Robot Dreams - Robot Dreams - AVL Cultural Foundation
38 - Robot Dreams
Art has long held up a lens to science and technology. It has even been a driving force behind scientific innovation. Science fiction writers and artists relish the potential that new scientific discoveries represent.
Named after the collection of short stories by author and biochemist Isaac Asimov, Robot Dreams was a contemporary art exhibition that took place at the Kunsthaus in Graz at the end of 2010. Part of the steirischer herbst festival, and supported by the AVL Cultural Foundation, artists were invited to create works that explored subjects such as cybernetics and artificial intelligence. And they were posed the question “where does contemporary technology stand?”
Artists such as Thomas Baumann, John Bock, Kirsty Boyle, John Kessler, Richard Kriesche, Nikolaus Passath and others explored these topics and more. A vast spectrum of perspectives challenged and excited visitors to the exhibition, which was organized in collaboration with the Tinguely Museum in Basel.
The AVL Cultural Foundation, together with AVL, started the international project “Connecting Passions” as an employee initiative. This initiative opens doors for artistic meetings – and unites the AVL community in a world-spanning creative adventure. So far, more than 300 employees from different departments and locations of AVL are participating in the project, forming not only a community but creating a catalog with countless photos by and for AVL employees. Photographer Toni Muhr takes individual pictures of the employees, each capturing their personalities, telling their stories and revealing their passions. The storyline is developed together with the participants. The result is a unique creative experience that travels the world and exhibits some of the pictures as part of the “Travelling Exhibition” initiative.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Helmut List Halle in Graz is the “Irvine Lab” – a newly equipped room for experimentation and the home of the “Irvine”, an electronic musical instrument. The instrument was created by the AVL Cultural Foundation together with inventor Andy Cavatorta and musician Tom Huber. As part of the Foundation’s “Artists in Residence” program, it will now be made available to artists in the form of the Irvine Lab. This gives all those interested in the Irvine the opportunity to explore the musical spectrum of the instrument in open lab sessions and to explore and try out new approaches. Musicians and composers can pursue their creative work in a pleasant atmosphere, engage in dialogue, get to know the instrument in new ways and find more ideas for its use.
Distil the essence of the AVL Cultural Foundation and you get art and science. And what could fulfil that description more than a musical group that combines traditional instruments with unique, digital, music-making devices?
Ivotion consists of the emotive guitar of Tom Huber, the delicate yet powerful voice of Ariane Roth, and the digital creations of Thomas Foster. Nyx, Tenori and Foster’s amazing cyber glove are the technologically exciting instruments which give an electronic twist to the music of Ivotion, setting them apart from other bands.
It seemed appropriate for the AVL Cultural Foundation to ask Ivotion to perform at a Helmut List Halle event in 2013. And when they appeared on stage, they added an extra digital dimension to the experience. Joined by video jockey Ma. K.as – part of Visualdrugstore – the Ivotion concert added cutting-edge digital projections to the show, completing an experience that truly married science and art.
Originally choreographed in 2005 by Darrel Toulon without music, ‘Winding’ is a tale of creativity and art, technology and human accomplishment. Performed on stage and in an AVL wind tunnel that can produce wind speeds of up to 120km/h, music by Gerhard Nierhaus and video installations by Herwig Baumgartner were added later to complete this revolutionary technology art performance, which was commissioned by AVL.
Illustrating the human struggle and the interaction of technology and emotion, the dancers pulled themselves along a rope against the force of the wind. This symbolic act represents themes such as success and perseverance and the endeavours of man through technology and mechanisation.
By employing videography and video projection, the performers are transformed into instrumental and technical elements of the overall performance. Like parts of a machine it poses questions about our relationship with technology – do we work with it, or are we part of it?
The Helmut List Halle was built around its acoustics. So it seemed apt that a performance of the electro-acoustic experience Poèmes Electroniques should take place in the Graz Venue.
Performed as an introduction to the Informal EU Council on Competitiveness conference in 2006, the innovative acoustic experience used samples of machines and instruments to make the most of the dynamic space within the Helmut List Halle. From sensual room acoustics to the sound of a diesel engine, and the alternating melodic patterns of an automatic piano, Poèmes Electroniques was an electro-acoustic concert that created an immersive soundscape that highlighted the musical possibilities of modern technology.
Mixing art and science, the suitably fitting Poèmes Electroniques also marked the close of the Conference on Space Safety.
The AVL Cultural Foundation and AVL France are joint members of FEDORA, an international non-profit organization that encourages innovation and creativity in Europe’s ballet and opera culture. The FEDORA network is made up of opera houses, festivals, ballet ensembles and associations in 25 countries. Its declared goal is to create a sustainable ecosystem between the cultural and economic sectors that will guarantee the future of opera and ballet. Thanks to their well-endowed awards in various categories, new plays can be supported and educational measures and digital art projects can be realized. The latest category – the FEDORA Digital Prize – supports future-oriented projects that bring productions on digital experimentation and digital performances to life in a completely new way, promote interdisciplinary dialogue and encourage the exchange of experiences of successful models. FEDORA not only celebrates new paths in the digital age as part of the cultural scene, the organization explicitly supports them.
In 2014, when an international team of multidisciplinary artists and technologists came together to collaborate for the second time, something wonderful took place. Combining different fields of science and art, including stage design, music, 3D computer graphics, lighting design and projection mapping art, the artists created an event that was an assault on the senses.
The Maplab three-day workshop, supported by the AVL Cultural Foundation, brought together experts, local artists and students studying for their masters degrees at the FH Joanneum university of applied sciences in Graz, Austria. Over three days, with the entire Helmut List Halle put at their disposal – including its technology and production team – they set about experimenting, planning, building, designing and creating. The result of this ongoing, ‘work-in-progress’ project was the Lenz Club Night – an evening that saw DJ’s in fancy dress performing in front of a three-dimensional projection wall that took its audience of dance music lovers on a journey through light and sound.
Since then the project has continued year after year, supported by the AVL Cultural Foundation, and with a different theme each time. Every year the results are exciting, dynamic, and groundbreaking.
The Irvine is a new type of electronic musical instrument created by inventor Andy Cavatorta, musician and producer Tom Huber and the AVL Cultural Foundation in 2017. Uniquely constructed around gallium phosphate crystals, which are used for measurements in engines, this analog synthesizer has written a piece of musical history. Since being invented, the instrument has undergone continuous improvements – in terms of technology, software and optics. By including musical talents, the Irvine project is now entering a new phase of development. It aims at experimenting with the unique sound of the Irvine and exploring further areas of application. The phase of artistic experimentation is initiated by composer and musician Rupert Huber: In his piece, Huber not only emphasizes the broad musical spectrum of the instrument but also demonstrates the many different possible applications. Another element in this new phase is the “Artists in Residence” program, in which artists explore the instrument’s full potential.
Researchers, scientists, engineers, artists and musicians all have similar traits. A clear vision, expertise and perseverance, accuracy, and a mastery of their craft. The AVL Cultural Foundation exists to celebrate these similarities, and in doing so promotes new artistic works that represent or echo these similarities between the arts and the sciences.
In 2007, the Graz, Austria, cultural scene was given the opportunity to see this philosophy at work even before the Foundation was born. Under the commanding leadership of conductor Valery Gergiev, the St. Petersburg-based Mariinsky Orchestra visited for a performance commemorating the 150th birthday of Russian composer Mikhail Iwanowitsch Glinka.
The evening opened to a performance of Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Ludmilla. The Mariinsky Orchestra concert was followed by a rendition of Dvorak’s cello concerto in B minor, accompanied by cellist Friedrich Kleinhapl. The evening was rounded off with Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony, bringing to an end of performance that sowed the seeds for more art and science-inspired performances and collaborations – ultimately leading to the birth of the AVL Cultural Foundation.
The AVL Cultural Foundation has a mission to bring science and art together, emphasizing the best of both worlds. It was with this in mind that the Helmut List Halle was built, employing cutting edge engineering techniques to create a venue with dynamic, adjustable acoustics, that could be altered to suit almost any type of performance. With such a marvel of architectural technology, it would be remiss not to make the most of it. So the AVL Cultural Foundation sought artists to exploit the acoustic prowess of this new venue.
Friedrich Kleinhapl is a celebrated Austro-Belgian cellist, considered among the best in the world by audiences and the international music press. Concentrating his energy and talent into his precise, innovative style results in captivated audiences and captivating sound. Who better to invite to the magical space of the Helmut List Halle?
Together with internationally acclaimed German pianist Andreas Woyke, Kleinhapl recorded a series of performances at the Graz concert hall. Initially the performances were conducted simply for the purpose of making the recordings. But in order to truly make the most of this marriage of captivating music and advanced acoustic engineering, audiences were invited to share the energy of the exuberance of the musicians performing in such a dynamic space. Five recordings were made: Brahms Sonatas and Songs (2005), Ludwig van Beethoven Sonaten (2008), Ludwig van Beethoven Sonaten II (2010), Pasión Tango (2014) and Felix Mendelssohn Sonatas & Songs (2015), so that music lovers could enjoy the experience wherever and whenever they wished.
The recordings reflect the impressive acoustic qualities of the venue, the audience response, and the mastery of two musicians performing at their best.
His instruments are legendary. Even three hundred years after his death, Antonio Stradivari’s fascination with sound, design and experimentation continues to transfix musicians and audiences all over the world.
In 2009, The AVL Cultural Foundation created Encounter with Stradivari in collaboration with the Nippon Music Foundation and the Salzburg Easter Festival. Together they brought together a dozen of the world’s finest musicians to create a classical music concert performed on Stradivari’s original instruments.
The near-perfect sound of the Stradivari instruments was complimented by the near-perfect acoustics of the Helmut List Halle. This was a marriage of the Stradivari’s masterful 17th Century craftsmanship and the high-tech engineering of 21st Century architecture.
Ten Stradivari instruments were loaned by the Nippon Music Foundation for the event, along with Archinto, a viola created by Stradivari in 1696, and loaned by London’s Royal Academy of Music.
Following the event in Graz, the ensemble of musicians and instruments performed just one more time, at Florence’s Galleria dell’Academia. It is unlikely that such a collection of iconic instruments will ever again perform in such a flawless acoustic environment as the Helmut List Halle, so the audience savoured the magic of the event.
With the precision and versatility of a scientist, piano artist Markus Schirmer is able to delight audiences around the world with his renditions of Beethoven’s works. Bringing a pure, delicate touch to Beethoven’s vigorous compositions, Schirmer understands the emotional impact of sound when delivered with dramatic intent.
With the support of the AVL Cultural Foundation, between 2005 and 2011 Schirmer recorded three albums of the maestro’s work in the near-perfect acoustics of the Helmut List Halle. The Markus Schirmer albums, Pictures & Reflections, Beethoven Vol. 2 and Beethoven Vol. 3 stand testament to the high-resolution acoustic magnificence of the venue, the genius of the composer, and the pure play of Schirmer, which is demonstrated on all three albums.