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The Best of the Valley: Arts & Culture

Kate Evans, Carolyn Jung, Anh-Minh Le, and Lydia Lee | January 4, 2017 | Story Best of the Bay

Read more from the Best of the Valley 2017 here.

Artist Residency: Trevor Paglen
Palo Alto
Last year, when the idea for the first-ever artist-in-residence at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center came up, Alison Gass, the associate director for collections, exhibitions and curatorial affairs, knew she wanted an artist with an interdisciplinary practice that incorporates technology and science. Trevor Paglen, she says, was an “obvious choice.”

Paglen, who has been working on artificial intelligence-related projects in his Berlin studio for years, is particularly interested in machines’ and humans’ disparate views of the world. On Jan. 14, he officially kicks off his six-month Cantor residency with Sight Machine, a one-night exhibition at San Francisco’s Historic Pier 70. The Kronos Quartet will play a one-hour, 12-song set in front of an audience, which will be filmed. “Those videos,” says Paglen, “will be fed to a suite of computers that will analyze them in lots of different ways—facial recognition, edge detection, object detection—and you’ll see that projected.” Attendees will be able to watch and listen to the ensemble while simultaneously observing how various computer algorithms parse the performance. (Admission is free; tickets available through the Cantor are required.)

During his residency, Paglen intends to continue focusing on machines—coordinating with Stanford’s computer science department, artificial intelligence laboratory and even the law school, to explore technical and ethical issues. His recent projects have shared a fascination with online privacy and government surveillance: He learned to scuba dive so he could photograph undersea internet cables that may or may not have been tapped by the NSA.

Paglen also has plans for talks, symposiums and shows at Stanford. For example, an exhibition on the history of machine vision on campus, dating back to the 19th century with Eadweard Muybridge’s groundbreaking motion photography. “The residency is very fluid,” says Gass. “I hope that every artist who comes and spends time at Stanford gets a chance to access people who are working around the same topics that they are—but coming at it from a different angle. The idea is to bring the strengths of the artists together with the strengths of the university, and see what happens.”

Museum Show: Beauty
San Jose
Catch it while you can: Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, an exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, closes Feb. 19. The SJMA is the sole West Coast venue for the show, which explores cutting-edge design, and includes 280 projects by 57 international artists who represent 27 countries. The works run the gamut, from the fashionable (like Giambattista Valli’s ballgown in shades of pink and red) and the decorative (Studio Job’s vibrant patterned wallpapers) to the high-tech (a 3-D-printed wearable device by Neri Oxman) and the quirky (the Haas Brothers’ colorful stuffed creatures). “Design of many sorts is part of our regional zeitgeist,” says Susan Krane, SJMA’s Oshman executive director. “Beauty lets you reimagine the role design can have in your everyday life and the pleasures it can offer. It will inspire your mind as well as your senses.” 110 S. Market St., San Jose, 408.271.6840

Gallery Show: Tara Donovan
Palo Alto
Acclaimed artist Tara Donovan is returning to Silicon Valley for a new show with Pace Palo Alto. Three years ago, she participated in a pop-up for the blue-chip gallery, before it had established more permanent residency here. From Jan. 27 through April 15, Donovan—a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award and Calder Prize recipient who is well known for her installations and sculptures composed of commonplace objects—will exhibit her newest works and pin drawings. The drawings are made with thousands of nickel-plated steel pins, pressed into white gatorboard, that yield a gradient effect as the metal interacts with light. These are definitely pieces that you’ll want to see up close and in person. Donovan herself will be on hand for an opening reception (Jan. 25, 4–7 PM) that the public is invited to attend. 229 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650.561.4076

Cutting-Edge Festival: Cinequest
San Jose
This year, when the popular Cinequest indie movie fest hits town, there will be a fresh element—one that reflects the increasing connection between art and technology (fitting for a homegrown Silicon Valley affair). Along with the usual film screenings, among them many premieres, the 2017 programming will highlight virtual reality projects. Hence, the new name: Cinequest Film & VR Festival. In addition to the annual Cinequest Awards, which includes the prestigious Maverick Spirit Awards, VR content creators and innovators will be honored with prizes in two dozen categories. All screenings and special events will take place in various venues in San Jose, Feb. 28 through March 12. Look for scheduling and ticketing details toward the end of January on the festival’s website.

Comics Fest: Silicon Valley Comic Con
San Jose
Get ready to dress up and geek out. Following the tremendous success of last year’s inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con—which drew sold-out crowds of roughly 60,000—Steve Wozniak announced plans for the 2017 edition. Scheduled for April 21 to 23 at the San Jose Convention Center, the lineup promises to be impressive, with guests ranging from actors such as Star Trek’s William Shatner and The Walking Dead’s Steve Yeun to astronaut Buzz Aldrin and artist Joyce Chin to scientists like beamed energy propulsion pioneer Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux and renowned physicist Sabrina Pasterski. The theme this year is The Future of Mankind—perfect for an event hosted in the capital of innovation. Tickets from $20 (with three-day passes available).

Originally published in the January issue of Silicon Valley

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