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The House of Electronic Arts Basel reopens its doors

A few days ago, the Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel (House of Electronic Arts) inaugurated its new premises with a three-day festival of drones, music performances, immersive data explorations and giant mushrooms.

HeK space is a cultural center dedicated to the new art forms of the information age. The programme is as sleek and geek as its buildings but its spirit is critical and inquisitive. HeK takes technology out of consumer culture and looks at its more meaningful, socially-engaged or aesthetic uses.

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Ryoji Ikeda

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The first show in the programme is a solo of Ryoji Ikeda, an artist and musician whose immersive installations and sculptural works give data a tangible physical presence.

The entrance space is all luminous, white and empty except for a speaker on the wall. The sound emitted by the directional speaker can be perceived at one point only in the room. You can walk through the space 10 times and never notice it. Or you might stop at the exact spot of the sound and be able to listen to it.

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Ryoji Ikeda, Untitled, 2014. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

The main exhibition space, made of pure blackout and pure data, is the exact opposite. The data.tron projection drowns you into pixels of image composed from a combination of pure mathematics and various sets of data that define and control our world.

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Ryoji Ikeda, data.tron, 2008. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

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Ryoji Ikeda, data.tron, 2008. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

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Ryoji Ikeda, data.tron, 2008. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

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Ryoji Ikeda, data.tron, 2008. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

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Ryoji Ikeda, data.tron, 2008. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

Nine monitors across the room form data.scan, a more intimate installation that continues the artist's exploration of data. The work presents an audio-visual relationship relating to large sets of data from two recent meta-scientific investigations that have mapped the human body and the astronomical universe. The horizontal field of the monitor-based data.scan is registered intimately in relation to the viewer's body.

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Ryoji Ikeda, data.scan, 2014. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

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Ryoji Ikeda, data.scan, 2014. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel


Ryoji Ikeda, data.scan [nº1-9]

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Ryoji Ikeda, systematics, 2012. Photograph: Franz Wamhof. Copyright: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel

The opening weekend also involved a performance of REMOTEWORDS by Achim Mohné and Uta Kopp. The duo painted BILD ≠ KUNST (image ≠ art) in huge red letters on the rooftop of HeK and used a small semi-professional drone to show us what it looked like from above. Over the past few years, Knopp and Mohné have painted similar permanent texts around the world, waiting for satellite image tools such as Google Earth to update their images and visualize the messages for everyone to read. 


The text of this one, BILD ≠ KUNST, is a reference to the book "The Myth Of Media Art" by philosopher and art historian Hans Ulrich Reck. His wording mirrors the paradigmatic shift in the meaning of images by digital media. Images no longer stand solitarily at the center of art but are defined by artistic strategies. The House of electronic Arts, Basel (HeK) stands symptomatically for this relationship between (electronic) image and art, a relationship that is subject to constant change.

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There's actually quite a lot of rooftop action at HeK...

Huge mushrooms are sprouting on its roof. Titled, A Band of floating Mushrooms, the artwork is a 6.5 meters high group of music-making mushrooms by Monica Studer and Christoph van den Berg. If you want to listen to the sound randomly generated by the sculpture while you're at HeK, just ask for a set of headphones. Or just click this way.

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The wires so noticeably attached to the mushrooms (they are not functional) made me realize that you see no wire nor trace of technological structure at Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel. There's just you and the artworks.

But HeK is more than just an exhibition space. Its strong education programme makes it a place for media literacy and critical analysis of technologies. When i visited the space for the inauguration, there was a workshop to build robots for kids and another one to create photos using yeast. In the coming month, the team will organise workshops to learn Processing, build a mobile charger powered by bikes and make theremin instruments.

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Workshop with viennese artists group Pavillon_35 during the opening weekend of HeK. Image: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel)

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Robot workshop with Karl Heinz Jeron. Image: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel)

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Robot workshop with Karl Heinz Jeron. Image: HeK (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel)

The Ryoji Ikeda show remains open until 29 Mars 2015.

Other events coming up at Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel:
December 04, 2014 and January 22, 2015: Screensaver like Ikeda, Processing Workshop for adults; December 7, BitBadge Christmas Workshop; February 22, 2015: Do it Yourself Workshop „DIY Ikeda", 8Bit-mixTape Workshop for children, adults and professionals.

Photos of the opening at HeK flickr album and mine but it contains all sorts of Basel images.