Unveiling the Urban Screen

Unveiling the Urban Screen

With the advent of such phenomena as Netflix, moviegoing is hardly a communal event these days. It’s become more common to sit in front of your laptop and stream feature-length films than to engage with movies in a shared setting – drive-ins, for example, are things of the past. Movie-watching has turned into a casual activity akin to browsing Facebook. As a challenge to moviegoing’s increasingly distant and remote nature, then, ZERO1 has commissioned an Urban Screen project along with the San Jose Public Art Program as part of our upcoming Biennial.

This project seeks to refashion cinema into a collective gathering. Working from a generous grant given to us by the National Endowment for the Arts, ZERO1 is currently mounting a large projection screen on the facade of 300 South 1st Street’s parking lot. To foster a welcoming, accessible environment, ZERO1 has commissioned San Francisco-based design group Rebar to create lounge seating. During the opening weekend’s (e)MERGE Street Festival, the lot will serve as the site for a number of film screenings and nighttime performances. The majority of the films screened will be short pieces derived from our Emerging Artists Network program, a strand of the Biennial that specifically highlights California-based new media talents. The films themselves range from traditional narrative short cinema to more impressionistic works. At night, artists will stage performances that utilize the projection screen. This will transform the space into a mixed-media installation site rather than one merely meant for non-participatory viewing. Some examples of what will be screened include a filmic component to Nelly Ben Hayoun’s The International Space Orchestra project at the ZERO1 Garage and the Streaming Museum’s Artistic License in Silicon Valley program, the latter of which features curated video work from such artists as Maurice Benayoun and Michael Najjar.

Following the opening weekend, the space will continue to feature curated content for the duration of the Biennial. Long term, ZERO1 anticipates that the screen can serve a number of purposes, artistic or otherwise, for the community. Though the screen will continue to act as a platform for art projection, ZERO1 hopes that San Jose residents may also begin to use it as a platform for dialogue concerning the city.

Like many of the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial’s Public Art programs
, the Urban Screen re-envisions an underutilized public site as a space of possibility. Like many of the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial’s Public Art programs, the Urban Screen re-envisions an underutilized public site as a space of possibility. The Urban Screen project honors cinema’s rich tradition of communality that has been all but lost in today’s computer-driven age. Beyond this, though, the project senses that the medium offers potential for dialogue. Unlike such similar programs as San Francisco’s Film Night in the Park, the Urban Screen intends to ignite a conversation about the city itself, improvements that can be made, and how to facilitate more sustainable living conditions, thus allowing the Urban Screen’s impact to move beyond the mere images being presented on the screen.

Pictured: the invisible city (2004) by Michael Najjar. Photo courtesy Streaming Museum and artist.