Gerfried Stocker: Creativity requires nurture

The Director of Ars Electronica brings up how artists are the experts we have in the human-technology encounter – but creativity can’t be used as a never-ending raw material.
stocker speech

During Aalto’s ceremony week this June, Gerfried Stocker was promoted as one of the honorary doctors of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture and held an open lecture about his career as an enabler and disseminator of the magic that is born from the synergies of artists and technologists around the world.

Stocker is a media artist and engineer in communication technology and since 1995 he has been the artistic and co-managing director of Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. The institute employs 190 people and is known for its most important activity, the Ars Electronica festival, held every September since the year 1979. The festival brings together international communities and artists who investigate the public realm through attractive events that reach out for all audience. 

Working in public spaces but also outside art spaces, Ars Electronica is experienced in collaborating with big companies. According to Stocker competing as a public institution against powerful companies, such as Intel, is hard. That is why Ars Electronica prefers to stick to its good ideas and own projects instead of chasing for the big success. It also provides companies consulting from a creative point of view:

“In the time that we are right now, most of the people, whether in governments or economy, are pretty much puzzled and don’t really know where to look or where to go because there are too many opportunities, too many problems. We need another approach: instead of looking and trying to narrow down [the solutions] we need ways to open up the number of perspectives”, Stocker says.

Gerfried Stocker lecture

According to Stocker a way to widen the perspectives would be to use artistic thinking as a method to open up to the possible directions, after which follows scientific thinking to narrow down the possibilities and to end up with solutions. Ars Electronica has been an enabler of interdisciplinary projects that bring together art and technology. Stocker says that the intersection between disciplines needs special dedication and catalytic energy for the cooperation to be successful:

“Interdisciplinarity doesn’t start with people asking what’s their part of the cake but people bringing the cake to the table. It seems banal but in reality it is quite difficult.”

Stocker highlights that the only experts there are in the human-machine encounter are the artists themselves. Still we’re looking at products a lot from the point of view of the technology and less from the human perspective. A fluent synergy between art and technology or design and science might not only bring solutions but more – inspiration, impact and new ideas.

“Many [people] don’t understand that creativity is a raw material – but not like coal, oil or others, that can be exhausted and dug out of the ground. Unfortunately it is one of the raw materials that one has to constantly nurture. If you don’t nurture the soil nothing happens. We should make sure that the money and expertise we gain from our projects ends up nurturing up the soil again.”

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