12:12 p.m. 8.Sep.99

Marisa Newman: The Dilettante at Ars Electronica

Tomorrow is my last day in Linz, Austria and, unfortunately, ends my visit to the Ars Electronica Festival. I found the past week an interesting and educational experience. To be quite honest, my digital/net art knowledge began a mere six weeks ago, I obviously took to it pretty quickly. As I do my last reporting here at Ars, I will discuss some of the difficulties I encountered as a neophyte in the field.

Yesterday, I went to see the Museum of the Future aka The Ars Electronic Center. I walked into the center and was greeted by two reknowned about pieces - Ken Goldberg's "Telegarden" and Ars Electronica Futurelab's "Telezone." I felt proud of myself that I had experienced them before as online artworks. It gave me the false security that the rest of the museum's exhibitions would be as familiar and accessible. I was sorely mistaken.

I walked up the stairwell to see a small vestibule with a person in a bicycle harness raised three feet above the floor. This person was enclosed in hard plastic casing and reaching out at nothing. I read the accompanying sign that described the installation. It was a virtual tour through the museum. Basically, one can go through the Ars Electronica Center suspended from the ceiling. I was about to try the virtual tour and give-up on the actual one, i.e. rest my feet, but the machine broke before my turn. I suppose I could use the exercise.

I went to the next floor and saw a lot of computers and large screens hung above them. Each table was surrounded by many kids. I could not get near enough to see what each piece did, but I did notice that I was in some virtual classroom. So, onto the next.

What was next? Oh, yes, I went to try this virtual reality game. I was supposed to place my pointer finger in a holder. The holder acted as a mouse for an animated red ball that was on the screen ahead. person I tried, and I was supposed to feel as if I were moving the multi-colored blocks. I felt nothing. I noticed it was broken and found a keypad and pressed "ctrl-alt-delete" twice to restart it. The image was gone and did not reappear. I moved on to the next floor.

I arrived at the cafe. It was a beautiful room with about six large circular tables in the center and a row of iMacs, in all the colors (of course). I decided to take a break from my exhausting and unsuccessful tour and order an Austrian version of the cafe latte. It was perfect. I regained energy to start all over again. This time, from the top down.