Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Hipsters: Do You Know The Way To San Jose's Zero One Digital Arts Festival? Our Very Own SXSW...

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 15, 2008

The biennial San Jose digital arts festival Zero One is coming up June 4 to 8. The first one was in 2006 and did quite well with lots of people, mostly locals coming to gaze at some stunning urban art installations. And 2008 is shaping up to be even more interesting.

[BTW here is a taste of the 2006 festival. Silicon Valley Watcher was there for part of it. Lucaso is your host.]


The goal of the festival is to change people's perception of San Jose by establishing a festival that showcases digital arts and that will one day rank alongside Sundance and Austin's South by South West festivals. "Those festivals took 20 years and we're just starting," said Steve Diez, creative director of Zero One.

The city of San Jose is keen to change the perception that it is a dull town. It has tried to revitalize its downtown center many times with redevelopment, and by encouraging a night life with theater and clubs, but with mixed results.

The downtown area is very pleasant, with broad pedestrian areas, There are some nice restaurants, and the weather is good for much of the year. Plus there are cultural attractions such as the impressive Tech Museum and a good modern art museum.

But despite the broad boulevards and the warm evenings this isn't a West Coast Paris. It closes down very early.

After the office workers leave, the downtown area is sparsely populated with a few street people and some suits from local conventions. Locals don't venture into San Jose that much for entertainment, which is a shame because it is a nice space and it is one of the safest cities in the Bay Area.

With a budget of about $1.8 million, of which $1.5 million comes from sponsors such as Adobe and Cisco Systems, the Zero One festival will again this year, seek to change people's impression of San Jose.

For this year's festival Zero One hired branding agency Liquid.

Liquid came up with new look for the festival's branding. So that when you think of San Jose you should think of "a hip and techno-centric city."

The 2006 festival featured a flock of pigeons with cell phones, and the pigeon was a prominent image used in the 2006 festival publicity.

Liquid dismissed the pigeon and went for a look that is far less hippy and far more hipster:

2006: ZER01_2.jpg
2008: ZER01_3.jpg


Liquid also uses 01SJ to designate Zero One and the tag line is - a global festival of art on the edge.

Will clever marketing change San Jose into a hipster destination? No, it'll be the work of people such as Steve Dietz, the creative director, to bring in the right artists, performers, and film makers.

"We learned a lot from the feedback in 2006. Things were spread out quite a bit so this year we have concentrated on fewer events but with much more focus. So for example, Friday night we've got lots of outdoor music events and with DJs flown in from Spain. You'll want to be on First Street on Friday. Every day there will be a focus on a specific part of San Jose."

There will also be a contribution from the Burning Man organization. "It'll be interesting to see a Burning Man installation in an urban setting," said Mr Dietz.

The annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert typically commissions huge art installations. Here is one, a 30 foot tall mother and child sculpture created by a friend of mine, Rebecca Kaplan and her colleagues. It was the star of the 2005 Burning Man festival. In 2007 it was shown in San Francisco on the Embarcadero, with the Bay Bridge in the background.

motherchildsf.jpg

Zero One commissions many of its arts installations. "Our goal is to change the perception people have of San Jose by providing them with a remarkable experience through the use of technology in compelling ways."

That's not easy but that's the promise. I thought it was very good in 2006 and 2008 is looking even better.

Here is a very small taste of what you'll see at this year's 01SJ:

One exhibit is Superlight.

Steve Dietz explains:

The future will undoubtedly have a significant technological quotient. It must also have an ethical framework. The supercharged collision between innovation, the way things are now, and an irrepressible need to re-imagine what matters next is what compels the artists in Superlight.

The artists in Superlight lighten but do not make light of the seemingly intractable problems facing us. They use the tools at hand, especially contemporary technology, popular culture, and the hybrid, virtual reality that we increasingly inhabit, to aerate and illuminate. They enlighten without getting heavy. They practice levity without making fun.

Some of the art:

Memories I'll Never Have - Brendan Lott


Self-proclaimed “instigator” Brendan Lott culls photographs from internet sharing networks and then sends jpegs to China where they are reproduced as oil paintings. According to Lott, "it all happens because everybody's got a cheap digital camera, broadband, and in most cases, too much to drink."

all-this-beauty.jpg




There is also a film festival. It includes:

SPECTROPIA: A highly imaginative interactive cinema event, a “scratchable” movie performed by video DJs playing a movie “instrument”. Toni Dove’s sci-fi hybrid, features time travel, telepathy, and elements of film noir in a drama set in England, 2099 and in New York City, 1931, following the Great Crash. Spectropia, a young woman, lives in the salvage district of an urban center of the future, a black market hub of retro object barter.


spectropiasally.jpg


Here is one of the commissioned works:


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Ryoji Ikeda’s datamatics was co-commissioned by ZERO1 | ISEA2006 with the AV Festival 06. [ver 2.0] of datamatics the new, full-length version of Ryoji Ikeda’s acclaimed audiovisual concert is being presented at YCAM.

“Ikeda has significantly developed the earlier version of this piece (premiered in March 2006), adding a newly commissioned second part. Driven by the primary principles of datamatics, but objectively deconstructing its original elements - sound, visuals and even source codes - this new work creates a kind of meta-datamatics. Ikeda employs real-time programme computations and data scanning to create an extended new sequence that is a further abstraction of the original work. The technical dynamics of the piece, such as its extremely fast frame rates and variable bit depths, continue to challenge and explore the thresholds of our perceptions.”


Here are the events:

01SJevents.png

Here is a list of exhibitions.

Here is the 01SJ Blog.

See you there.

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