Code:ART 2021

Code:ART festival

The City of Palo Alto Public Art Program hosted an interactive new media festival, Code:ART, October 7-9, 2021, 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.  The three-evening festival engaged area locals in an event that outwardly reflects the creative community that thrives here. The second iteration of Code:ART once again temporarily reframed the City as a laboratory for urban interventions and creative placemaking while engaging commuters, residents, students and visitors in dialogue to re-imagine underutilized spaces. Approximately 7000 visitors from the Bay Area and beyond attended the three-evening event. Many expressed how they enjoyed an outdoor, COVID-friendly event, and community members added that this event made them feel proud of being from Palo Alto.  

Destination Artwork

A major temporary new media artwork by Marpi Studio, displayed at Lytton Plaza, anchored the three-evening festival and act as a major draw to downtown Palo Alto. Paleoalto is an interactive time machine. It is a portal from modern-day Palo Alto to a different time, where the superocean is awash with strange marine animals and the vertebrates are emerging onto new land. Visitors saw visualizations of these creatures, which they could interact with and watch as they drift and crawl through their ancient world.

For Code:ART, Marpi Studio, led by Alameda-based creative technologist and artist Marpi, collaborated with the art and technology system designers and installers at Colour Feeders. Marpi Studio develops site specific interactive artwork for digital and physical spaces, with an emphasis on immersive projects where the audiences co-create the final experience. Colour Feeders specializes in the design, production, and deployment of large scale digital art installations.

Paleoalto by Marpi Studio

Image above: Paleoalto by Marpi Studio. Photo credit: Benny Villarreal

Urban Interventions

Six urban intervention installations by Bay Area and international artists were installed in downtown Palo Alto, reimagining downtown spaces and exploring potential new uses of some of the sites. These interventions included dynamic projections, immersive installations, responsive sound, light, and game-based experiences. 


CODED ARCHITECTURES 0.3 sought to create a connection between technology, architecture, and society. The interactive mural featured different combinations of black and white (based on the binary code from computers) that encode a message. The public was invited to decipher an encoded message that changes daily by using a binary-alphabet postcard. The mural was a technologically inspired piece without electronics. 

Amor Munoz is a Mexico City-based artist, whose art includes textiles, performance, drawing, sound, and experimental electronics that explores the relationship between technology and society. Munoz has a special interest in the interaction between material forms and social discourse. She is particularly interested in how technology affects fabrication systems and how manual labor and handcrafts are changing in a contemporary global economy. 

Installation site: 536 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA. 

Visitors interacting with Coded Architectures 0.3

Photo credit: Benny Villarreal


COLOR CURRENTS by Cory Barr was an interactive mural that invited participants to explore color space using motion. The directions that participants move created the color of the mural. Moving right creates red. Moving left creates the complementary color of cyan. Periodically, dots flow through the directions of color created by participants, creating color currents. 

Cory Barr’s multidisciplinary work challenges human perception, interpersonal interactions, and the nature of creativity. Viewer participation is essential to the form and content of Barr's practice. Viewers co-author the piece by interacting with it. This interaction creates moments of exchange between friends, strangers, and the space itself. 

Installation site: 451 Florence Street, Palo Alto, CA.

Visitor interacting with Color Currents

Photo credit: Benny Villarreal

COSMIC CANNON by Jeffrey Yip

In many traditions, pyramids are made to honor ancestors. COSMIC CANNON invited Code:ART participants to honor their ancestors through a collaborative art and sound experience. The interactive multimedia installation brought family, friends, and strangers of all ages and backgrounds together in a shared creative environment. 

Jeffrey Yip is an interdisciplinary artist of color based out of Huichin (Oakland), on the unceded territories of Chochenyo, producing installations and performances with an emphasis on using technology as a creative tool. Yip often combines light and sound in physical as well as virtual spaces. His work explores technology as a means to facilitate healing as a form of radical justice.

Installation site: 301 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA.

Cosmic Cannon

Photo credit: Benny Villarreal

HYDRALA by Daniel Tran and Nick Sowers

HYDRALA was a lightweight interactive sound installation suspended in the stand of Magnolia trees in front of Palo Alto City Hall. Visitors were invited to explore the sculpture along, or with others. Hydrala deployed four channels of audio with sound levels that vary depending on the number of visitors and their movements underneath the sculpture. When no one is present, Hydrala emitted a soothing sound inviting people to investigate the space. 

Installation site: King Plaza, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA.

Visitors interacting with Hydrala

Photo credit: Benny Villarreal

I/O by Ben Flatau

I/O (input output) was an interactive experience designed to highlight our love/hate relationship with technology as it can both act as an isolating factor, or uniting platform.

To highlight this divide, I/O resembled a physical barrier, where one side featured an “input” wall where visitors manipulate a series of on/off boxes. On the other side of the barrier was an “output” split-flap display wall that updates in real time based on how visitors manipulate the input boxes. Participants on the input side and viewers on the output side together discovered the correct input combination that reveals a hidden message.

The I/O team was made up of architects, designers, and technologists who each bring their own unique expertise and curiosity to producing public art, including Ben Flatau, Scott Bezek, Alex Lopez, Thomas Vogel, Tong Zou, Daniel Polk, Collin Wentzien, Gesthimani Roumpani, Teodora Velkova. Iva Monterrubio Langrova, Ana Williamson Architect, Tap Plastics. Ben Flatau is the lead organizer and design director for I/O. He's a licensed architect who enjoys exploring the intersection of technology within art, design, and fabrication. He enjoys nothing more than finding ways to share his artistic and technological interests with the greater public.

Installation site: 555 Ramona Street, Palo Alto, CA.

I/O by Ben Flatau Input Wall

I/O by Ben Flatau Output Wall

  Photo credit: Benny Villarreal

LUMINOUS GROWTH by Liz Hickok, Phil Spitler, and Jamie Banes

LUMINOUS GROWTH included a dynamic interactive large-scale projection and a sculptural installation. The projection featured a video of a surreal cityscape that slowly floods and grows tree-like crystals. While the scene was larger-than-life, it stemmed from a hand-built sculpture placed inside an enclosed set, with a 360-degree camera recording the crystal growth through time-lapse photography. Viewers engaged with a tablet, enabled with a custom-designed app that allows them to pan, zoom, and control what is projected on the wall.

This urban intervention was a collaboration between artists Liz Hickok, Phil Spitler, and Jamie Banes. Jamie built the cityscape, Liz is the crystal and photography expert, Phil produced the 360-video and coding. Additionally, Conner Jones composed the sound. To make this project happened it took the creative team 2 years from concept to completion; 8 gallons of warm water; 15 days of crystal growth; and 53,700 individual frames. 

Liz Hickok is a San Francisco-based artist working in photography, video, sculpture and installation. San Francisco-based Phil Spitler uses innovative technology to create art across many media. Jamie Banes is an Alameda-based mixed media artist working with found and collected materials.

Installation site: Hamilton / Waverley Parking Lot D, 351-375 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA.

Luminous Growth

Luminous Growth

Photo credit: Benny Villarreal


Public Tours and Events

Public Art Program staff offered free public tours each evening of all intervention sites. Various downtown partners hosted public events, panel discussions, and other free programs about the role of arts and technology in creative placemaking and the future of cities.

Community Partnerships

Code:ART was proud to partner with many downtown businesses, organizations, and local community partners to offer free public programming and special experiences that connect to the themes of art and technology.

October 8, 5-7 p.m: Pace Gallery hosted a public reception showcasing a photography exhibition by Paul Graham and presenting a single screen work by teamLab. 

October 8, 5-8 p.mPamela Walsh Gallery had an Open House featuring artwork by Cody Bayne. At 6 p.m. Bayne talked about his work with NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and the ecospace of new digital media. The artist talk was live-streamed on Instagram at @pamelawalshgallery

Saturday October 9, 4-7 p.m: Qualia Contemporary Art had an opening reception of artist John Sabraw's solo exhibition Hydrophilic

October 7, 8, and 9: Bell's Books welcomed Code:ART goers during the family-run store's extended open hours to browse through their delightful collections of new, used, and rare books, as well as enjoy Bell's current window exhibition by acclaimed documentary photographer Margo Davis. 

Ongoing: Palo Alto Libraries curated a special Code:ART themed book list. All publications are available to readers at Palo Alto Libraries and online.


If you are interested in sponsoring or supporting Code:ART 2023, contact Elise DeMarzo by email.