Silicon Valley's Zero1: part art festival, part start-up incubator

The organization behind the biennial art exhibition Zero1 will soon support new technology development, too, by opening Zero1 Garage. There, artists can mingle with geeks (and suits).
Written by Reena Jana, Contributor
The site of Hewlett and Packard's garage

A large-scale public art exhibition and a low-budget start-up office are two very disparate settings. But an ambitious network called Zero1 seeks to bring both concepts together and hopes to help hatch creative new businesses by doing so.

For those in the art and design world, the Zero1 Biennial might ring a bell as a festival of technology-inspired installations on display in San Jose, CA every two years. High-profile designers such as the architect David Rockwell have participated. And yet for those in the scrappy tech start-up set, Zero1 may sound familiar for totally different reasons. The Zero1 brand was recently featured in The Economist and associated with a re-boot of the classic concept of the Silicon Valley garage. The Economist heralded the forthcoming Zero1 Garage--an incubator where engineers, entrepreneurs, and artists will work side by side--as the successor to the famous early work spaces of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard of HP and Steve Jobs of Apple.

The Zero1 Garage, scheduled to open this fall, is hardly the fledgling, bootstrapped enterprise as Hewlett and Packard's was in its earliest days. For one, it already has big-time corporations involved, including Google and Adobe, who are both working on projects with Zero1 Garage. And the physical space of the Zero1 Garage is reported to take up 10,000 square feet of space in downtown San Jose--much bigger and glam than a typically humble garage.

Plus, Zero1 has a long history--even if the organization is mainly known in the art world and is only recently branching out into the business and innovation realms.

Way back in 1995, the initial seed for Zero1, which today identifies itself a "network," was planted. That's when tech-world marketer Andy Cunningham had the vision to bring together artists and engineers to cross-pollinate their research and come up with game-changing creative ideas, according to the organization's Web site.

Five years later, Cunningham launched a festival-style event, held at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) in Palo Alto, CA. In the early 2000s, Cunningham and his partners hosted and participated in a number of art-meets-technology events, and by 2006, the first Zero1 Biennial was held in San Jose, CA, co-hosted with the International Society for Electronic Arts. More than 20,000 people attended, and the event brought in more than $9 million in new economic activity for San Jose, according to Zero1's Web site. And there's impressive corporate involvement in the upcoming 2012 Biennial; eBay, for instance, is a partner. Jer Thorp, the Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times, will create an installation that will be on view at eBay's headquarters.

This year's Zero1 Biennial will open on September 12 and will stay on view through December 8. The newly minted Zero1 Garage space, at 439 S. 1st Street in San Jose, will be "the main hub" of the event. It officially opens with the Biennial.

Even if the Zero1 Garage is less a low-key, geeky "garage" and more a hip new-business incubator with fascinating creative aspirations and powerful corporate collaborators, it seems to reflect the region's collective curiosity and daring imagination. Which can be seen as parallel to those of the art world in general.

"Silicon Valley is an idea as much as a place," Jaime Austin, lead curator and director of programs at Zero1, said in a statement. "It's about entrepreneurship, innovation, collaboration, technology, and creativity. Like the technologists who have helped make the region famous, artists are innate risk-takers."

[Via The Economistand zero1.org]

Image: jeroen020/flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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