Back from SubZero by Julia Bradshaw

SubZero was a street party and a half. It was an arts fair with nary a kitsch refrigerator magnet in sight. It was a musical festival where people played QWERTY keyboards and home-spun electronic devices. From the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, where Fanny Retsek hosted a screen-printing table to the sound stage beyond Anno Domini where, among others, ChKnFsH pleasured the crowd with electronic sound and video sampling – people wandered up and down the road three or four times or more investigating and participating in the many activities along the way.

Slow to start – a technology festival with an electricity delay and a lack of infrastructure must by necessity wait a while – the festival picked up whereby from 9pm, it was difficult to walk down the street. A smattering of the participants included:

FontanaBot, demonstrated by James Stone and Thomas Azmuth

San Jose artists James Stone and Thomas Asmuth assisted FontanaBot in the creation of its slashed paper drawings. Anthropomorphizing the mechanical arm somewhat, the pair insisted that FontanaBot makes rational decisions in choosing the location of its slashes and at one point described FontanaBot as being “particularly aggressive with this work”. With programming by Stone and mechanics by Asmuth, this robotic arm references the Italian artist Lucio Fontana, who transfigured his work in 1949 when he first started puncturing and slashing his canvases. It is the continuation of a series of works by Asmuth where he references theoretical leaders in his new media practice.

Infinite Exchange (without money) was a challenge for SoFA visitors.

The collective Infinite Exchange Gallery presented a cohesive front. Well organized and with supporting literature the collective encourages art ownership through a form of non-monetary exchange. For example, San Franciscan Sara Thacher engaged participants in a game of Rock Paper Scissors wagering an item she provided against an item a participant might feel was of equal value. Turning out one’s pockets in search of a wager was a necessity here. Robin Lambert sat at a mechanical typewriter and promised to send a missive in the mail in return for the promise of a future good deed. About 15-20 artists participated from the collective many traveling from Canada to take part in ZERO1.

Buildup Sub-Sofa provoked laughter and audience participation

John Bruneau had children and adults alike transfixed by his electronic form of the fun-house mirror titled Buildup Sub-SoFA. Movements by people in camera range were transformed into a fragmented real-time display of moving images. These video loops appeared to layer themselves in a splintered fashion onto the monitor and each fragmented piece either repeated or reversed itself randomly for an indeterminate length of time or disappeared entirely. It brought out the goofy side of everyone as attendees manipulated their bodies in order to see how these movements would be transformed on the computer monitor.

Anonymous aphorisms appeared all around SoFA

Other happenings: The Laundromat next to Space 47 was transformed into a Karaoke Parlor for the evening, complete with flashing disco lights. Aphorisms were posted on signposts through Williams and south 1st street by an unidentifiable artist. A poet sat in the middle of the road and churned out poems by request. Jason Cayabyab wore his lightshow boombox and demonstrated its facilities to anyone who asked. Adults sat down and painted with watercolors unbidden. A parade of Art Cars took over the freeway end of the street. Unfortunately those participants with a sound component often had their work subsumed by competition from the two main musical stages.

Despite being a little uneven in its curatorial vision, the combination of new media arts alongside the participatory and hand-spun was an interesting mix. Most refreshing was the lack of money being exchanged for art. With an emphasis on participation, very few people were touting works for sale, which made this event a refreshing contrast to the more traditional arts fair.

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