New Web Initiative ArtHERE Seeks to Crowdsource Public Art in Silicon Valley

New Web Initiative ArtHERE Seeks to Crowdsource Public Art in Silicon Valley
"In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth)," one of the latest ZERO1 art proposals

Street artists might finally have a bona fide system for getting their work up on walls legally — if they’re in San Jose, at least. The idea for the new Web site ArtHERE was hatched during one of San Francisco’s Summer of Smart hackathons, programming jams that bring developers together with urban activists, architects, and artists to solve the city’s biggest issues. And it sounds pretty cool: It provides a forum where San Francisco and Bay Area property-owners can actually request art — they list the location of their forlorn, empty walls, and artists propose projects that will fill it. Through the site, commenters can vote for and comment on the projects they like best.

The system is perfect for street artists seeking out voluntary victims to practice their craft on. But it also helps artists of any stripe fill spaces of any type, whether it’s a colorful tag, a giant sculpture, or a pop-up video projection. ArtHERE is launching in conjunction with the upcoming ZERO1 Biennial in Silicon Valley, a series of exhibitions opening September 12 that will examine the intersection of art and technology, as well as the decentralized, networked nature of technological innovation in California.

Through ArtHERE, the biennial has listed a series of spaces open for art installations, including the ZERO1 Garage, the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, Downtown Yoga Shala, and more. Artists then submit their proposals for pieces to fill the spaces publicly, adding some transparency to the biennial’s curatorial process. Thus far, two projects have been proposed. One is “Drone,” a crowd-sourced sound installation in which German artist Karl Heckmannufer will work with audiences to build ambient sound generators to be installed on the ZERO1 Garage’s façade; the other is Cause Collective’s “The Truth Booth,” also for the Garage, an inflatable structure that records two-minute-long video responses completing the statement “The truth is….”

By offering an open forum for debating public art projects, ArtHERE has the potential to change the curatorial process, forcing exhibition organizers to be more collaborative with and accountable to their audiences. Whether crowd-sourced curation will lead to a better biennial, however, has yet to be seen. We'll know in September.