The Next Ecology: Arts and Technology Come Together in Istanbul

Half a world away, the arts and technology communities are coming together this week to explore what organizersare calling the “Next Ecology,” a new framework which looks at the power and possibilities of technology and interprets the impact it has had on politics, production, consumption and art, viewed through stunning works of art, exhibits, events and workshops over a week-long period.

The international Amber Art and Technology Festival kicks off this Friday in Istanbul, and runs through November 13th. Currently in its fifth year, the festival has examined a different issue at the intersection of arts and technology since the inaugural event in 2007. Gaining in popularity, the festival has attracted hundreds of artists, researchers and fans interested in the growing intersection and importance of the arts and technology fields.

The social unrest, natural disasters and economic uncertainty that have dominated the news this year provide a sort of backdrop to this year’s festival. Due in part to this economic and political uncertainty, the festival is calling for a “new conceptualization of ecology for the environment we live in.” This new conceptualization, the organizers point out, does not exist without today’s technology.

This theme of the 2011 festival is what the organizers are calling the “Next Ecology.” With our environment and technology constantly changing around us, the organizers believe that the world has not sufficiently understood the dramatic changes that have taken place, nor have we acknowledged the results or effects of these changes. In their opinion, we need to “reconsider all the paradigms we rely on: nature, bodies, economics, politics, environment and communication. In sum, we need a new framework.”

This new framework, called the “Next Ecology,” is described in the following way:

“We believe that we need a new holistic ecology which internalizes the transformative power and possibilities of technology and covers all aspects of possible relations among the living and non-living surroundings.”

More than just an art show, the festival will seek to explain and promote this new framework through several means. The new kind of ecology will be showcased visually, as dozens of top artists have been selected from around the world to showcase their works to festival attendees. The works that have been produced by these artists use new forms of technology as a means of expression.

Some of the exhibits include Microfields, an interactive video installation that allows the user to explore an imaginary constructed city system; Germinal, an interactive new media art project that explores the connection between digital codification of seeds, their respective transformation as crops, and then as food when entering the commercial distribution market; and finally, a selection of films will be shown from Le Fresnoy that showcases the Next Ecology framework.

Along with dozens of exhibits, the festival will also feature several workshops that showcase different technologies. Several of the workshops will focus on programming and data software packages; another will feature live animation and cartoon-like visuals that attendees can participate in.

One of the overarching goals of the festival is for attendees to view the “Next Ecology” as a paradigm shift in the way we view the world. The festival “calls on artists to interpret the life forms, production and consumption patterns and politics of next ecology from the vantage point of arts and technology.”

Above all, the festival is a way for the arts community to come together under one banner and provide a venue to facilitate new ideas and embrace evolving technologies, all through the lens of artistic expression. The festival has presented and put forth some unique ideas in years past: the 2010 festival, titled “Datacity,” looked at the trend of increasing urbanization through the arts; this year’s festival is sure to be just as unique and inspiring.

Even though we will be half a world away from the festivities this year, the artwork and ideas that come out of the Amber Art and Technology Festival this year are sure to be captivating and thought-provoking. And while we will not be able to attend the festivities, we certainly look forward to the ideas that will be produced through this unique and idiosyncratic festival.