Monica Studer / Christoph van den BergOpen Codes
ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany
With the »Open Codes. Living in Digital Worlds« exhibition, the ZKM | Karlsruhe is once again addressing the subject of digitalization and the recording of the world through the binary code.
There are two developments to thank for the all-encompassing digitalization of the world, which has caused disruptive technologies that revolutionise the historical industries and ways of life: the advancements of mathematics and physics. Since Newton, mathematical formulae have been defining the approach of physicists to the world. Noble Prize winner Eugene Wigner formulated this trend in 1960 in his essay »The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences«. The mathematical theories compelled physicists to prove the theoretical specifications by means of experiments – from James Clerk Maxwell to Peter Higgs.
Starting with empirical evidence of electromagnetic waves by Heinrich Hertz in 1886, physics has facilitated the development of wireless communication technology, which has also produced the mass media of telephone, radio, television and internet, among other things. These new communication and storage technologies have changed social life and culture in an unexpected way. The historical perceptions of politics, society, transportation and manners are in a phase of fundamental upheavals. These disruptive innovations that are produced ever more quickly by the advancements of the convergence of mathematics and physics and which are rapidly and radically changing our ways of life will be widely and critically examined in the exhibition.
With the exhibition, the ZKM tries to highlight the development of physics and mathematics of the last 300 years using documents, artefacts and art works. The contours of a digital philosophy and art are examined using works by artists, scientists and engineers. The current state of the most innovative, contemporary digital technology, from robotics to artificial intelligence, from sensor technology to bio design will be presented together with their social and political consequences.
The exhibition as a citizens’ laboratory – the participative museum
As a polyphonic and multipolar event, the exhibition will also be a laboratory. In the ZKM_Halls, digital technology will not only be presented – it will also be made useful in a multitude of ways. The »Open Codes« exhibition is the project of a museum of the future as a processually changing place of learning. Visitors become participants. They will no longer saunter through the exhibition halls of art work, like in a shopping mall, because it’s not for nothing that the word »gallery« is related to the word »galleria«, meaning such things as arcade, shopping arcade and ghost train.
In order to develop, digital artwork demands the participation of the public – the visitor as user. For this reason, the exhibition is designed like a lounge, in which visitors spend some time and can become engrossed in works with the help of digital technology – to the degree that they themselves are experimenting with it and acquiring knowledge in a playful manner. The museum thus becomes the citizens’ laboratory. Performative elements will make the previously bare setting of the museum into a place of action, transformation and design. The aim is to motivate a new visitor behaviour between concentration and amusement, between contemplation, immersion and exploration.