Architects, artists and engineers collaborate in cyberspace

The Digital Research Hub at the University of Auckland has co-ordinated a digital exhibition space as part of the international Ars Electronica art and technology festival, which can be visited by anyone in the world with a computer and a good internet connection.

The Ars Electronica Garden Aotearoa , a virtual gallery that connects to virtual galleries in 120 locations around the world.

In usual pre-pandemic circumstances, Ars Electronica is an arts and technology festival held every year in Linz, Austria, where they have a large exhibition space and a permanent facility in the city. It attracts upwards of 100,000 visitors over five days.

The festival receives contributions from all over the world and the overarching purpose is to explore where art, technology and society meet and overlap. In June and in response to the global pandemic the physical festival was dispersed to 120 'Gardens' around the world and connected through three dimensional digital exhibition spaces, which are facilitated by the Mozilla Hubs online platform.

This includes the New Zealand exhibition, Ars Electronica Garden Aotearoa New Zealand, co-ordinated by Uwe Rieger, who heads the arc/sec Laboratory for Cross Reality Architecture and Interactive Systems, based at the University’s School of Architecture and Planning. Garden Aotearoa will investigate the connections between art, technology and society in a New Zealand context, and features projects from around New Zealand from architects, engineers, bioengineers, technicians, artists, performers and more.

Associate Professor Rieger has participated in Ars Electronica in Austria in the last three years. “Ars Electronica is the biggest and the most influential most well-known media festival in the world,” he says.

This will be more than the usual online digital platform experience, he says. “You will become an avatar, and you will be able to meet other people from around the world in the same gallery, and if you're close enough to them, you're able to talk to them as well. So it’s a really special experience.”

Think of it as a global network of galleries, in cyberspace. “You can enter the Aotearoa Hub in New Zealand, meet a visitor from Prague, and walk together over to Tokyo, and onto New York.”

Kōrero Paki takes five key moments from Maori creation tradition and transforms them into 3D holographic sculptures displayed on personal hand-held device: arc/sec Lab and Manaia M
Jammify: Interactive light display system for impromptu digital art jamming. A collaborative international work, including the Augmented Human Lab, ABI.

Visitors to the New Zealand gallery, Garden Aotearoa, will be taken, to cultural sites and through extraordinary landscapes. It also provides tours through workshops and research facilities such as the New Dexterity research group at the University's Department of Mechanical Engineering,  and DARA (Digital Architecture Research Alliance) at Victoria University of Wellington. 

Garden Aotearoa is a chance to showcase the creative and emerging technology scene of the South Pacific, says Rieger. “But Ars Electronica also brings these new technologies into the realm of tangible, allowing visitors to explore the potential of emerging technologies in a live and immersive way.

“It’s essential to be able to have this kind of live experience, to really understand what these new technologies offer. The exhibition also explores the impact of these technologies, on our ecology, our society.”

He notes that Auckland Live was going to sponsor a hybrid physical and digital festival at the Aotea Centre, before Covid-19 put an end to their plans. “But we’re extremely grateful for their support, and hope that we will be able to work together on such a project next year.”

For access to the Ars Electronica and Garden Aotearoa New Zealand, programme schedule, and information on contributing technologists, artists and researchers visit The exhibition will be live 9-13 September. 

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