99Redballoons Me-1

I popped down to San Jose last week for the SRL show and ran into my friend Tikva Morowati who is in the ITP program in NYC. She was really enjoying the ISEA/01 symposium. She sent me this great write up of the stuff she liked for all of us who couldn’t go, but would have loved to. Thanks Tikva!

From August 7th – 13th, the Thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA2006) and Zero One San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge spread it’s tentacles across San Jose’s parks, sidewalks, streets, sky, venues and communities, turning the city into a magical storybook-land. All over were interactive artworks, projects, and mind-sparking discussions by leading social scientists and designers concerned with the human-to-human affects of technology.

ISEA2006 and ZeroOne San Jose sought to engage the diverse communities of the city- different interests, ethnicities, races- while recognizing that the idea of community starts with the individual, and not demographics. In the call-out for artist proposals, Eric Paulos, the Chair of the Interactive City theme and a Research Scientist at Intel, acknowledged that cities have always been a place for the transformation of lives. “We dream of something more. Not something planned and canned, like another confectionary spectacle. Something that can respond to [and be active participants in the creation of] our dreams. Something that will transform with us, not just perform change on us, like an operation.”

If you had an entire city to design for, what types of interactions would you architect? Who would you make it for? Would you use the whole city? Would you pick a park? Would you transform it into a game board? A performance space? A playground? What would you make?

Karaokeice Me

Many projects at ISEA and ZeroOne crafted experiences with feedback loops for participants to step into with an active hand in shaping their own experience as well as the experience of others. Karaoke Ice was the most visible project in all of the festival. Made by Nancy Nowacek, Katie Salen, and Marina Zurkow, in collaboration with students and graduates of CADRE (United States), the team identified karaoke as amazing peer-to-peer mechanism and reappropriated it by bringing it to the street! They took everything that’s great about karaoke and everything that’s great about ice cream trucks, and blended the two to create Karaoke Ice. Pedestrians turned into performers from a stage located at the rear of their ice cream truck. Free yummy popsicles lured people in creating an economy of exchange: we give you icies, and you give us a song.”

Karaokeice Them

Team Karaoke Ice dreamed big. The level of detail brought to the project was astounding. Composer Lem Jay Ignacio recomposed popular karaoke songs into the sounds of twinkling ice cream truck jingles. They had a sweet and silent aviator squirrel to act as an MC and mediate between the truck and the participants- “performance as interface” is what they call it. “YES YOU” read his shirt, “CLAP NOW” read his sign after every performer. In addition, all the performances were recorded and uploaded to the web. To listen to Bre and I embarrass ourselves, look here . (Bre’s Note: I am not a singer, suffering awaits on the other side of this link!)

Skatesonic Cobi

Another project that transformed the spaces it entered was Jessicca Thompson’s (Canada) SoundBike. She created bicycles that laugh as they’re ridden! Using motion based sensors, the sounds respond to the velocity of the bike. It’s simple and a ton of fun to ride with others. My friend and I rode the bikes all around San Jose. The faster we peddled, the more laughter we generated. Hearing the bike’s laughter was contagious, and we found ourselves laughing absurdly along with the bikes as we peddled around! Jessica was inspired by the Fluxus notion “that the art world is created by the viewer,” and believes that “the artwork is the experience.” Cobi van Tonder (South Africa) played with the idea of the performance space as well while also very seriously- and playfully- the way music is made. Coming from a life-long devotion to music composition and performance, she’s invented a new musical interface called Skatesonic. She came up with the idea out of frustrations she had with DJing. She found the turntable/slider setup to be too linearly confining. She decided to make her own tool and turned to the skateboard because she liked it’s motion. Cobi hacked skateboards by adding wireless “on board” microphones and sensors to detect their speed and distance from the ground. Here’s a brief videoso you can get the idea.

[murmur] (Canada) is a project that truly encapsulates the theme of the Community Domain. It was made specifically to bridge the spaces between individuals and to create richer connections between individuals and places. Made by Shawn Micallef, Gabe Sawhney, and Ana Serrano, [murmur] is a geographically specific audio documentary platform. Passersby access stories by sighting [murmur] signs with a telephone number and location code. Using their “mobile phone, pedestrians are able to listen to the story of that place while engaging in the physical experience of being there. You can take a listen a couple of stories here.

The eToy.Corporation (Germany mainly) transcended; in their own words, “You are invited to join Mission Eternity – one of the most challenging open content projects in the history of art.” Mission Eternity addresses storage and human death in the Digital Age. eToy proposes that just as the human body is a representation of who we are, so are the digital tracks we leave. Mission Eternity’s vision is to create “mobile cemetery tanks” out of cargo containers that are equipped with “an immersive LED screen of 17’000 pixels that cover the walls, ceiling and floor on which the visitors can walk.” These sarcophagi will contain both the digital and physical remains of the deceased. A small amount of the deceased ashes will be mixed into a cement block located on the sarcophagi’s power cord. Timothy Leary wrote about this very idea before he died, and so his family plans to make a sarcophagus for him. eToy;s project is like an impossible promise; having more questions than answers, more barriers than clear paths. Their presence was a great contribution to the festival and neat to have a team of people tackling such big issues.
Please check out more from ISEA2006 and ZeroOne San Jose:

99 Red Balloons
Baby Love
The Color Game
Desire Management
DIY Urban Challenge
IN[ ]EX
Listening Post
Palabras
Pimp My Heart
WiFi ArtCache
Wildlife

And a link to my ISEA photos on flickr.

Thanks to all the artists, ISEA2006, ZeroOne San Jose for the images and to datadreamer.com for the video.