ZeroOne Through Ten

Susan Gerhard August 4, 2006

I’m not sure what your Armageddon looks like, but mine features a scene that happened just last week in Schenectady, New York. Poisoned pigeons fell from the sky “like dive bombers,” according to the city’s Fire Chief. The Associated Press reported that the situation became so hazardous that ambulances couldn’t even enter the hospital for fear of encountering the dying birds and the chemicals they rode with.

This week in the perhaps more enlightened city of San Jose, at the ZeroOne San Jose Global Festival of Art on the Edge, pigeons will not so much inspire dread as awe. With GPS devices attached to their backs, they’ll be reporting air quality data live to a site called “pigeonblog.” In conjunction with the ISEA2006 — one of the most cutting-edge symposia of electronically based art in the world, which, for ’06, roosts in San Jose — this very first ZeroOne demonstrates the power, humor, interactivity, and seriousness of digital arts in locations throughout the city under the direction of Steve Dietz, former curator of New Media at the Walker Art Center. Among the augmented realities, artificial intelligences, and interactive pieces, what’s interesting to Sean Uyehara, who programs the KinoTech works for the San Francisco Film Society, is how “technology and humanity interact to produce the world we live in — not only in an aesthetic sense, but in a pragmatic sense, too.”

What follows are 10 ZeroOne-related reasons to find your way to San Jose, cribbed from the meticulous press notes of Marjory Hawkins.

1. PigeonBlog Urban homing pigeons are equipped with custom-made backpacks containing GPS-enabled air pollution-sensing devices text-messaging real-time data to, a project of Beatriz da Costa with Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto.

2. Karaoke Ice An ice cream truck turned into a mobile karaoke unit by Nancy Nowacek, Katie Salen, and Marina Zurkow hopes to lure singers to the mic with free frozen treats as it tours festival locations.

3. Pimp My Heart The bass beat you hear will not be the latest reggaeton on the streets, but actually, a heart-beat amped up to highlight the human-to-car relationship, courtesy Takehito Etani and David Tinapple.

4. SimVeillance: San Jose The city being simmed is San Jose: If you walk through the Cesar Chavez plaza downtown, you may well become a character in Katherine Isbister and Rainey Straus’s SimVeillance.

5. Soundbike When Jessica Thompson’s bike reaches cruising speed, sounds of laughter — generated by velocity — will be emitted; festival attendees are invited to take the two-wheeler-plus-soundtrack on a spin.

6. Secrets J.D. Beltran has been collecting other people’s secrets for years, and now they are revealed in the most unusual places: on mini-LCD screens hidden around spots of the C4F3 Interactive Café. Nosy? Check under the salt shaker or around your bathroom stall — who knows what you’ll find.

7. Sonic Fabric This dress sings, because it’s woven by Alyce Santoro from recycled audiocassette tape that — when scanned with a tape head — makes itself heard.

8. SVEN Cameras set up in public places survey pedestrians for their rock-star potential by placing their movements to music. The artists behind it are Amy Alexander, Jesse Gilbert, Wojciech Kosma, Vincent Rabaud, and Nikhil Rasiwasia.

9. Survival Research Labs Mark Pauline’s latest promises monster machinery, huge sculptural creatures, and fire.

10. Bleeding Edge Festival Four stages and 19 bands from The Chemistry Set to Matmos to Yo La Tengo.