Reports From the Field: San Jose

As part of the Knight national art program I’ve been traveling around to the eight Knight resident cities (Akron, Charlotte, Detroit, Macon, Miami, Philadelphia, Saint Paul and San Jose). This week found me in San Jose for the launch of the ZERO1 Biennial,  an exhibition that melds art and technology, where I spoke at the opening.

The scene was set for my opening remarks by inspired performances by Japanese American performing artist San Jose Taiko (pictured below) and Audio Ballerinas, who performed an electronic ballet featuring a dozen ballerinas wearing sound emitting plastic tutus, and dragging amplified rakes as they strutted in and around the crowd. Hip hop group The Freshman closed the evening in front of over 1,000 locals.

A strong collaborative feeling flowed through the festival, as local arts orgs like the San Jose ICA and the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles programmed  exhibits with the art and technology theme. A stand out moment was the Leo Villareal retrospective at the San Jose Museum of Art.

I’ve known Leo and his work for a long time and his pulsating light works using proprietary software were a perfect fit with the Biennial.

Also a perfect fit was the museum’s other exhibit, ” retro-tech,” containing works by newly announced American Pavillion Artists for the next Venice Biennale, Allora & Calzadilla and  Los Angeles artist Tim Hawkinson.

ZERO1 curators Steven Dietz and Jaime Austin created an extravaganza in South Hall with 32 works along the theme of ” build you own world.” The highlight was Empire Drive In by Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark, an indoor drive-in movie theater full of cars headed for the junk man and a full-size movie screen made from salvaged wood. Visitors could get popcorn from the concession stand,  take a seat in a dinged up windowless ’73 Malibu, and watch the ZERO1 film program!

On Friday night, South First Street, the up and coming SoFA Arts District, was turned over to an array of local and international artists who produced a series of commissioned works. The community turned out late into the night to see it all.

On Sunday, as the final event of the festival, I participated in a panel discussion at Yerba Buena Art Center in San Francisco, on the topic of ” Collecting the Impossible”  led by Richard Reinhardt. It was a lively discussion of the issues surrounding video and digital art and what happens when digital art works leave the artist and move to collectors and institutions. What happens when the technology changes? What is the responsibility of the artist and the collector? As a collector of over 50 of these works I can say that they are very challenging to show and to maintain. But the effort is worth it, as they are some of the most engaging works in our collection.

During my visit, San Jose program director Judy Kleinberg and I were also invited to attend the launch of a program by Knight grantee CEOs for Cities, called The president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, Carol Coletta, asked a room full of San Jose’s cultural and civic leaders to consider how to achieve the following ideal: “We can have access to beauty as expressed through art, good design and nature every day.” The group was asked to break out into groups and come up with their concrete suggestions for how the community could move toward this goal. One of the suggestions was to have an artist in residence at city hall! San Jose was the first in a series of twelve cities that will go through this visioning process. The results will be put online and developed into a book project