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Art Insight #25: Martin Honzik

Director of Ars Electronica Festival

Martin Honzik is a man with tremendous energy. At any event, he does not lose his manner or smile, so a personage from Korea gave him a nickname, “Energizer.” Ars Electronica of Austria is an institution which is exploring the connection, harmony, and causality between the fields of art, technology, and society. With innovative, rapid, and eccentric ideas, the institution earned international fame in 30 years since it was established.

Ars Electronica believes that their own ideas influence our daily lives, and puts efforts to find the “humane factor” from the gravitations and the influence between the elements. At the center of the plan of Ars Electronica, there is the director, Martin Honzik.

Art thinking as a symbol for the courage to go beyond, to re-pair, to fail and to raise alternative questions in order to generate new answers. -Martin Honzik-

Q. We are now in the middle of 2017, a year with the big bang of significant international events of contemporary art including the 57th Venice Biennale, Documenta14, Sculpture Project Münster. What would be the special plan for Ars Electronica in 2017?

Well, our focus every year has been the same since the interception of Ars Electronica in 1979: ART, TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY. As a logical consequence, we are looking for the ART that originate at the interface of those different fields of research, its personalities, its ways of expression, its tools and instruments, its potential new markets and partners and certainly in general its role in a global society. This mission will be demonstrated through numerous international and national activities. Special focuses can be identified as the relationships between Art & Science or Art & Industry, just to highlight two out of many more.

Q. Every on-going project seems to be at the center of attention. How does Ars Electronica organize the plans and what are the impetuses? Moreover, how does Ars Electronica endeavor to differentiate itself from other institutions?

Being different to other institutions has never been our main aim. What makes us unique in general, rather than different to others, is the fact, that Ars Electronica is representing three hearts and souls in one institution – we are officially a CULTURAL, EDUCATIONAL and a SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH institution. This strong triangle opens new opportunities for artists. Ironically, the nature of the art that we are representing has not yet an official market in the classical sense of that term. To create new fields of art practice we successfully interlink ourselves with other professional areas and disciplines, to connect fantastic people from all working fields such as scientists, activists, innovators, pioneers, creators, citizen and many more to show the power and potential of art and art thinking professionals have to solve problems the entire society faces.

Q. Last fall, Ars Electronica Festival became an issue once more. What was the theme of the event and what did you focus on the most to support the theme in the planning process?

RACIAL ATOMS – AND THE ALCHEMIST OF OUR TIME was the topic of the last edition. The topic RADICAL ATOMS derives from the MIT Tangible Media Group and is the focus of MIT´s Prof Hiroshi Ishii’s research. The exhibition concentrates on the general attitude of how to understand smartness in thinking engineering and how to understand the item “smart-materials” in a multi-dimensional, medialized linked, digital world. The show included many prototypical concepts, thoughts and projects that are unique and turned the exhibition into a prototype itself.

Q. You have played an important role from the beginning of the VH AWARD, which is held by the Hyundai Motor Group. What’s special about the VH Award?

I gladly accepted it and feel really honored since I think the VH AWARD conception in general is set on an outstanding cutting edge position that embodies many good things in its DNA. The role of Hyundai Motor Group, as a company with ambitious goals, globally successful and at the same time deeply imbedded into the Korean culture, is exemplary in building a bridge between Korean media art and artists. VH AWARD offers artists not only the prize money, but moreover an amazing opportunity to expand their knowledge. Last year we successfully were able to make it happen, the winning artists were able to present themselves and VH AWARD as part of the Ars Electronica Festival in Austria in our very own specific organ the DEEP SPACE 8k. This step offered the immense opportunity to the artists to present their work on an international stage just like the Ars Electronica Festival.

Q. What are the criterions in selecting an artist or an art work as a central jury at the VH AWARD?

The jury acts in general similar to all other juries. It´s about excellence in the most holistic sense. As the award is not asking for finished art pieces it´s all about generating an understanding of whether the artist is in general capable of playing the “instrument”. Holistic in this context means, owning the right technical understanding of the entire environment of the “Vision Hall”. Understanding the sound and space in order to create an experience in the room is a challenge, a criteria and an opportunity.

Q. What are your thoughts on Korean Media Art? What would be the unique characteristics of Korean artists compared with the artists you have seen at the Ars Electronica?

From my personal experiences I think in Korea the interpretation of Media Art is mainly reduced to computer animation and at the same time the education to becoming a media artist in Korea focuses predominantly on animation as well. Thanks to the VH Award and its many submitters I now have a rather good insight into the Korean animation scene. The overall quality of the submitted works I was allowed to judge was outstandingly high and definitely on an equal level with the international animation scene. What I’ve found remarkably interesting in exclusively evaluating the national Korean proposals for the VH Award was, that every single project is dealing with specific questions and problems directly connected with the Korean culture and identity, keeping in account the current status in combination with its tradition and history and certainly with its future.

Q. Many people see the future of humanity, and the developed society through the projects of Ars Electronica. What kinds of studies do you do to suggest the key words of the future?

I do not have a single study with me - I just can reflect what I may experience every day in working together with art and artists, but also outside the art world. If you ask me for “key words” I would say – ART THINKING. Art thinking as a symbol for the courage to go beyond, to re-pair, to fail and to raise alternative questions in order to generate new answers. I think new approaches of thinking is something almost every genre of society needs – Art would just be the perfect catalyst.

Q. Please let us know what would be the personal aspiration as a leader of Ars Electronica and also as a global promoter.

That the diversity this world is representing is generally perceived as hope and not regarded with fear. That, as a global swarm, we understand the need of collaboration and stop abusing the planet that provides us with a solid ground and the resources for our daily life. A major wish and hope is that in the near future everybody has access to knowledge and education for everybody and everything else that keeps us on this planet. (nothing against a trip to mars) ■ with ARTINPOST

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Profile

Born in 1970, in Austria, Martin Honzik is an artist and the director of Ars Electronic Festival. He studied visual experimental design at Linz Art University, and received a master’s degree in culture and media management. Martin Honzik participated in ‘OK Center for Contemporary Art’ as one of the members, and joined Ars Electronica Futurelab in 2001. He has been the director of the Ars Electronic Festival since 2006.

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