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[Translate to English:] Kunstprogramm: ARTTEC @ AIT

Art and science


Since fall 2018, international artists have been broadening the perspective of AIT employees and guests under the name "ARTTEC at AIT". They show that art and science are not opposites, but complement each other in a fruitful way.

At first glance, art and science appear to be opposites. But on closer inspection, there are very many areas of overlap - art and science can therefore just as well be seen as complementary ways of looking at the world and its phenomena. Judith Fegerl is also of this conviction. For many years, the Viennese artist has been dealing with the subject of energy and its manifold manifestations and effects. In her artistic work, she wants to make it possible to experience the potential that lies in energy. "You can't see it, you can't hear it, and to a certain extent you can't feel it: nevertheless, electrical energy is the basis of our modern, technologized life - with everything that goes with it, from environmental issues to security of supply to energy conservation," Fegerl explains. She has been an artist-in-residence at the AIT for the past two years, working in particular with the Center for Energy.

Explosive discharge

Her most recent work is called "capture," for which she went to the AIT's high-voltage laboratory in the summer of the previous year, where electrical equipment is normally tested to ensure its safety. In it, the artist wanted to recreate the effect of lightning in nature: Within a few milliseconds, immensely powerful electrical currents (10,000 amperes and more) are discharged in the cloud towers, accompanied by bright glow phenomena and dull rumbling. The high energies released in the process - and why humans need to protect themselves against them - can be seen at the site of lightning strikes: In many cases, finger-thick tube-like structures made of melted and resolidified sand form in the ground as a result of local heating to up to 30,000 degrees. These so-called "flash tubes" or "fulgurites" can be several meters long - depending on the material - and branch out into fantastic shapes.

Fegerl brought a whole car full of materials for her work - various types of sand, some mixed with aggregates or fluxes such as potash or glaze, some filled into fireclay cartridges; in addition, lightning rods made of various metals taken from demolished apartment buildings in Vienna. Through all these materials, she chased artificial lightning bolts whose strength was comparable to those in nature - and they did their job: glass-like tubes of melted and resolidified sand formed in the sand. Artificial fulgurites had indeed been created in the AIT laboratory! Every single piece showed fantastic shapes in which the gigantic potential of lightning was inscribed.

Artwork from an artificial lightning

The energy of the artificial lightning partially melted the sand. After resolidification, so-called "fulgurites" (lightning tubes) were formed, which were subsequently cast in synthetic resin for stabilization.

Transition to other aggregate state

It was a similar story with the second work Fegerl tackled that day in the high-voltage lab: These focused in particular on man's attempt to tame this force of nature - using lightning conductors, which were now activated at AIT by an artificial lightning strike. As expected, the lightning rods deformed in the process and changed their material properties. "The material reorganized itself under the influence of energy," says Fegerl.

Electrography of chemical-physical processes

For Judith Fegerl, "capture" was the second project as artist-in-residence at the AIT. Previously, she had already realized the installation "reservoir" in the foyer of the AIT. Twelve copper and aluminum plates were placed in glass containers filled with salt water in the AIT foyer and electrically connected. After three months, the plates were removed, processed and hung in pairs on the wall: It became visible on them how the material has changed through the process of energy generation, how it has been partially consumed: The plates each show an individual pattern of fine, branching traces of corrosion, of green discolorations and white oxidative coatings in all imaginable nuances that the material energy has left in and on the metal.

Society and technology

The first artist-in-residence at AIT was Berlin-based mixed-media artist Chris Noelle. Under the title "Deceleration" he addressed the constant changes in society and technology with the help of spirography. Parallel to this, the video project ONE was realized: In a one-minute clip each, Chris Noelle interprets the research of the various centers of the AIT in an artistic way. The results of the previous art projects at the AIT are permanently exhibited in a "Wall of Fame" on the 1st floor of the AIT headquarters at Giefinggasse 4 in Vienna.

Complex dynamic systems

After the finale of the project "capture" with a (virtual) talk between Judith Fegerl, AIT managing director Wolfgang Knoll, the rector of the University of Applied Arts, Gerald Bast, and ARTTEC project manager Michael H. Hlava (moderator: Sarah Hellwagner, Agency art:phalanx, curator of the ARTTEC program), the "Artist-in-Residence" program now enters the next round: The Viennese artist duo Process Studio will cooperate with the Competence Unit Complex Dynamical Systems of the AIT Center for Vision, Automation & Control.


Since 2016, the ARTTEC art program at the Alpbach Technology Talks organized by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology has been demonstrating how many commonalities there are between art, technology and science. The AIT relies on the support of professionals - with partners such as Ars Electronica Linz, MAK - Museum of Applied Arts and the University of Applied Arts. In the fall of 2018, ARTTEC was also brought directly to the AIT - more precisely, to the foyer of the headquarters at Giefinggasse 4 in Vienna. Under the name ARTTEC at AIT, creative and interdisciplinary exhibitions with international artists broaden the perspective of employees and guests at the location.