Features & Columns

Counting to Zero

The muse meets the business plan as the ZERO1 Biennial goes looking for Silicon Valley
OUR GADGETS, OURSELVES: For ZERO1, the artists known as Gambiologia have created fashion accessories from recycled materials. Courtesy Gambiologia

This year's ZER01 Biennial, as announced last week, will explore the theme "Seeking Silicon Valley." Distributing itself throughout the Bay Area from Sept. 12 to Dec. 8, the biennial will connect 42 partnering institutions and more than 100 participating artists, all articulating how the idea of Silicon Valley has shaped their existence and their work.

Since Silicon Valley is a state of mind, an idea and a constantly shifting network of innovation rather than a specific geographical place, the biennial has expanded its tentacles from previous iterations.

The hub of the biennial, its think tank, so to speak, will be the new ZER01 Garage on South First Street in downtown San Jose, where one can view the core exhibition. From there, the network of exhibits and events will extend from the immediate vicinity to the partnering establishments throughout the region. Every participant will somehow demonstrate in some way that contemporary art can re-imagine the idea and the network that is Silicon Valley.

This all may sound confusing, but the only aspect radically different is the element of process. Meaning, in most cases, the collaborative process is just as much a part of the "art" as the final result.

Especially for this theme, "Seeking Silicon Valley," it makes sense. Silicon Valley has always been a place where restless university students and garage inventors play just as much a role as do the professionals. Designers pool resources with outlaw electronics hackers. Game programmers swap ideas with management consultants. Collaboration across disciplinary boundaries is intrinsic.

Here's another example: The next evolutionary phase in Silicon Valley's business world incorporates much more creativity than before. Traditional top-down management strategies don't always work anymore; rather, a more fluid, creative approach is necessary to solve business problems and grow your company in a more volatile, constantly changing landscape.

Since artists are innate risk-takers, many business strategists are coming to understand that the risk involved with artmaking mirrors the risky nature of the entrepreneurial endeavor. And they are collaborating. The right brain is finally meeting the left brain. The muse is meeting the business plan.

The ZER01 Biennial attempts to explore exactly these types of dynamics. Keep that in mind when you interpret the exhibits or the events or the food. Everything is a network. Inhabiting the subnetwork, the subnet, if you will, are the nodes, the exhibits, the events and the tangible museums and galleries where they are presented.

Then, on a larger level, the network that connects the events and the curatorial process and the entire conversation is the art. In a John Cagean pseudo-Eastern sense, the art emerges from the process more than the final result.

Just as Silicon Valley is a networked state of mind rather than one specific geographical place, the ZER01 Biennial operates on a plane of correspondence, an ever-evolving dialogue beyond the particular exhibits in each partnering institution.

And speaking of those partnering institutions, with 42 of them and more than 100 participating artists all seeking Silicon Valley in various creative ways, there should be more than enough to experience at the ZER01 Biennial. No matter where you are.

In San Jose, the ZER01 Garage, from which all the appendages emanate, will be situated in downtown's SoFA district from now on. Architect Christopher Haas is currently at work designing the inside of the 10,000-square-foot building. The Garage will house the main exhibit, plus lectures and collaborative schemes of the most innovative sort.

As it has been from day one, Silicon Valley is where garage tinkerers cross paths with academics, where radical creative thinkers meet new business innovators, and I can't think of any better manifestation of contemporary art than what is now unfolding. Silicon Valley is leading the world. Again.

ZERO 1 Biennial