EXPO Dubai 2021

Sensual-artistic installations in the Austrian Pavilion at the 2021 World’s Fair

Nearly 200 nations are taking part in the first Expo ever to be held in an Arab country to present their visions of the future: with a one-year delay due to the Corona pandemic, the EXPO in Dubai opened its doors to the public in October 2021.

With its pavilion, Austria is not aiming for superlatives, but wants to combine tradition with modernity and set a practical example for sustainability. Under the slogan “Austria makes Sense,” Ars Electronica Solutions, bleed, querkraft and büro wien are conveying the message that sustainability is not merely a technological problem to be solved by engineers. It is a virtue that can only be achieved through social change. This change requires empathy for our environment and our surroundings. Commissioned by Ars Electronica Solutions, Garamantis had the opportunity to bring the pavilion’s interactive installations to life through software and exhibition control.

Ventilating air cooling concept

The Austrian Pavilion itself consists of several individual cones made of clay and cut at different heights to create differently sized openings for light and air. The result is a space flooded with natural daylight and cooled by the chimney effect of the cones. A large-scale projection illustrates how this cooling effect works in an artistic and playful way. Its dynamic visualisation “Airflow” translates the palpable movement of air into a visual representation – changing with the number, position and movements of the people present inside the clay cone.

Magical robot installation

The round table “The Magic of Sand” is a robotic installation. A steel ball moves in circles as if guided by a ghostly hand, drawing both complex and beautiful patterns in the sand. In addition, a scanning electron microscope provides a fascinating insight into the properties of this essential building material. The trajectory of the steel ball and the patterns drawn are contextually linked to Austria itself.

Collaborative installation brings together visitors from all over the world

The highlight of the Austrian pavilion, however, is the interactive installation “Heartbeat”. It makes it clear that despite all cultural, religious, ideological and ethnic differences, people have much more in common than what divides them. The visitor’s pulse is taken via a special interface and then used as input for a Chladni figure – drawn into the sand by the constant movement of a ball. What’s more, each visitor’s heartbeat is eternalised both in the archive and in its visual translation, reminiscent of a tree’s growth rings.

Standing inside the pavilion, two things are particularly striking: the virtual absence of monitors in the exhibition and the complete lack of explanatory texts. Austria does not want to present itself as a matter of numbers, graphs and facts, but rather wants to create an emotional and visual impression. Therefore, all content is conveyed through animation and pictograms that can be understood by everyone, regardless of language barriers.

Things get more concrete, however, in the “iLab”, an area adjacent to the exhibition space where 60 innovative Austrian companies present themselves and their businesses.

In short, this experiential space appeals to the senses of its visitors with a series of interactive and artistic installations that focus on the human user rather than the technology.

The photos were taken during the project’s roll-out and are courtesy of Ars Electronica Solutions, Sarah Katharina Photography

world EXPO Dubai

Ars Electronica Solutions

Project facts

  • Client: Ars Electronica Solutions
  • Context: EXPO Dubai 2021 – Austria Pavilion
  • Implementation time: 12 months
  • Finishing date: September 2021
  • central exhibition control
  • interactive wall projection
  • web-based CMS
  • custom software development
Michaela Fragner

With a cross-national and challenging project like the EXPO Dubai, having a reliable and dedicated partner like Garamantis at our side has been particularly important. Garamantis have again proven themselves as facilitators of a smooth implementation who always had innovative approaches to a solution up their sleeves. The installations were realized swiftly and rolled out in Dubai in several phases. My thanks go out to the entire team for their commitment, and I am looking forward to the next projects!

Michaela Fragner, Project Manager, Ars Electronica Solutions

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