ISEA/ZeroOne San Jose ended yesterday. The artists, Anu (the producer), Liz and I took most of the C4F3 projects down last night. It's difficult to step back from a project that you've been involved in and evaluate it objectively, so I won't try. I had a great time and was proud and honored to be involved in the festival. I thought that the works in the C4F3 were great and I was amazed at how much effort the artists, jurors, production people, designers (and everyone else) put into the project. Thank you.
I didn't see everything in the festival. Of the things I was able to see, these five projects I saw and liked a lot. These are in no particular order and there are probably 20 others that I thought were great.
- Mission Eternity, etoy
Etoy's Mission Eternity is one of the most coherent, ambitious and wholly-realized conceptual projects I've seen in a long time. The basic notion is to use the power of networked digital technology and inexpensive storage to keep aspects of us alive after we're dead. On one conceptual level, it externalizes the network of memories and documents we leave behind, and places them into a digital world, which is projected into the physical one as a shipping container sarcophagus filled. The sarcophagus is simultaneously a display, an environment and metaphor, and as it ages, etoy will replace the LEDs with the ashes of the people whose digital selves they manage. I think it's brilliant, deep and ambitious. Go etoy.
- Altitude Zero, Hu Jie Ming
Tucked in one of the Container Culture shipping containers, Hu's piece is an excellent, simple and subtle interactive experience. As you approach the simulated portholes, the view changes from a boat's view of one port city to another. The initial similarity of the views underscores the differences in the views and gives Hu an opportunity to quietly comment on each city and on the nature of living at the edge of the ocean, in general. The flotsam for each city is different (I think) and it's probably meaningful. However, I was mostly entertained by the pure joy of watching the portholes teleport me from one place to another.
- Nocturne, Colin Ives
Again, simple interaction coupled with a clever visual trick makes for an elegant piece. In the fox piece, my favorite of the three that make up this piece, a video projector acts as a spotlight. A slide projector provides the "normal" view. The two are showing images that line up. We interrupt the slide projector beam as we approach the piece and cast a shadow, except the part with the spotlight. This moment creates some interesting surprise and draws attention to the spotlight. Ives wants us to look closer at our relationship with the things around us at night, and this projector relationship (for me) really forces that, simply and directly.
- Bioteknica Lab Remix, Shawn Bailey, Oron Catts, Jennifer Willet and Ionat Zurr
I didn't understand this piece at first. I saw that it was a simulation of a biotech lab, but there's a lot of fetishism of the esthetics of science in the technology art world and that's not exciting to me. What's interesting is that this is a "remix" of Bioteknica's actual lab, which means that this is a simulation of their actual working environment (down to the water cooler), where they actually use the technologies of bioscience to create visual art (put simply, they grow cells to make sculptures). Their art practice is a commentary on and exploration of the practice of biotechnology in a similar way that Richard Serra explores shipbuilding with his monumental metal pieces. However, without the permanent product, all they can show is a simulation of how they create their work. It's an unassuming hut that has a lot of innovative ideas behind it.
- Karaoke Ice, Nancy Nowacek, Katie Salen, and Marina Zurkow
A simple idea--popular songs played back in the style of an ice cream truck, with karaoke where the cooler is supposed to be--taken to an obsessive level of finish. An exuberantly absurd statement.
Also, Steve Dietz' contextualization of the festival, in the form of his Edge Conditions show at the San Jose Museum of Art, is excellent. Possibly the best show of digital art I've ever seen in a museum (and I'm not just logrolling because he was the festival director and co-chair on the C4F3, it's really a great show).