The theme of Repair for this year’s Ars Electronica festival was apropos, as the festival moved to the Tabakfabrik, a former cigarette factory and sprawling complex of buildings that was churning out cartons of Marlboros as recently as last year. The smell of tobacco was still heavy in the air, and evidence of the factory’s work continued to linger: ear plugs still available in dispensers, pneumatic tube carriers still sitting in baskets, and boxes emblazoned with cigarette logos being used as exhibition design material. The factory, which is a protected historic landmark, is beautiful and perhaps deserved a Golden Nica of its own -- for best representation of the festival theme.
Form+Code: In Design, Art, and Architecture is an ambitious new text that investigates the creative exploration of software across numerous disciplines. A collaborative venture between artists Casey Reas, Chandler McWilliams and the graphic design studio LUST, the book presents both a succinct history of computational design and an indexed guidebook of strategies and approaches. Form+Code fundamentally differs from more traditional, tutorial-based books on creative coding by delving into precise contextualizations of the origins of various tangents within software art. The scope of these nuanced discussions is both sweeping and extensive. For example, within the space of six pages, the authors examine the computer as a drawing instrument starting with Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad proto-CAD workflow (1963), then turn to advances within various proprietary applications, which opens up into a discussion about digital representation and fabrication. Form+Code is full of these compact histories, and each is tastefully illustrated with related contemporary projects and (sometimes surprising) precedents and predecessors. Op-artist Bridget Riley’s Polarity (1964) sits in a spread beside Martin Wattenberg’s music visualization The Shape of Song (2001), highlighting the similarities in the graphic language of luminaries from two distinct generations.
The first physical art work that you encounter when entering “Trust: Media City Seoul,” the sixth edition of Korea’s international media arts biennial, is Willem de Rooij’s Bouquet VII, a collaboration with local florist Kim Da Ra. A large-scale spherical gathering of blossoms in various hues of pink stands on a pedestal, resembling a centerpiece at an upscale wedding or a museum benefit party. The floral arrangement seamlessly integrates natural and synthetic flowers, blurring the boundary between the real and the artificial. Innocuous and timeless, this work sets the tone for this year’s Media City, an exhibition that eschews the embrace of new technologies in visual art in favor of a return to more traditional media and a broader definition of the term “media” itself. Bouquet VII also subtly introduces a method utilized by many of the artists in the exhibition: the conflation of fiction and reality.