The final part of the 3D3 Residential was a visit to Ars Electronica, an international arts, science and technology exhibition. It is huge and occupies several sites across the city of Linz.
Linz is set on the Danube and we loved watching the large ferries waddling along the fat river in the sunshine with names like Mozart, wondering where they’d come from and where they’d stop off at next. We took a very comfortable speedy train from Vienna across the Austrian countryside and within an hour and a half had arrived in Linz. The weather was hot and we felt a bit hot and grubby but walked from the train station to the old post office buildings where the main part of the exhibition was held.
If we felt grubby already the post office site was grubbier still with rather lovely blue shoots which letters and parcels would have fallen down when it was up and running, swirling along the concrete rooms. We queued up to get our passes and found a table to have some coffee. There was so much to see. The space was divided up by theme with various organisations and institutions exhibiting. There were spaces for performances, talks and workshops.
Slightly dazed we wandered around. There was a particularly lovely installation by Akiko Nakayama called Alive Painting where you were invited to mix up some paints and then deposit the mixture into a paper filter which dripped into a glass bottle. As the paints separated so did the colours and you were left with these filters of rings of colour. Really clever.
The problem with seeing lots of clever art is that it doesn’t half make you feel a bit stupid, especially when its also quite hot and humid. From robotic plants, to 3d concrete printing there was absolutely everything under the sun.
What I reflected upon the most however was the way the work was displayed. Text was minimal, the works, visual, interactive, experimental, were left to speak for themselves. Items were displayed with little pomp and there were no signs of the white cube, the hushed gallery space. Everything was industrial and grubby (despite the organisers attempts to green it up with plants placed everywhere. But this did truly offer an insight into ‘practice as research’. Here is the research, in front of you. You can experience it, touch it sometimes and see it working and the ideas spilling out. There were no journals or peer reviewing (well that was what you were doing by visiting) but if you wanted an example of research out of the academy then Ars Electronica is a good one. Its perhaps a little masculine, and there were outcries about the awards mainly going to men, but a lot of the academic world is very masculine so that’s not something that felt particularly out of place (although not something I champion either).
In terms of textiles, colour and my own research, I felt a bit other. There were some beautifully constructed 3d printed dresses and materials which were fabric orientated, but weave and constructed textiles don’t feel like my field of expertise. I connected more with the Museum Quarter exhibitions in that respect. But this visit took me out of my comfort zone, showed me how practice as research could be and was also a lot of fun.