Patchlab coming soon!

7 October 2021

New Cultural Worlds

We talk to founders and directors of the Patchlab festival (8–10 October) Elwira Wojtunik and Popesz Csaba Láng about the event and digital art in general.

Grzegorz Słącz: Last year’s edition of Patchlab touched on the social effects of the pandemic. Do the changes in our lives continue to affect the festival’s themes?
Elwira Wojtunik
: Yes, so much so that our motto this year is GAME OVER. On one hand the main stream of the event is dedicated to artistic games, and on the other we are noting the fact that as festival organisers we find ourselves in a completely new situation in terms of the functioning of cultural events, their perception and mechanisms of supporting them. For example, we must be ready to move the festival into the virtual space with little to no warning in the event of another lockdown. GAME OVER marks the closure of a certain chapter and stepping into a world in which digital culture – currently experiencing something of a boom – reaches for the treasure trove of topics and attracts greater attention than ever before.
Popesz Csaba Láng: GAME OVER also notes the fact that former rules are now long gone in fields such as the global economy and the natural world: our planet is turning away from us, as we can see here in Kraków, in Californian wildfires and the changing ecosystem in Siberia…

Patchlab’s audience is expanding, mainly to people familiar with the secrets of the digital world. What do you offer them?
First and foremost we want to show them the possibilities offered by such technologies, such as augmented reality. Last year we launched the mobile app presaging the 100th anniversary of the birth of Stanisław Lem: SOL.AR.IS allows users to invoke 3D objects inspired by the novel’s extraterrestrial intelligence and placing them in new spaces. Each object is accompanied by an excerpt from the book and sounds composed by the Iranian artist Ali Phi. Our contribution to the events of the Year of Lem includes a festival strand titled Lemosphere. It’s worth remembering that in one of the author’s theories, he depicted the universe as a game, so all these themes intertwine.
P.C.L.: Ali Phi has worked with the Arsenal Contemporary Art gallery in Toronto to prepare a special audiovisual project which will be launched on the PLAY KRAKÓW platform and presented at Hevre. Lemosphere also features the urban game E-LEM-ENTS based on The Star Diaries and held in the Old Town, and the project Messages to the Posthuman Earth at the Botanical Garden.

Powerful title!
Based on augmented reality technologies – combining audio and interactive elements – the project has been prepared by the British art collective Anagram, and we are implementing it jointly with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. The starting point is Stanisław Lem’s answer to the question posed by the US Department of Energy: how should we warn future generations on locations of nuclear waste? He suggested encoding the information in tree DNA…

What can we expect from the strand dedicated to artistic games?
The Potocki Palace presents artistic games serving as a tool of expression, a space for artistic intervention and a medium. They allow users to create audio and visual art and to reflect on the reality we are living in. We will see one of the first experimental games created by the maestro of videoart Bill Viola (The Night Journey), Lawrence Lek’s futuristic vision 2065 and the project How to Disappear by the Austrian collective Total Refusal based on experiences of army deserters. The artists explore unexpected aspects of computer games, including popular FPS: how to disappear, or what to do to avoid the fight while remaining in the virtual world.
P.C.L.: At last year’s festival, the collective presented an architectural tour of Manhattan in the popular game Tom Clancy’s The Division with their Operation Jane Walk.

The festival is ready for myriad variants of pandemic restrictions, although you hope to host the majority of events in front of a live audience…
We are planning online discussion panels and workshops – last year showed that this has the benefit of reaching far greater audiences. Tale of Tales, Łukasz Szalankiewicz, The Kissinger Twins and Weronika Lewandowska are just some of the experts and artists we will meet online. During the popular annual AV Night, the Galeria 360° at Hevre+1 presents three audiovisual projects by artists from Hungary, Poland and Austria.
P.C.L.: The festival closes on Sunday evening with two audiovisual concerts by Japanese artists at the Manggha Museum. Tatsuru Arai presents a multimedia opera, while Ryoichi Kurokawa showcases the spectacular power of nature taking over human creation – another reference to the GAME OVER theme and evidence that nature takes no time to reclaim places where humankind no longer intervenes.

Digital art is no longer a niche pursuit known only to a small group of followers – its elements are increasingly found in exhibitions, concerts and festivals including right here, in Kraków.
Yes, and we’re delighted! Just a decade ago many people thought that digital art is just computer games. It turns out they are just one outcome of artists reaching for the medium in their creative expression. This year we are also exploring games, but in a less obvious aspect.
E.W.: Issues concerning digital culture are now completely different than back in 2012 when we held the festival for the first time. The 10th Patchlab is taking place in a reality when digital art is developing rapidly and exists on the same level as other genres of contemporary art. We’re delighted since this has always been our goal, but we are also aiming to stay a step ahead…

Elwira Wojtunik
Artistic director of the Patchlab Digital Art Festival, curator of projects involving state-of-the-art technologies and designer of interactive experiences and art installations as one half of the artistic duo Elektro Moon Vision. Winner of a Ministry of Culture and National Heritage grant in the Visual Arts category (2020), Creative Grant of the City of Kraków in the Digital Culture category (2019) and the Artist-in-Residence programme at MuseumsQuartier in Vienna (2010). Member of the jury at events including SIGGRAPH Asia (2020), International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in South Korea (2019) and Art Vision Contest Circle of Light in Moscow. As an artist, she has participated in numerous international digital art events in New York, Tehran, Venice, Athens and Berlin.

Popesz Csaba Láng
Executive director and expert in new technologies at the Patchlab Digital Art Festival, new media artist, programmer, developer of innovations and solutions using state-of-the-art technologies, and creator of large-scale multimedia events and interactive installations as one half of the Elektro Moon Vision art duo.

The text was published in the 3/2021 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.



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