Curatorial Statement




Karolina Radenkovic, Bernhard Maurer, Manuela Naveau

For years, the TEI has been dedicated to presenting the latest results in the field of Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction. But what if interaction between digital and physical space is not object- or material-centred, but process- and relationship-oriented? With whom, what and, above all, how do we actually interact? And what do we gain or lose through a process-oriented focus? Here, the exhibition “Intangible Losses” strives for a change of perspective in dealing with invisible forms of interaction and communication.

It was in 2016 that Ars Electronica Linz explored the theme “Radical Atoms and the alchemists of our time” with the scope of a festival. There, it presented those who, like alchemists of our time, create new forms of interfaces, because: It is the artists, scientists and technologists who try to connect the untouchable digital with our physical reality.

The point of significance that can be attributed to Hiroshi Ishii and his Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab when it comes to Radical Atoms is thinking in terms of dynamics. Flexible materials on the border between the body and digital space are constantly changing. Based on models from nature, natural processes are often set in motion within synthetic processes, mostly by means of minimal inputs from the environment or surroundings. The conventional understanding of human-computer interaction was thus expanded by to include an important component, namely that of “dynamic materials”.

Even if Ishii succeeded in reaching a milestone here, the interface as an (dynamic) object continues to be thematized as a border. However, if we look at the latest works and presentations from the emerging artistic generation, the up-and-coming designers and creative scientists who submitted their works to TEI, we as the jury recognised a special feature that more or less abandons the object-like nature of the interface and its previous attributions and allows interactivity and communication to be recognised in a larger context, namely that of the relationship-describing process. It is no longer just a matter of objects being created that possibly serve as an aid or stepping stone into a world of bits and bytes, no, the boundary is now in a completely different place and the world itself becomes the interface. IoT (Internet of Things) would be too short-sighted here, since it is less about the things or objects themselves than about the processually connected relationships between people and their environment, people and nature or phenomena of the natural sciences. The authors thus reflect processes that are nurtured in times of climate change, a cultural and social transformation of our world and a pandemic that takes our breath away.

The exhibition “Intangible Losses“ questions the dissolution of object-like interfaces and presents the current tendencies of emerging artists, scientists and technologists who are rethinking interfaces at the boundaries of art, design, the sciences and technology. Tangible/Intangible Interfaces, Embedded/Non-embedded Interfaces or Embodied/Disembodied Interfaces are no longer the central focus, as these are primarily attributions that can be traced back to our bodies. But what happens when bodies dissolve? When we begin to understand thoughts without bodies? The body as a prosthesis for the mind? “Intangible Losses” strives here for a change of perspective in the examination of invisible forms of interaction and communication and understands these as social acts of participation and the exchange of information.

“Although there may be no outside that we can know, there is a limit.”(Nancy Katherine Hayles 1993)

“Our bodies hear, call and remember. Bacteria, algae, fungi, plants and animals likewise make their presence known and perceive the environment, each in its own way; no organism can survive without an exchange of energy, but neither can it survive without an exchange of information. Even before man, communication characterises the living as an open system…” (Michel Serres, 2002)