eCulture Convention Explores Intersection of Art and Digital Technologies

14 October 2021

Bringing artists and HPC experts together could promote new kinds of creativity and support economic development in the culture industry.

Technologies such as simulation, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and data visualization have steadily been transforming the arts and culture industries. From theater to music to sculpture to the visual arts, computational methods now inspire and enable artists to produce new kinds of artworks. The results often make science and technology more accessible, present data in ways that are more understandable and facilitate critical perspectives, or dazzle audiences by creating experiences that would be impossible to achieve using other methods.  

On September 15-17, 2021, HLRS and the Media Solution Center Baden-Württemberg (MSC) hosted a convention focused on this emerging "eCulture." The gathering, titled The Economic and Cultural Impacts of the Digital Age, was designed to facilitate an exchange of ideas related to recent trends in art, culture, and the economy and provoke reflection on what new opportunities they offer for research at the intersection of digital technologies and the arts.  

The Media Solution Center was co-founded by HLRS in 2018 to address a growing need in the media arts industry for large-scale computing resources and expertise in high-performance computing. Since then, the MSC has steadily built a network of artists and cultural organizations interested in exploring this new territory, facilitating collaboration with scientists and engineers who can provide the technical expertise to help realize their visions. To date, this includes 40 organizations located in 10 countries that are united by a vision in which cooperation between artists and scientists can enrich both worlds. The number of MSC members continues to grow.

Photo of performance by La Fura dels Baus

At the convention, Javier Iglesias Garcia (Fundación Èpica) and Pep Gatell (La Fura dels Baus), related how Barcelona-based performance troupe La Fura dels Baus evolved over the last 40 years by using new technologies in its spectacular productions. Photo: Fundación Èpica.

The eCulture convention for the first time brought together many protagonists within the MSC network, and provided convention attendees the chance to discover state-of-the-art applications of computing technologies in the arts and culture industry. Presentations at the event fell into three general categories. In the first, speakers demonstrated examples of recent innovative projects in which artists and cultural institutions have experimented with and applied new applications of digital technologies. In the second, cultural managers and researchers of the culture industry discussed how cultural innovation can promote wider economic success, as well as model programs for uniting the arts and sciences that are sustainable and impactful. A third category of talks also explored philosophical and ethical questions concerning the growing influence of new technologies that have attracted interest within the media arts and society at large, particularly artificial intelligence.  

"The diverse talks and the discussions that took place at the eCulture convention made it clear that creativity will be an essential part of future economic prosperity," said Media Solution Center General Manager Matthias Hauser, organizer of the event. "It is also clear that multidisciplinary networking and collaboration will be necessary to realize this potential in Europe. MSC, by connecting the art and media communities with computing resources and expertise at HLRS, is well positioned to help build these bridges."

The convention also marked the announcement of several new initiatives being organized by the Media Solution Center. This included a Research and Creation Center for Computational Based Art, Culture, and Economy, which will support young creators by introducing them to high-tech tools and connecting them with companies that can help them realize their ideas. Other upcoming MSC-led programs include a new CreativeLab, an Advanced School for the Computational Culture, and an Observatory of eCulture aimed at gathering, analyzing, and publicizing news and information from around the field. Rollout of these programs is planned over the coming years.  

Christopher Williams