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San Jose Gets Global Stage


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To steal a lead from Herb Caen: Why doesn't he write any nice stories? OK, OK. Here's a get-together that will finally put San Jose on the international map. Other folks have already waxed poetic about it, but the internationally renowned Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (ISEA) will host its biennial symposium in San Jose in August of 2006. This is a huge world class arts and technology conference that will literally take over downtown San Jose and environs for 10 days—the Tech Museum, the Convention Center, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, History San Jose, Cogswell College and several other locales will all take part in the whole grand affair. Technology-oriented artists from around the globe will descend upon San Jo and stage massive interactive performances and public projects. Silicon Valley digerati will speak. There will be a nomadic architecture camp in Plaza de Cesar Chavez. On the final evening of the festival, Capitol Drive-in will be transformed into a cross between Burning Man and a high-tech county fair, with projections, performances, music and wandering interactive projects into the wee hours of the morning.

The only ISEA conference I ever attended was the one in Holland in 1996. It is a gargantuan international event with artists, speakers, academics, electronic musicians, scientists, CEOs and philosophers from all over the place. Previous ISEAs took place in Montreal, Japan, Finland, Paris and Australia. 2006 will be San Jose's turn.

Why am I telling you all this 10 months in advance? Well, there are four themes for the symposium: Interactive City, Community Domain, Pacific Rim and Transvergence. Each theme had separate requests for proposals and was juried by separate international committees.

And they just announced the first set of accepted artists for the "Interactive City" theme. The call for works said this: "The Interactive City theme seeks urban-scale projects for which the city is not merely a palimpsest of our desires but an active participant in their formation. From dynamic architectural skins to composite sky portraits to walking in someone else's shoes to geo-caches of urban lore to cybrid games with a global audience, projects for Interactive City should transform the 'new' technologies of mobile and pervasive computing, ubiquitous networks, and locative media into experiences that matter."

Here's an example of the type of projects you'll see at ISEA 2006: Simveillance:San Jose puts a spin on the surveillance phenomenon, using footage from surveillance cameras mounted in a San Jose public square as the basis for crafting "sim" people that wander a virtual version of the same square, within the game The Sims 2. You might find yourself onscreen, as the artists will update the piece to incorporate people who've passed by during ISEA. Artists Katherine Isbister and Rainey Straus came up with the project with the support of Georgina Corzine and Chelsea Hash.

etoy.CORPORATION will implement Mission Eternity, a wireless technology-driven cult of the dead. They will install their M∞APPLICATION on the cell phones of conference participants, so they become M∞ANGELS. Basically, if you come across a bunch of bald dudes in orange radiation suits, that's probably etoy.CORPORATION. (Don't ask ...)

Artist John Kilma's Saint Joe project takes folks through a cell phone-based hypernarrative that unfolds within the landscape of the VTA light-rail system. Participants are taken to various "mundane but curious" landmarks.

Artists Marc Tuters, Luke Moloney, Karlis Kalnins and Adrian Sinclair will showcase MC3 (Mobile Commons Command Centre), a mobile new media performance space for urban exploration.

That's only a sample of the insanity you'll see at this event. Rumor has it that a certain infamous cabal of robotics-performance troublemakers from San Francisco will also stage a delightfully inappropriate spectacle of some sort.

Running concurrently with ISEA 2006 will be ZeroOne San Jose: a Global Festival of Art on the Edge, the debut festival of what will become a biennial event in San Jo, aimed at establishing Silicon Valley as an international center for high-tech interdisciplinary artistic exchange. Luddites will be verbally assaulted ad nauseam, of course.

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From the November 2-8, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.