The time for art and tech innovation to meet has well and truly come, says the successful Russian businessman and art expert who came up with the idea of this hackathon – which will be organized by Pioneers Discover and VC Artevents. New business models have long been overlooked on the cultural scene. Yet the need to look ahead and embrace new tech is as pressing in the arts as it is in industries such as Fintech or engineering, where hackathons have long been understood as critical to long-term competitivity.
“Radical change is already there,” says Aksenov of the challenges facing galleries, concert halls, festivals, art fairs, museums and even entire cities. “If you don’t see it then you’re dead already.”
“Cultural institutions are all experiencing diminishing funding and disruption of existing models. The most popular video on YouTube this summer collected over 3 billion views – that’s what culture is facing! Institutions have to think about how they can fit into this. The answers to next week’s hackathon challenges will help promote their products but also to gain revenue.”
The VC CultTech Hackathon challenges have been issued by such players as the Vienna State Opera (‘How do we enhance customer experience?), the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum (‘How can we improve the ticketing and purchasing process for art institutions’) , the Wiener Festwochen (‘How can you communicate the programme of the festival in a new way?’) and viennacontemporary (‘How to guide the decision making process of various target groups?) . Startups will work to solve these and other problems on September 20-21, the hackathon running in parallel with the annual viennacontemporary art fair.
“In practical terms there hasn’t been much interaction between culture and technology,” explains Aksenov, who will sit on the panel of judges that picks the overall winner from all the startup solutions at the hackathon. “At VC Artevents we had knowledge of both technology and culture, so we decided to take on this specific sector. We decided we wanted to create challenges and test the water. So we invented the name ‘CultTech’ and set up the hackathon.
“There are tons of great cultural institutions in Vienna, and we chose to work with the ones with both a need for new models and the competence to allow us to establish a dialogue with them. It’s difficult to talk to someone about Blockchain, if they don’t really know why they need it.”
And all of this comes not a moment too soon, because both challenges and opportunities are on the rise when it comes to culture. With the inevitable automation of society and work that lies ahead, Aksenov believes that art is about to play a bigger part in our lives than ever before.
“My belief is that culture will be the winner from ‘digital destruction’. Productivity will be such that everyone will be able to have a nice car, a nice phone and a nice apartment relatively easy. But how to make life more inspiring? Culture! There’ll be much more demand for culture because basically people will have more free time. And that means more opportunity for new models.”
“We’re very interested to see a technology we think can become a game-changer. We want to develop an ecosystem, investing in the future in that way, but at the same time we are also ready to invest in a specific startup that can make money. For us, art is both passion and business. It’s beautiful and useful at the same time.”
Aksenov believes Vienna is the ideal place not only to host the novelty of an arts hackathon, but also to become a global CultTech hub.
“Vienna has a great cultural structure and institutions, along with a very educated and sophisticated culture-consuming audience. I believe it’s the perfect place to consolidate all the innovations in culture and become a cultural Davos.
“One of the reasons viennacontemporary has been really successful is that Vienna is a strong brand in culture. 100 years ago it was the capital of culture, and now it is in a unique position to become that again. This is a window of opportunity.”
Technology is already being excitedly embraced when it comes to performance itself. For example, Abba have just announced a ‘virtual and live experience’ for 2019. Institutions will need robust new models to survive and ensure that these wonders can continue to reach their audiences. Next week’s hackathon is the first step on that path.