEDs

The Museum of the Future in Linz, Austria, is a capital of digital art. Last September when SAIC became the first US art and design school invited to exhibit at its prestigious annual Ars Electronica festival, a handful of recent graduates from the Art and Technology Studies department leapt to debut their hi-tech works halfway around the world. The exhibit’s curator, Duncan Bass (third-year graduate student in the Dual MA program) chuckles as he remembers lugging hundreds of pounds of computers, projectors, and technical equipment on the three-hour train ride from Munich.

Bass brought together the work of six recent students for Disruptive Generation, an exhibit in the fest’s Campus section alongside peers from London and Beijing academies. Bass’ theme was double-edged, he said, celebrating technology’s potential to “transcend bodily, societal, or terrestrial shortcomings,” while also criticizing its omnipresent role in our daily lives.

The students responded to the dark exhibition theme by producing glowing light sculptures. A standout was The One that Shatters in the Air by C.Y. Ok (MFA 2018), where hundreds of loose fiber optics dangled from a ceiling to evoke the unseen realm of electrons. Ok developed his work while an artist-in-residence at the Fermilab in Illinois.

Li Yao (MFA 2018) Bunker, 2018, virtual reality
Li Yao (MFA 2018), Bunker, 2018, virtual reality

“They gave me a dimly lit room in a giant bunker to show my work,” recalls Santiago X (MFA 2018). The industrial setting allowed him “to contemplate a post-human world.” For THE RETURN (o:lači okhiča), he illuminated a gallery corner to magically appear as a sky portal. A soundtrack of the artist’s young daughter speaking her native language brought visitors back to Earth.

The rest of the week, X explored the fest’s digital art labyrinths. “I felt at home there,” he said. Student Ziv Ze’Ev Cohen (MFA 2018) agrees, “It’s the best place to be. It’s the summit.”

This summer, in celebration of the Department of Art and Technology Studies’ 50th anniversary, SAIC again sent a group of students to exhibit at Ars Electronica.