Nica Heads are four 3D-printed heads for the otherwise headless Golden Nica, which is the award of the media art festival Ars Electronica. The award is one of the most important prices in the field of new media art and won by men in 9/10 cases. We propose heads for the statuette that are rather cyborg than goddess.
What are the histories of the Golden Nica and Nike of Samothrace and what futures can we imagine for them?
Can the concepts of queering and hybridity be used to model new heads for Nica?
- The Golden Nica is a miniature of the statue Nike of Samothrace. We did some research on both with a focus on discourses that emerge(d) around them.
Nike of Samothrace is a famous Hellenistic sculpture from ca. 190 BCE of the ancient Greek goddess of victory, Nike. She is sculpted in mid-flight and was created to honor a sea battle. The marble 244cm high piece is exhibited atop the Daru staircase at the Louvre in Paris, whose website states that it ‘was unearthed in 1863 on the small island of Samothrace in the northwest Aegean. It was discovered by Charles Champoiseau, French Vice-Consul to Adrianople (Turkey).’ In 2015, the Louvre permitted the production of two replicas of the statue on request of Eastern Macedonia to be exhibited at its original location and in Alexandroupolis.
A remaining question is what happened if the statue’s head was found on Samothrace: Would Nike of Samothrace be brought back to the island to be exhibited as a whole?
The Golden Nica, also called Prix Ars Electronica, is used as a yearly prize by the festival Ars Eletronica in Austria, Linz, since 1987. 2017 three Golden Nica have been awarded with 10.000€ each, and one, the u19 price for youths, with 5000€.
The statuettes are about 35cm high, made of wood and plated with gold. 2015 the hashtag #KissMyArs appeared on the social media platform Twitter: Media artists had found out that the award had been given to artists who identify as males in 9 out of 10 cases. This lead to discussions in which some argued that without knowing the number of submissions made by female artists one could not blame the Ars Electronica Jury for being biased, and others stated that the famous festival should address such issues and make immediate changes to their submission process and valuations of art.
- We discussed how the image of the female goddess is still used as a counter figure to patriarchal societies and how that image misses out that some people wish for a future that is not arranged by gender.
- A friend of ours personally knew winners of the award and asked them to send pictures so that we would better understand the actual diameters of the statuette. The dimensions of the Louvre’s Nike were accessible to us via their 3D model that we minimized and painted golden.
- Technically, we decided to use the 3D modeling software Blender and Meshmixer, a program with which users can mix already existing and/or self made 3D models. We began to search for heads on websites that offer free 3D models and very quickly ran into the problem that we only found an otherwise suitable (resolution, printability) head that looked Caucasian. To propose a head for a statuette that non-males rarely win stressed the importance of thinking about what and whom that head represents. We simplified the existing model and decided to design four heads with different proportions and characteristics.
- We mixed the four heads with different objects, some of them electronic waste, others plants or animal parts. We imagined that wherever Nike’s head may rest, beings and objects had conglomerated with it.
- Because we will publish the .stl data online so that everyone can 3D print the heads we decided to keep the manufacturing costs low and chose the material PLA in different colors.
try or catch
We published 3D renderings of the heads on Twitter and got a response by two of this year’s Ars Electronica’s winners. A printed version of one head will be directed to them via post.
The discourse around Ars Electronica’s policies has been going on since 2015 and many people, especially many great non-male media artists, have contributed to it by addressing the issue in mails to the festival, on social media, in newspapers and blogs. Only recently does Ars Electronica seem to induce strategies to highlight the work of female media artists.
As young artists, it troubles us to become part of an industry and scene that still does not appropriately address and deal with its discriminatory and/or ignorant practices. Speaker lineups of festivals, especially those discussing technologies like VR, are too often white and male only, a practice doing harm to all genders.
Nica Heads tries to point out that a prize, which is literally a woman without a head, is given to 10% of females only, by adding a head to it. For both Nike of Samothrace and the Golden Nica questions of ownership and power arise. Of course, a 3D printed head that everyone with access to a 3D printer can produce and everyone with basic 3D modeling skills can modify, cannot solve the state of an industry and scene, but we do hope that it encourages people to add to the discourse and position themselves.