On the Move at 01SJ
By Michael S. Gant
IF NOTHING ELSE, 01SJ has been good for my health—it encourages getting up and out in downtown San Jose. Think of it as the Wii of digital-arts festivals.
My Friday amble was accompanied by a series of subversive koans posted on light poles—“Reality can be altered at will,” “All information should be free,” “The Price of Eternal Vigilance is Indifference.”
I have no idea who produced these quickie guerilla posters; I’m not even positive that they are part of 01SJ, but they make a nice counterpoint to the official pennants that the city hangs up high and then forgets to take down. (Memo to city: FanimeCom was over two weeks ago; ditch the banners already.)
I’m always stumbling into Ga-Ga and Jordan Geiger’s Day for Night installation in an empty storefront at 25 N. First St. at just the wrong time. On Thursday, the computer feed that is supposed to link San Jose to other time zones wasn’t fully functioning. Today, I arrived just minutes after 01SJ artistic director Steve Dietz and crowd were finishing a demo hookup to a concert in the City of Lights.
The idea behind Day for Night is that when it’s high noon or so around here, halfway around the globe people are partying at midnight—and wouldn’t it be great to get in on the action, even if only digitally? Conversely, the lunch crowd in Paris at a corresponding installation can enjoy San Jose after dark, although that doesn’t really seem like a fair trade-off, even though the labels for the piece talk optimistically about how San Jose is “sleepy by day” but goes “bonkers by night” (only when the police rush closing hour on South First) with a frenzy of “wild dancing and evening wear.”
Down on Fountain Alley, I wandered round and round Hello, San José!, a.k.a. the Ghost Zocalito, by Chip Lord and Bruce Tomb. The large yellow box, decorated with black countrylike shapes boasts seven red cones that are supposed to broadcast audio feeds from somewhere our other. I stuck my head in the cones. Other people wearing 01SJ passes stuck their heads in the cones. None of us heard any messages.
Inside the Tech Museum, the Adobe Global Youth Voices project showed off a variety of initiatives by youth groups around the whole, each given a modest amount of seed money to get involved and document the results. San Jose’s MACLA showcased a homegrown video about low-riders. The youths from the SF Art Institute City Studio program took cast-off materials (BBQ tongs, and old pressure cooker) and turned them into funky computer control units.
The Nueva School in Hillsborough also played at repurposing. My favorite was an old low-budget Polaroid fitted with a small digital screen running an abstract video loop. Old school meets the future.
Hiding from the sun for awhile, I checked out a sampling of Future Films at Camera 12. Giselle Beiguelman’s Carscapes, shot from the windows of moving vehicles with nothing fancier than a cell phone, jarred the eye with a speeding montage of fuzzed-out, brightly saturated colors, devoid of all sense of place, as if all the world’s commutes had been distilled into the essence of motion.
Several of the shorts involved clever appropriation of found footage from web cameras, often manipulated to create jerky time lapse effect. Like homeopathic remedies, this sort of thing should be administered in extremely low doses, especially when the soundtrack is full of grating hisses and pops.
John Hershend’s Why This Is Not Going to Work So Well went the other direction, using only words in a Power Point presentation style to tell a tale about Romantic poets, a half-baked proposal left out in the rain and memories of a tornado. (You can see it on the web at www.jonnherschend.com/video_gallery/video_gallery_4.html).
Natalie Bookchin’s Zorns Lemma 2, taking its cue from a Hollis Frampton experimental film, picks out signs from security webcams and forms alphabet sequences from the letters (a Levi logo for “L,” the I in “Italia” on the side of a truck, etc.). The alphabets go on and on, but pay attention—their is a pattern of sorts at work. It’s like learning to read all over again.