For one weekend in June 2017, the City of Palo Alto was temporarily reframed as a laboratory for urban interventions and creative placemaking while engaging commuters, residents, students and visitors in dialogue on how to shape the future of the downtown corridor.
With the support of an Art Works grant through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and generous support from local corporate sponsors, the City of Palo Alto launched the Code:ART festival on June 1-3, 2017.
At the epicenter of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto’s population of 65,000 more than doubles each day with tech commuters and Stanford University affiliates. The sometimes secretive nature of the work taking place within these companies has occasionally limited interaction between the residential community and tech employees, and leaves the downtown corridor largely void of evidence of the creative minds at work. Code:ART temporarily reframed the City as a laboratory for urban interventions and creative placemaking while engaging commuters, residents, students and visitors in dialogue to shape the future of the downtown corridor.
Code:ART Opening Event: Artists as Futurists
Institute for the Future hosted lunch and a panel discussion to kick off the Code:ART festival on June 1, 2017 to a crowd of over 125 people. Facilitated by Institute for the Future Research Director David Evan Harris, the conversation explored the role that artists play in shaping the future of our communities and places that are important to us. Panelists included Matthew Tiews, Erik Adigard, Vinitha Watson, and Jonathan Moscone.
Featured Installations and Artists
Each of the participating innovators, architects, artists and artist teams were local to the Bay Area. Their installations were designed to capture the inventive and innovative spirit of the region.
Murmur Wall by Furniture Cities Lab
King Plaza: The artwork visually activated the plaza with its dynamic shape and illumination, creating an immersive and meditative environment to draw in passersby. Embedded 3D printed data pods displayed search terms trending in Palo Alto. LED text within the data pods inform viewers of what Palo Alto is searching for. With motion sensors tracking the presence of viewers to create an interactive light display, the artwork allowed individuals to contribute to the streams of data as they flow by. Viewers could also contribute “whispers”, or direct messages, to Murmur Wall through a web portal. These real-time anonymous contributions moved rapidly through the lattice as bright white datastreams. They appeared only once, never to be collected, reused, or shared, while creating a unique and dynamic viewer experience. Murmur Wall remained on display June 1 - October 2, 2017. Image courtesy of Emily Saunders, Future Cities Lab.
Safe and Sound by Tomo Saito
King Plaza: The interactive sound installation celebrated technology, creativity and unity through an interactive sound experience by inviting pedestrians in Palo Alto to take part in the activity of composing music in a public space. Participants created music by sitting in the chairs and explored the feeling of being in a safe, comfortable and active zone. How did it work? Each chair was assigned to a track of music, triggered when someone sat in the chair. When all 8 chairs are filled, you heard the full composition of the music. The artwork offered a unique musical experience each day of the Code:ART festival. Photo courtesy of Jim Colton.
View video of Safe and Sound
Sensory Garden by Elaine Uang, Sandra Slater & Megan Stevens
524 Emerson Street: Located in the alley between Bell’s Books and Mac’s Smoke Shop, Sensory Garden engaged all five senses, especially through a motion-activated sound installation, which sought to reclaim a sense of calm, wonder, and delight through the creation of soothing, bell-like sounds. By day, as people walked through Bell’s Alley, their footsteps triggered a collection of delicate chimes generated by a ground level Bell Harp. As they continued walking through and noting the changing sounds, their eyes followed the beautiful floral chalk art mural etched along the walls, their noses smelled hints of incense, and their fingers touched temporary live floral plants and moss. By night, the alley glowed magically with a dangling set of solar-powered LED lights, providing a scene of safety, and inviting one to dance through Bell’s Alley and re-experience the lyrical chimes of the LED harp and the bells above. Photo courtesy of Jim Colton.
View video of Sensory Garden
Caustic Chasm by Danielle Rose Aspitz, Autumn Austin & Devon Meyers
Lytton Plaza: Inspired by a cave of wonders, the installation drew the public in by the glimmering jewels it held. Resembling a cellular amalgamation, this art installation consisted of free-standing structures and seating, simulating water modules in brilliant hues that played with both daytime and nighttime light. A light-weight canopy formed of voronoi-like cell modules created a surface that reflected, diffracted, and increased the effects of light and form, which is ever-changing depending on the time of the day, the weather, and the number of people underneath. Photo courtesy of Jim Colton.
View video of Caustic Chasm
StreeTALK by Erik Adigard & Patricia McShane, M-A-D
285 Hamilton Ave: StreeTALK: What is your dream city? was a participatory installation of passersby commentaries and drawings on the future of the city. A street corner was restaged as a space of convergence for Palo Alto citizens, workers, and visitors. Framed by a simple set of rules, passersby were invited to address a simple prompt: what is your dream city. The ensuing responses and markings became a conversation with worldwide ramifications rooted in the intersection of things, ideas, concerns, and languages. Our Palo Alto street corner turned into a lively universal agora. The final piece stood not only as a set of thoughts, suggestions, ideas and opinions, but also as a new symbolic city tree, an unpredictable collective artwork in its own right. Merging the notions of walls and trees is also a reminder that it is time for urban architecture to become more organic and for greenery to further enhance the urban fabric. Photo courtesy of Jim Colton.
The Ghost in the Machine by Ben Flatau
250 University Ave: The Ghost in the Machine consisted of two “clouds” above visitors heads on freestanding wooden supports. Each cloud had a network of sensors and motors that morphed the shape of the cloud, along with the underlying space, in response to a person or people moving beneath it. As a result, those who interacted with each cloud were knowingly communicating with another person through the spatial medium. This dynamic installation highlighted our connection to one another in an interactive and tangible way. Photo courtesy of Jim Colton.
View video of Ghost in the Machine
Feng Shui: Flow of Energy by Mateo Garcia
455 Bryant St: The temporary light installation, Feng Shui, was comprised of a series of LED lights suspended to the stairway of the parking garage. The artwork represented the flow of light energy from the sun to the Earth. Controllable LEDs responded and changed based on various inputs and computer commands. This installation aimed to activate the street-facing stairwell of the public parking garage by illuminating it day and night to create a dynamic, communal experience for pedestrians using the stairwell. Photo courtesy of Elise DeMarzo
View video of Feng Shui
Architectural Pavilion by Kyu Kim and Hanna Jo
535 Bryant St: Architectural Pavilion was a unique, minimalist, and inviting community gathering space. The intervention was created from blue “recycle buddy” bins, a single object repeated and joined together to form an architectural pavilion. Generously donated by GreenWaste of Palo Alto, the bins were rooted in their connection to Palo Alto and local community efforts to recycle and care for the environment. The installation created a sense of community as children and adults, and people of all ages and backgrounds, shared the same spacial experience. It also included a participatory element where passersby were encouraged to create their own sculptures or structures out of recycled corks and toothpicks. Throughout the weekend, these cork creations were added to the pavilion, making it a true community collaboration. Photo courtesy of Jim Colton.
The City of Palo Alto and Institute for the Future facilitated discussions between business representatives and residents to synthesize the feedback on the festival installations and discuss long term planning and implementation.
Code:ART in the Press
Hot Summer Nights Bring Out Cool Art - Silicon Valley Business Journal, June 9, 2017
Artists Challenge Palo Alto to Imagine the Future at Code:ART Festival - The Mercury News, June 2, 2017
Art Gets Interactive: Downtown Palo Alto to Host Code:ART Public Art Festival - Palo Alto Weekly, May 26, 2017
City of Palo Alto to Host Upcoming Code:ART Festival - Verde Magazine, May 25, 2017
Palo Alto's Totally Tubular Art - Metro Silicon Valley, May 24, 2017
Art Gets Interactive - Palo Alto Online, May 24, 2017
Palo Alto: Art Installations To Disrupt, Activate Dead Spaces Downtown - The Mercury News, May 17, 2017
Support for Code:ART
Code:ART was made possible through generous support by:
Additional support provided by:
Palantir and Verizon
If you are interested in sponsoring or supporting Code:ART, contact Elise DeMarzo by email.