LAB 3: MARS - Media Arts ReSearch
© Fleischmann & Strauss ;
  • MARS Grid
    773 × 570
  • MARS TEAM ca 2001
    172 × 101
    1199 × 839
MARS—the Media Arts Research Studies at GMD (1995–2001) and at Fraunhofer (2001–2012)
The MARS - Exploratory Media Lab, initiated and directed by Monika Fleischmann and Wolfgang Strauss since 1997, designed and developed research prototypes, artistic projects, tools, interfaces and events intersecting art, science and technology.
The experimental research lab invented “tools for the art of tomorrow” in teams of architects, artists, designers, computer scientists, art and media scientists. They asked how people interact with technology and about life in a networked society such as how is “Living in Mixed Realities” and they designed future models of networked knowledge and communication spaces. The aim was to present artistic approaches to media technology, to promote media-theoretical and practical skills in art, culture and education, and to critically reflect on technological developments in terms of their impact on people and the environment. With its focus on integrating IT research and media art, the MARS research group was unique in Germany.

The MARS Lab started in 1997 with three long-term projects on interfaces and community:
The EU funded eRena—electronic arenas for art and entertainment (1997– 1999) explored various tracking techniques such as computer vision and electro field sensing. A multi-user camera tracking system for the stage space was developed for the networked performance installation Murmuring Fields (1997– 99), as well as a novel interface, the PointScreen for touchless navigation.
The BMBF funded CAT—Communication of Art & Technology (1998–2006) developed for and with the media art community, an online archive as a community platform for digital culture. This was preceded by the CAT feasibility study (1997–98), written with input from the international media art community.

The eCulture Factory financed by the Senate of Economy in Bremen (2005– 2008). The objective was to install a think tank by bringing people and labs together to create a digital culture of innovation in Bremen: Transfer of research results into the corporate sector.

At peak times, the MARS Lab consisted of more than 25 employees of different disciplines, nationalities and genders. Since the end of the 1990s, some employees have also been working at home in Berlin, Frankfurt, Zagreb or Trieste from time to time for conceptual or family reasons. For more than a decade, MARS has acted as a kind of experimental learning and teaching institution for digital media in Germany, when there were still hardly any degree programs in art colleges or universities.
MARS was one of four departments of the GMD Institute for Media Communi- cation with 240 employees. In 2001, the federal government decided to close the GMD, the German Research Center for Computer Science, with its basic research and to merge it with the Fraunhofer Organization for Applied Research. For reasons of efficiency, the former GMD Institute for Media Communication and the Institute for Artificial Intelligence were also merged under new management. At Fraunhofer, different standards apply to the acquisition of project funds. Orders from industry count above all. And although MARS, with public research funds, is one of the most successful departments financially and in terms of content and has received excel- lent international evaluations, it no longer fits in with the plans of the new institute management and was being wound up.

This marked the end of the national and international impact of a special research group on digital creativity. To prevent everything from ending up in the wastebasket, the artistic works and tools were given to the ZKM, where parts of them are repeatedly exhibited. One important work from this period is the platform, which has been documenting the history of creative digital work at universities in German-speaking countries for almost a decade.
Technology & Material
Exhibitions & Events