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ZeroOne - A Culture Boost for S.J. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michela Pilo   
Jul 11, 2006 at 12:15 PM

Mercury News Editorial

The San Jose Grand Prix has been getting most of the publicity, including some it didn't want, as the blockbuster downtown event of the summer. But there'll be a new kid on city blocks next month that could make just as much noise, figuratively speaking, on behalf of the city's cultural profile.

ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge has the potential to brilliantly capture the emerging use of technology in art and make it a Silicon Valley trademark. It will involve digital art, GPS capability, floating wireless cameras, shipping container culture (aren't you anxious to find out what that is?) and lots of interactive displays.

Some of the exhibits sound a tad bizarre, but that will just add to the fun.

Take the "PigeonBlog," which features homing pigeons with backpacks containing GPS-enabled electronic air pollution sensing devices. The birds will fly around while the devices text message real-time air pollution and image data to

Or "SimVeillance: San Jose," where different artists will recreate Plaza de Cesar Chavez using the Sims 2 computer program. Surveillance cameras trained on the plaza will provide the images for the simulation that the visitors can watch.

There's also "Pimp My Heart," with pimped cars blasting cranked-up bass sounds of -- the driver's heart beat. And "Survival Research Labs," featuring "ritualistic interactions between machines, robots and special-effects devices." Don't ask.

The festival will offer performances, workshops and events for students, teens, families, art enthusiasts and technology lovers. Many exhibits will be free along downtown streets.

Don't be surprised if you've never heard of this kind of festival before. It's the only one of its kind in North America, and it has all the earmarks of being the coolest event of the summer, roaring race cars and hot jazz notwithstanding.

The artists will be from New Zealand, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Paris, Germany, Rio, Eastern Europe, as well as throughout the United States, including of course the Bay Area.

Festival director Steve Dietz, former curator of new media at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, says the festival "will transform San Jose into the North American epicenter for the intersection of art and digital culture" -- an apt goal for the Capital of Silicon Valley.

The Aug. 7-13 festival will coincide with the 13th International Symposium of Electronic Arts, expected to draw 3,000 people to the downtown convention center. Festival organizers are hoping for at least 50,000 visitors for the weeklong event, which they plan to produce every two years.

The fact that this festival is coming together with so much promise indicates San Jose finally has coalesced the kind of public and private leadership necessary to elevate its arts and entertainment image.

A key element of that is the recognition that the arts scene is directly related to the city's economy, both in the revenue it produces and in the high quality of life it implies. Planners include downtown arts groups and San Jose State's Cadre Laboratory for New Media, but also the city's economic development office. Major business sponsorship includes Adobe, whose world headquarters is downtown, as well as Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard.

The Grand Prix, ZeroOne and the San Jose Jazz Festival will make the end of July through mid-August an exciting time for downtown San Jose. The race, which drew 150,000 spectators last year, will be held July 28-30 and the Jazz Festival, with about 165,000 patrons last summer, is Aug. 17-20.

Add ZeroOne in the middle, and it brings new meaning to cultural diversity -- another Silicon Valley trademark.

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