We are glad to release our interview to Patchlab Festival! The 2020 edition was without doubts the most challenging one ever.
We asked a few questions to Elwira Wojtunik and Popesz Csaba Láng, respectively director and program manager of the audiovisual event based in Krakow.
The organizers pulled off an interesting hybrid edition, fully leveraging the latest generation digital tools. And here goes our interview to Patchlab Festival!
1. PATCHLAB FESTIVAL HAS BEEN FOUNDED BACK IN 2012. IT IS NOW A REFERENCE IN THE INTERNATIONAL GENERATIVE ARTS PANORAMA. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CONCEPTS AND GOALS THAT DROVE YOU TO THE INCEPTION OF THE FESTIVAL?
E.W.: Indeed, Patchlab Festival has happened annually since 2012, after 2 years of organising Share:Krakow – a local unit of a global organisation dedicated to supporting collaboration and knowledge exchange in new media communities.
Those were crazy times full of passion! Organising space for experimenting with digital tools, gathering with people experimenting with digital instruments, plugging in and playing.
Then we organised the 1st and 2nd edition of the festival that happened under the name of Patch: audio_visual_lab with a great support of our partners from the AVnode network.
Back then, new technologies and digital art were quite underground issues in Poland, compared to now, so it wasn’t easy to convince institutions and partners to support such a unique, niche event.
But we made it happen! During these 9 years we managed to build an internationally recognised platform. We showcase and research on one of the most rapidly developing areas of contemporary art: digital art based on the latest technologies and creative coding.
Patchlab festival is a space for meetings and discussions with the creators, experts and public. We have focused on the roles and impact that digital technology has on our everyday lives.
We explored its future developments, its multi-dimensionality, its interrelations with the artistic processes. They change rapidly and bring new possibilities and challenges, as the technology evolves.
2. THIS YEAR YOU DECIDED TO PROPOSE A HYBRID EDITION AS A RESPONSE TO THE CURRENT PANDEMIC CRISIS. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE CHALLENGES AND THE OPPORTUNITIES OF UTILIZING DIGITAL TOOLS TO ALLOW THE AUDIENCE TO VIRTUALLY PARTICIPATE?
E.W.: Due to the pandemic we had to find an alternative format compared to the past festival years. Most of the cultural events moved to the internet. But after some time people got tired of the meetings and events provided online. Mostly via Zoom.
Moreover this form of social connection became so overwhelming in every aspect of our life. Therefore attracting the attention of the public online became quite a challenge.
We have decided to experiment and diversify the program to provide the festival content in hybrid form. The digital world of the internet is a natural environment for digital art. Hence it was obvious for us that it was an opportunity to use alternative ways to reach the public internationally.
We had the chance to bring art to the users at the time they chose. We incorporated the program in a different digital format. Anyone was able to participate live online simply by entering the webpage, but also in Augmented and Virtual Reality. Via mobile phones or VR goggles at any chosen time and space.
The festival webpage was specially designed for this purpose – the exhibition of over 28 artworks was (and still is until the end of 2020!) presented online in 5 virtual rooms.
Among them, the Salon AR hosted audiovisual artworks created by e.g. Ryoichi Kurokawa or Monocolor that could be experienced in Augmented Reality.
In the Salon Virtual Ambient you could experience interactive online installations, 360° animations and immerse in surreal VR video collages.
arc/sec Lab exhibition room, built in Mozilla Hub, allows you to choose your own avatar to explore four kinetic light installations in 1:1 scale created at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
We allocated two studios for the multimedia artworks created by students from the Multimedia Studio of the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology in Warsaw and the Intermedia Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow.
This edition aimed at connecting with artists in different places around the globe. That is why we presented a 2 hours live set from Berlin by German duo INSTANT, and a round-table discussion about the roles of the new technologies during the pandemic, and its impact on our everyday lives.
The audience participated also in a virtual narrative performance: Operation Jane Walk, a dystopian video game space, carried out live straight from Vienna.
Performers from the Total Refusal collective hijacked the digital wargame environment, exploring the possibilities (and impossibilities) of new media technologies, while walking around a digital representation of New York.
We also developed something out of the box to create art projects as mobile applications: the app SOL.AR.IS, inspired by the great sci-fi novel written by Stanislaw Lem and Krakow ARtour.
SOL.AR.IS is an extraordinary project that offers an interaction in real time through AR technology with ephemeral animated 3D objects. Those are inspired by the fantastic phenomena described in the book: creations of the cytoplasmic, intelligent ocean that covers the planet Solaris – mimoids, symmetries or asymmetries.
The project was created in cooperation with CGI artists from Japan, Hungary, New Zealand, Germany and Iran. It’s still accessible for everyone, despite the place and time – downloadable for free from the App Store and Google Play.
During the pandemic, walking has become the most popular physical activity. Thus we designed the mobile application Krakow ARtour for people in Krakow, using Augmented Reality technology.
The application turns a regular walk into a multi-layered journey following the trail of the 20th century architecture of the Krakow Old Town. It allows you to discover unknown stories set in the context of a sustainable future.
P.C.L. For these two applications we used the SDK – newest set of tools offered by Google and Apple – AR Core and AR Kit accordingly, which are compatible with the latest smartphones.
There are still more than 300 types of phones available, but hopefully sooner or later these technological gaps will disappear and these new solutions will be achievable for all spectators without limits.
AR is still a relatively new technology. Surprisingly, most of the artists we invited have never had any experience with it. Therefore they were all very satisfied to get acquainted with a new possibility of presenting their artworks.
In order to showcase AR artworks at the Salon AR we designed the third application – PatchlabAR, available for all phones and tablets. We wanted to create it as simple as possible, so everybody could present their artworks at the Salon AR and augment their reality.
E.W.: The pandemic showed the great potential of digital tools. The internet and technology pushed the digital revolution further.
The new situation also showed that Patchlab program might be available for a much wider audience around the world. And not only during the time of the festival, but for much longer.
That’s why we decided to give access to the online content until the end of 2020. This is one of the aspects that wouldn’t be possible to accomplish while organising it in a regular form, physically in Krakow.
3. NOWADAYS DATA HAS OVERWHELMINGLY PERMEATED EVERY ASPECTS OF OUR DAILY LIFE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CREATIVE CODING AND GENERATIVE AUDIOVISUAL ARTS IN THIS HYPER-DIGITALIZED SOCIETY WE LIVE IN?
E.W.: Creative coding translates the world of computers and code into everyday experience. It is one of the most comprehensive and dynamically developing disciplines of contemporary art.
Thus it results in a wide spectrum of artistic activities. The community of artists using code as their medium is constantly growing, expanding our sense of what is possible with digital tools.
That’s why creative coding has an amazing role in creativity that cannot be underestimate. It opens extraordinary possibilities of artistic expression.
Open source philosophy plays a very important role. The open source platforms encourage growth and experimentation. They support a rich community of creators that share their strategies and work with unprecedented openness.
That demonstrates how artists use technology in new ways, originating innovations and new experiences that actually influence the future, changing many aspects of our world. That fosters a greater awareness of the fast changing world that we live in, also regarding the means and directions of these changes.
P.C.L.: Nowadays big corporations continuously push their products to the global market. These hardware quite often have pre-installed software and firmware but usually producers do not have time to create something ad-hoc for them.
And here come the digital artists. They hack and crack these tools using their own codes to achieve something meaningful and eye glowing, out of the mass production.
Comparing the early 2000s, today these products are accessible almost to everyone. The only limit is often just our imagination. Two perfect examples are Raspberry Pi and Arduino.
Hardware are getting stronger and faster, while the price is getting lower. Both use open source systems as codes are shared online. I dare to say that’s the best way to start your experience with expressing yourself by code.
4. THE 9TH EDITION FEATURES THE THEME “CONNECTED”. CONNECTED BY THE INTERNET AND BY THE PANDEMIC. CAN YOU GIVE US SOME INSIGHTS ON THE DECISIONAL PROCESS YOU UNDERTOOK TO SELECT THIS PARTICULAR THEME?
E.W.: The theme CONNECTED refers mainly to two global aspects. The replacement of social contacts through the internet and the impulse to think about the common public spaces, cultural events and everyday life with and after the virus.
Due to the pandemic the world is undergoing an accelerated digital revolution. it is happening in front of our eyes. The Internet has become our primary channels of communication as never before.
Imagine the pandemic hit us 20 years ago. There wouldn’t have been such global access to the Internet or even no Internet at all! That situation would have been much more difficult for everybody. The pandemic appeared as a an external impulse. It made us develop pre-existing solutions and raise the digital competences, within the contemporary society.
There is also another aspect of this topic. The reliable connection we have with our partners, who we share common values with.
We joined forces with Athens Digital Art Festival, arc/sec Lab of the Auckland University in New Zealand or Digital Cultures among others, to create an intensive program, supporting each other in these difficult times for art and culture.
P.C.L.: A nice and positive example of how pandemic connected people is the Folding movement, which resulted in the creation of the most powerful supercomputer on the planet.
After installing the software you can share the free capacity of your computer’s processors to speed up the mapping process of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 DNA, causing COVID-19 illness.
Hundreds of thousands people around the world gave access to their computer processors. They connected and raised computing capacity, letting the researchers work faster towards the common goal, through this super globally connected power.
5. IN 2018 THE THEME WAS “ARTBOTS”, WHERE YOU REFLECTED ABOUT CREATIVITY AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. IN 2019 YOU CHOSE “REALITIES” AND YOU REFLECTED UPON THE DIGITAL WORLDS PARALLELY GROWING TO OUR ENDANGERED PLANET.
WHAT IS THE CONCEPTUAL LINK THAT CONNECTS THE LAST THREE YEARS EDITIONS? HOW DID THE SOCIETY AND ARTS SCENE EVOLVED ACCORDINGLY?
E.W.: Each edition focused on a certain topic of the wide spectrum of the artistic activities that explore the creative potential of machines, algorithms, programming. Therefore each edition of Patchlab festival incorporated key phenomena in contemporary culture and art, including VR, AR, AI, hacking and digital identities.
Artificial intelligence algorithms, reality and simulations, AR, VR, interaction and collaboration between human and machine, the technologies that have a strong impact on our lives and the world we live in now and in the near future. These have always been urging topics for us, since the beginning of the festival.
The world is changing very fast in front of our eyes. Every year there are new improvements, new fascinating technologies that are instantly taken over by creatives and artists.
New technologies play also important roles in enhancing productivity and raising sustainability, such as the efforts to use AI and carbon removal technologies to fight climate change.
Raising awareness of urgent climate issues and acting for significant prompt change should be highly important to every human being. Hence it’s natural for us to implement these topics into the program. We show that digital art as well can make us think about the complexity of the ecology and how to act in alternative ways.
6. THE AUDIOVISUAL EVENT REACHED ITS 9TH EDITION THIS YEAR. TO WRAP UP OUR INTERVIEW TO PATCHLAB FESTIVAL WE WOULD LIKE TO ASK:
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE 10TH EDITION NEXT YEAR? AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEAREST TECHNOLOGICAL FUTURE?
P.C.L. So many aspects can change the future, that we can easily fantasize about the future of digital technologies. The forthcoming 5G and Elan Musk’s StarLink will change the internet in the next few years. In the same ways as it has evolved from the 70s until today.
The Internet of Things will create a better global network, expanding the playground for the digital artists. Big Data, Bioart, AI will become more common. Art as well will become more accessible to the audience.
We are going to leave our beloved friends, the smart phones, forever. We will be using HoloLens or similar Mixed Reality devices, where all the calculations will be made in cloud systems, on a supercomputer. The rest will be just displays and terminals to access the network.
E.W. The pandemic year showed enormous growth in the video games industry among others. In the previous editions we already considered some aspects of the valuable creations developed in this significant discipline of digital culture.
Next year we prepare for the 10th edition and we plan to dedicate part of the festival program to creative video games and the interventions in the virtual space. In 2021 Poland will celebrate the 100th birthday of the great sci-fi writer, Stanislaw Lem.
We would like to grace this year by continuing the development of the SOL.AR.IS art mobile app with new content inspired by the creatures of the intelligent ocean described in the Solaris novel. Additionally for this great occasion, we are preparing an interactive AR city game that will be designed together with invited artists.
In the hope that next year the restrictions will be lifted, we are also planning an on-line strategy. It worked great this year as it allowed us to reach a wide audience and to give access to the program for a much longer time.
I would like to emphasize that the Patchlab Festival remains CONNECTED until the end of the year. There is still time to dive into digital art programs online for those who missed it!
We hoped you enjoyed our interview to Patchlab Festival. We are definitely looking forward to the next year edition. As always, Stay Tuned!