ISSUE 12.1 March / April 2020
Silicon Valleyâ€™s Innovative and Creative Culture
Immersive Experience Designer
CONTENT MAGAZINE, SAN JOSE $9.95
FEATURING: Brittni Paul | Cinequest VR | Dev Davis | Spanner | SJ Art Advocates
PRESENTED BY HALEY CARDAMON
TH ANNUAL 4 E TH
SAT 0 2 0 URDAY, APRIL 11, 2 1 2PM- 6PM SAN JOSE DAY is an annual festival dedicated to embracing the cityâ€™s widely diverse culture through a celebration of local art, music, fashion, food, classic cars and conversation. Each year talented local artists, musicians, and creatives are invited to show their work and pay homage to the city we love! IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
ALL THINGS LOCAL
ART photos by Leopoldo Macaya
C CONTENT ISSUE 12.1 “Device” March / April 2020 Cultivator Daniel Garcia Editors Elizabeth Sullivan, Rah Riley Linnea Fleming, Yale Wyatt Esther Young, Grace Olivieri Samantha Tack Community Partnerships Kristen Pfund Design Kristina Micotti, Matt Kelsey
Photographers Robert J. Schultze, Sannie Celeridad Leopoldo Macaya, Avni Levy Arabela Espinoza Writers Gillian Claus, Daniel Codella Michelle Runde, Chris Jalufka Johanna Hickle, Grace Talice Lee Yale Wyatt, Isaiah Wilson Brad Sanzenbacher, Kevin Marks David Ma, Esther Young Taran Escobar-Ausman
Though we are in Silicon Valley, our primary focus is not technology. Even so, in our day and age, it would be difficult to think of artistic experiences that don’t intersect with technologies. In this issue, we look at some creative ways tech can amplify art: from the interactive iPad audio/visual digital guide tour of Picasso’s work to the 3D print, laser-cutting maker-space of Idea Fab Labs. These demonstrate how the digital age provides new ways to display, engage, and create. In addition, the emerging AI/VR tools are opening up new ways to share and view stories. It’s exciting to have Cinequest right here in our backyard as they look for ways to embrace these innovative platforms. Yes, there can be a scary side to the computer and the “internet-of-every-thing” world we are in. But the journey for authentic expression will continue to find ways of challenging and inspiring culture, no matter what the DEVICE. Enjoy. Daniel Garcia THE CULTIVATOR
IN THIS ISSUE Spanner | Cinequest | Kent Ward | Dev Davis To participate in CONTENT MAGAZINE: firstname.lastname@example.org Subscription & advertising information available by contacting email@example.com
CONTENT MAGAZINE is a bimonthly publication about the innovative and creative culture of Silicon Valley, published by
CONTENT DEVICE 12.1.
March / April 2020 San Jose, California
CULTURE 10 San José Arts Advocates, Peter Allen, Amanda Rawson, & Ron P. Muriera 14 San José City Councilmember Dist. 6, Dev Davis 18 More Más Marami Arts, Marissa Martinez ART & DESIGN 24 Spanner Product Design, Giles Lowe &
Leily Khatibi , pg. 54
30 TBS Design Gallery, Mamuka Grigolia 34 Tech & Art, Seeing Picasso at Pace Gallery 38 Artist, Brittni Paul 42 Artist, Kent Ward 48 Artist/Sculptor, Oleg Lobykin 54 Immersive Experience Designer, Leily Khatibi 58 Cinequest VR/AI Storytelling 62 Idea Fab Labs, Jordan Layman 66 Poet, Tshaka Campbell .MUSIC 70 Musician, Natasha Sandworms 74 Album Picks, Needle to the Groove 76 Cinequest Festival Guide 80 Calendar 82 Contributors
Oleg Lobykin, pg. 48
All materials in CONTENT MAGAZINE are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published, broadcast, or modified in any way without the prior written consent of Silicon Valley Creates, or in the case of third party materials, the owner of that content. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of this content. For further information, or to participate in the production or distribution, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dev Davis, pg. 14
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Brittni Paul, pg. 38
things creative people do at works/san josé: mount an exhibition participate in a workshop set a poem to music premier an indie film present flash fiction build our art community expand the world of art www.workssanjose.org @workssanjose #workssanjose
works hosts about 400 emerging to established artists and performers each year—several for the first time in a public venue. exhibits come from public proposals and are facilitated by works volunteers. find out how you can participate in, benefit from, and support works—your community art center!
works is member and volunteer supported, and is funded, in part, by a cultural affairs grant from the city of san josé, by a grant from applied materials foundation, and by silicon valley creates, in partnership with the county of santa clara and the california arts council. photos and design by joe miller’s company
Ron P. Muriera
The San José Arts Advocates
“Nobody was stepping up to just keep [the arts] organized.”
Written by Chris Jalufka Photography by Daniel Garcia sjartsadvocates.org Social media sanjosearts
n January 1, 2020, California Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) went into effect. The goal of the bill is to limit the ability of companies to classify workers as contractors rather than employees. The bill was inspired by the gig economy vital to companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, who classify their drivers as contractors, avoiding minimum-wage laws, labor protections, unemployment benefits, and other employee aid. Another sector of the work force that will be hit by the bill are artists and those that hire them to do project-based work. San Jose’s visual artists, dancers, musicians, singers, and actors are being involved with unknown consequences or possible benefits. This bill has been a topic among many in the local arts scene, and one that comes up when talking with the newly formed grassroots group, San José Arts Advocates (SJAA). The SJAA is a collaborative
effort across many involved in the cultural landscape of California. In an area globally known for technological innovation, the role the arts play in San Jose can get lost, voiceless. The group is a central voice for arts advocacy and education in San Jose and is planning ways to address the impact of AB 5 and many other policies and issues permeating the arts. The core team of SJAA has come together from various factions of the arts community—Peter Allen (former San Jose Arts Commission chair), Brendan Rawson (executive director of San Jose Jazz), Julia Canavese (GenARTS Silicon Valley), Eileen Beckley (Santa Clara County Office of Education), “Mighty” Mike McGee (Santa Clara County poet laureate), Ron P. Muriera (board member of California Arts Advocates and Californians for the Arts), Amanda Rawson (public art consultant), Yori Seeger (School of Visual Philosophy),
and Eva Smith Glynn (Flash Fiction Forum). With each member working in their separate corners of the political system on behalf of the cultural foundation of San Jose, the SJAA was born over years of discussion in the meeting rooms and hallways of San Jose. As member Peter Allen says, “Nobody was stepping up to just keep [the arts] organized. We certainly would go to city council meetings and commission meetings and lobby, but we were finding we were getting information late. We were having to organize last minute and couldn’t really organize groups of speakers, cohesive talking points, messaging, and getting white papers and letters to council members well in advance of the meeting.” As more private development comes to San Jose, so does another issue. Neighboring cities have a percentage of private development costs set aside for public art, but San Jose does 11
“I don’t want to be your grant writer. I want to teach you how to grant write.” –Ron Muriera
Manifesto Letterpress Artwork by Matt Kelsey
not. The SJAA hopes to have a seat at the table as the process of the city’s annual budget moves forward and discussions like these take place. The group will also focus on educating the community about the current state of the arts. As member Ron Muriera explains, “A lot of folks don’t understand that arts education is supposed to be a requirement in all school districts in California, and very few school districts are offering any type of arts education, which means they’re noncompliant; but parents are not educated on
the fact that we have one arts class in our school. If we help them understand that they can voice that at their school board, change can happen.” Education is a major goal of the group. Most artists are not well versed in the opportunities available to them through grants and fellowships and how the application process works. The SJAA wants to fix that by building a hub for those resources. The core team members all have experience writing and reviewing grants and want to teach that language to those
it would be most useful to. A host of grant writing workshops around the city, Muriera says, “I don’t want to be your grant writer. I want to teach you how to grant write.” The San José Arts Advocates officially went live Saturday, February 15 at the School of Visual Philosophy with the team’s inaugural event, Creating Change: Arts and San José Politics, where local artists showcased work inspired by the current political climate and the primary elections. C
DevCouncilmember DavisDist. 6 Transforming from suburban sprawl to a modern metropolis Largely unnoticed, the City of San Jose is busy transforming itself to meet the economic,
environmental, and social challenges of today. And it’s bustling to do what’s needed to weather the challenges ahead. Calm, cool, and collected, city Councilmember Dev Davis is at the epicenter of this work. She serves on the committees that are the key to this city’s transformation into a greener version of itself, mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change and Silicon Valley’s economic inequities. Davis is intelligent, data savvy, and easy to talk to. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics and Stanford University master’s degrees in public policy and education policy, organization, and leadership. She represents San Jose’s largest ground transportation hub, Diridon Station, and its oldest urban villages: The Alameda, Burbank, College Park, Rose Garden, and Willow Glen. Today the view looks a lot different from councilmembers’ offices at City Hall than it did in 2004. That’s when Davis and her husband, Chris, moved to San Jose from Oakland. Gleaming sky-high office buildings, apartments, and condominiums can be seen for miles around from the new iconic City Hall’s 18th floor. Super-powered eyes can see a downtown sizzling from jazz at Café Stritch and dozens of new restaurants, breweries, and San Pedro Square. They see a downtown revitalized by the Fairmont Hotel, the California Theater, the McEnery Convention, First Fridays Art Walks, and the SoFA and SubZERO festivals. Today, hundreds of miles of repaved streets, with new bikeways, connect everything. 14
Davis’s view of the future comes from serving on over a dozen City Council committees. She also serves on Caltrain’s Joint Powers Board and the Valley Transportation Authority’s Diridon Station Joint Policy Advisory Board. She can see a San Jose with viable public transportation options, more affordable high-density housing, residents with shorter commutes, safer streets, more parks, and millions of tons less greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s pretty amazing,” says Davis, “and it’s all centered around a shift of where downtown is.” Davis describes the area surrounding the Diridon Station and SAP Center now as a sea of parking lots. “What we will have instead,” says Davis, “is a very vibrant station which will be the second largest transit station in the entire country.” The vibrancy will come from transportation services that will be provided there by BART, VTA’s light rails, and busses; the Altamont Corridor Express; Amtrak’s Capital Corridor train; the Highway 17 Express bus, and an electrified Caltrain. “The great thing about electrification is we’ll be able to have more frequent service,” says Davis. Electrification will also enable Caltrain’s Baby Bullet trains to serve more cities. VTA’s bus and light rail schedules will synchronize to BART and Caltrain arrivals and departures. This, Davis says, will motivate many more commuters to get out of their cars and onto public transportation. When Davis explains how intricate bond initiatives and diverse city plans get real, it’s hard to describe how enjoyable it is to speak with her. “She’s classic North Dakota,” says Macke Raymond. She’s one of Davis’s mentors and is the director of the Center for Research on Education
Written by Diane Solomon Photograhy by Daniel Garcia sjd6.org devdavis.com Social media devdavisca
District 6 Councilmember Dev Davis
“We don’t have discrete problems in the Bay Area. We have a constellation of problems that are all related to each other.” –Dev Davis
Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. “She’s nice, smart, and very focused on connection and community,” says Macke, “which is very common in cold Northern Dakota.” Davis was born and raised in North Dakota. She came to the West Coast to attend Pacific Lutheran University. She met her husband, Chris, there. After they graduated, they moved to Oakland. After Davis received her two master’s degrees from Stanford, she began working for Raymond at CREDO. Tired of long commutes, the Davises moved to San Jose’s Japantown. They enjoyed walking to Jackson Street for restaurants and cultural activities. But wanting more space, they moved to the city’s Alum Rock area, where their daughter and son were born. There, the Davises enjoyed their neighbors’ shared meals and parenting tips and trading baby clothes. In 2008 they purchased their first home, where they live today. They chose North Willow Glen because it was close to the Diridon Station. Most workdays, Davis rode her bicycle there and took Caltrain to Palo Alto to work at CREDO on Stanford’s campus. She worked at CREDO for 12 years, until her election to the City Council in 2017. At CREDO, Davis honed her technical skills. She advanced from doing the lowest level of data analysis to leading CREDO’s quantitative analytic team. “You don’t do that,” says Raymond, “without learning how to successfully engage with people, create common vision, and create common work standards.” Raymond calls Davis a strategic visionary. She says that Davis can see things as they are and can quickly envision the best path to the desired future. “San Jose needs people like Dev,” says Macke, “who have the ability to parse things into do-able chunks and make sure that those things get done.” A biggie that Davis wants done is for Google to build what they’ve promised, an urban spine through downtown San Jose that’s adjacent to Diridon Station. “That’s number one,” says Davis. Google plans to build 6.5 million square feet of office space for 25,000 employees. This
plan includes housing, 15 acres of parkland, and 500,000 square feet of retail, hotel, and cultural spaces. More companies are scheduled to relocate to San Jose. “It’s going to be fantastic to have more people able to work and live in San Jose,” says Davis, “because we have over 100,000 people who commute to jobs outside San Jose every day.” That’s a lot of development slated for downtown, but Davis says the tax revenue increases from it will provide needed services city-wide. She knows there are negatives, but she works to mitigate them. “We don’t have discrete problems in the Bay Area,” says Davis. “We have a constellation of problems that are all related to each other.” She names climate change and the shortage of affordable housing. She supported San Jose’s Clean Energy Program: legislation that removed obstacles from affordable housing projects and legislation that makes it easier for residents to build accessory dwelling units. Davis and Councilmember Maya Esparza made sure that 45 percent of the city’s affordable housing funds are now earmarked for extremely low-income residents. She also supports legislation that not only makes the city safer but offers beautiful green spaces to its residents. Mayor Liccardo and the City Council’s job is to make sure residents’ needs are met, Davis says, and they have a good quality of life. Despite her long workdays, Davis and Chris work to make sure that their family has a good quality of life. Their family has grown. They have two rescue dogs, a Chihuahua-Dachshund and a Rottweiler mix, plus two soccer-playing teenagers. While Chris coaches their teams, Davis watches and is proud of having attended over 100 of their games. The Davises enjoy watching Marvel movies together, and they work around Davis’s evening meeting schedule to have dinner together several times each week. Davis misses having more time with her family and canning home-grown vegetables, but she says she loves her job and can’t think of a better one. “I get to learn new things,” says Davis, “think through problems, help be part of the solution, and help people improve their lives every day.” C 17
M M M More Mรกs Marami Arts MARISSA MARTINEZ
Written by Esther Young Portrait by Avni Levy
t the age of 12, Marissa Martinez started writing fan fiction about her favorite show, Avatar: The Last Airbender (still her favorite show to this day). Greatly invested in the storytelling and character development, especially those of her favorite characters, Toph and Katara, she joined an online community that gave her a platform to share fan fiction for books she was reading as well. Then someone pointed her to the International Thespian Society at Evergreen Valley High. Marissa signed up on club day and attended her first meetings straightaway. “One friend joined with me, and we started doing backstage things—sound and lights,” Marissa says. As she befriended upperclassmen, who comprised most of the club’s actors, she integrated her creative writing and explored acting. By senior year, she became the club’s president and wrote her first play. Like the premise of John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, Marissa’s first play features four high school students who meet in the lobby of a community college. Through their one-on-one
exchanges, each student’s reason for taking classes is revealed: one needs to make up classes, one wants to get ahead, one is an overachiever, and one is unsure of the future. Completely student written, directed, and acted, Marissa’s debut play launched her future playwriting endeavors. At Santa Clara University, where she majored in theater and English, Marissa developed short one-act plays and focused her intentions as a playwright. “I realized, in conjunction with the community work I was doing on campus, I wanted my art and writing to impact my community in San Jose where I’m from,” Marissa says. “After that, I wasn’t even interested in going anywhere. I just wanted to be here.” As a younger writer she had dreamed of starting a theater company. Her passion and skill were affirmed when she received four grants from the university to put on her biggest play yet, Hapa Cup of Sugar. Marissa received funding from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, SCU Presents, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office for Multicultural Learning to cover
media purchases, workshop fees, props, sets, costumes, and production-team compensation. After graduation, Marissa continued to write and collaborate with theater companies who resonated with her themes of identity and social justice. Bindlestiff Studio, the only Filipino American–centered theater in the nation, showed two of her plays in 2017 and 2019; yet the theater was located in San Francisco, far from home. Early in 2019, Marissa stumbled upon the perfect opportunity at a genARTS workshop. “My now-friend Matt introduced himself as trying to start his own theater company, and he was looking for playwrights,” Marissa says. “So during lunch period I went to find him and asked, ‘What do I need to do to work with you?’ ”
More Más Marami Arts
More Más Marami Arts launched in January 2019, with original founders Matt Casey, Kimberly Piet, Angela Sarabia, Andy Sandoval, and Daniel Lerma-Hill. Its name derives from the founders’ Mexican, Filipino, and American cultures, translating to “more 19
“I realized, in conjunction with the community work I was doing on campus, I wanted my art and writing to impact my community in San Jose where I’m from.” –Marissa Martinez
more more arts” in English, Spanish, and Tagalog. “More Más Marami is about creating inclusion in theater, but it’s also here to create a space for us in the South Bay,” Marissa emphasizes. “One of our biggest goals is to develop more writers so we can have more original content in the South Bay.”
Works in Progress
MMMA’s program Works in Progress accepts submissions from writers of any background. Even if a script is a work in progress, the team reads it and then casts people from the community to read those characters at an informal table read. Here, the writer hears their play out loud for the first time and receives feedback from actors.
The founders get creative with not only their meeting rooms (community coffee shops) but also their performance spaces. “Part of our mission to make theater accessible, Trespass Theatre is about bringing theater to the streets in unconventional,
untraditional locations,” Marissa shares proudly. “One of my pieces became the first Trespass performance in September.” Alongside a creek near her grandmother’s house in Evergreen, Marissa led a “devised” theater ensemble piece: As the writer, she established the structure and story; as a cast, the founders developed the content and blocking. As Matt introduced them on the evening of the show, the rest of the cast began swarming the audience. The topic was environment and climate change, elaborated through three separate stories as the cast moved around the audience, giving them a different story to follow as they passed. The second Trespass Theatre production featured two shows, funded by Awesome Foundation, and was performed at the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center. One play, Queercenera, illuminated LGBTQ+ experience in San Jose—ultimately showing “how family can support you and love you and make you do crazy things you don’t understand too…It’s a powerful expe-
rience for an audience member to recognize themselves in the play,” Marissa notes.
More Más Marami’s collaboration with Center Stage Productions, the drama club at SJSU, gives access to the black box theater in the Stone Performing Arts Center. Here, magic and chaos unfold: youth, college students, and friends of friends gather to write from Friday, 8pm to 2am or 4am. At 7am, everyone gets up to cast the script, rehearse throughout the afternoon, and perform at 8pm. “It’s for people who are dipping their toes into theater, who want to try writing or acting, and also for those who know what they like and want to do something wacky,” Marissa explains. “Anything can happen.”
Growing up in East San Jose and Evergreen, Marissa remembers the pressures she faced as a student. “As an adult I know there’s resources out there, but when you’re a kid going to
a school overflowing with students and there’s only two counselors to meet with, it’s scary.” When she’s not brainstorming, coordinating, and running programs with More Más Marami, she’s working with middle and high school youth at a program called Amplify. “These students have ideas and opinions. We try to give them a platform to use their voice and to practice their arts and leadership abilities,” she sums up. The students get to work alongside other artists. “We help them in photography, creative writing, and communication.” After three years, Marissa
has seen changes all across the board: “Even from the beginning of a project to the end, you can see how comfortable they become talking with others, and the friendships they make. Some of them outgrow some of our projects and processes, and they’re ready to do more outside of Amplify.” Marissa is also the program director of Fly Pinays, a sisterhood and mentorship program of LEAD Filipino that provides educational programs focused on increasing Filipina representation in civic leadership (Leadership,
Education Advocacy, Dialogue). In her third year of involvement with LEAD, Marissa aims to bring high school students to the 2020 Fly Pinays Leadership Summit, exposing them to these resources and discussions. Ultimately, Marissa finds her motivation in the people she works for, whether through artistic programs or mentorship—from including neighbors who rarely see theater, to finding others who love the arts, who love to write, who are Pinay like herself. “We’re all stronger in communities together as one,” she says. “We have to stick together.” C
â€œSpanner thrives in the unknown space where engineering meets people.â€?
Co-founders Giles Lowe and Arne Lang-Ree
Spanner Written by Brad Sanzenbacher Photography by Daniel Garcia Spanner 15 West San Fernando Street San Jose, CA, 95113 spannerpd.com Social media spannerpd
In Designing the Future, the Answers Aren’t in the Back of the Book U
p a flight of hardwood stairs in a lovingly restored building in downtown San Jose, you’re likely to be greeted by a dog or two as you enter the office of product design firm Spanner. It’s a sparse but beautifully decorated workspace that harks back to the building’s early life as the first doctor’s office in San Jose. In some cases, the original occupants’ names still adorn the windows on the office doors leading out of the foyer, signaling the miraculous survival of the original glass in a building that for years was a home for squatters. Today, the office is a mix of the old and the new. In a large brick room in the front, engineers sit at computer monitors studying 3D renderings of products in development. And in the back room, a workshop houses machines that can effortlessly bend and shape materials into working prototypes. Bikes, e-scooters, a beer keg, and other quintessential signs of the Silicon Valley lifestyle are scattered throughout the suite. Product design firms like this aren’t necessarily unique in the Bay Area. Design and user experience is critical for companies as they try to win customers, and firms like Spanner can help startups add world-class talent to their product teams in a pinch. They can also serve as a skunk-works arm for established tech giants, helping with long-term strategic product development. But Spanner is unique in its focus on impact, and in the approach to design brought to the table by co-founders Giles Lowe and Arne Lang-Ree. All the engineers at Spanner are mechanical engineers by training, and Lang-Ree explains there’s a difference in the mentality of a product designer that separates them from other engineers. “Product design is a segment of engineering where the answers to the problem aren’t in the back of the book,” he says. “We fundamentally trust the process and focus on the experience we’re trying to create for users, and generally something beautiful unfolds.” 25
(Top) Chargepoint (Middle) Brava (Bottom) FItbit 26
“There’s no smartest guy in the room. Every product is different, and every client is different.” – Arne Lang-Ree
“Products are about people,” re-iterates co-founder Giles Lowe. “Spanner thrives in the unknown space where engineering meets people.” When it comes to focusing on people, Spanner engineers put their money where their mouth is, and generously offer support to early-stage founders and inventors as they try to bring their products to life. Spanner’s engineers pride themselves on keeping an open mind when it comes to taking meetings without a strict qualification process around budget or experience of the inventor. Even if a project isn’t the best fit for their team, they’re still happy to pass on advice about bringing a product to market. “We know that a lot of inventors are funding their dreams with their own paycheck,” Lang-Ree explains. “We don’t lose anything by helping out, so we try to have a rising-tides mentality.” Lowe says helping early-stage inventors brings a sense of purpose to their own work. “If we filter out people with big ideas but not a lot of resources, we’ll miss a lot of purpose. Sometimes we can help them move the needle a little bit. Sometimes we can help them with introductions, and sometimes we can bring them on as clients.” When Spanner engineers take on a new client, they begin an exploration process that starts with finding the problem statement behind a product. “People have ideas they’ve been sketching and kicking around in their heads for years,” says Lang-Ree. “By the time they come to Spanner, they are often confident they have it all worked out.” Getting to the problem statement, they say, is like peeling off layers. As an example, they showed me a product called Sana, that at first looks like a pair of high-tech ski goggles with blinders over the eyes instead of transparent lenses. The device provides a visual and audio experience designed to help people suffering from PTSD sleep disturbances and manage pain. The original plan for the device used bone-conduction technology to produce audio, but the Spanner team helped the inventor see that simpler speaker technology provides both a better user experience and a more cost-effective way to produce sound. While a big part of their job is finding ways to improve prod27
“Spanner thrives in the unknown space where engineering meets people.” –Giles Lowe
This Page: August Opposite Page: (Top) Nvidia (Bottom) Thync
ucts, they aren’t strictly dictatorial in their approach. They are humble and believe that everyone at the table has a voice. “There’s no smartest guy in the room. Every product is different, and every client is different,” Lang-Ree says, and Lowe echoes that sentiment. “The products we take on are our babies as much as they are our clients’, so we want them to be successful.” Building great products requires building a great culture and workplace, and the Spanner founders say this is a priority for their company. “There’s no work/life balance anymore, it’s all blended,” Lowe explains. “People need to love their company culture.” They’re proud of their excellent staff-retention numbers in a competitive talent market. Lowe and Lang-Ree both think of product design in terms of their legacy. They predict the next trend in products will be an explosion in the wellness-tech category, and they see a huge opportunity to improve the health of people and the planet with the products they develop. They cite wearables that can help predict illnesses as an example of technology that isn’t just a gadget for a gadget’s sake, but a product that, when designed beautifully with the user first in mind, can revolutionize the relationship between people and their health. They also see opportunities to improve the world with agricultural tech. They designed a product called “Arable” to optimize farmland in the developing world (and used as nearby as Watsonville). It’s a Frisbee-shaped device that looks at the sky to determine where sunlight is optimally available and has an acoustic rain meter to determine the amount of rainwater plants will get in a location. It also looks down at the ground to check on the condition of crops as they grow. The Arable gives small farmers the data they need to plant the best produce for their property, determine when to plant and harvest, and increase their yield. These kinds of impact-driven products are made possible by the shared values the founders bring to their partnership and the integrity they bring to the work. “I feel extremely grateful,” Lowe says of his collaboration with Lang-Ree. “We run the business a lot on guts and feelings, so we talk very openly about where our guts are. It’s very unusual for us to be on opposite ends of the spectrum.” C 29
“Honesty is the key—being honest and upfront with the clients is what makes your business successful.”
TBS TENACITY. BENEVOLENCE. SATISFACTION.
One-Stop Design Shop for Every Homeowner
Interview by Michelle Runde Photography by Daniel Garcia TBS Design Gallery 3283 De La Cruz Blvd, Suite A Santa Clara, CA 95054 tbsdesigngallery.com email@example.com Facebook: tbsdesigngallery Instagram: tbsdesigngallery
omeownership comes with many joys and stresses. For a firsttime Bay Area homeowner, it’s daunting to take on planning and designing every element of a new abode. Fortunately, Mamuka Grigolia and his wife, Liana Nitsetskaia, have made it their mission to guide clients through each step of the process at TBS Design Gallery in Santa Clara. With honesty and transparency as their motto, they’ve set out to demystify the design process and create a welcoming space for new or experienced homeowners.
How did you find your way to the Bay Area? After the revolution in Geor-
gia, my wife and I immigrated [to San Francisco.] I didn’t speak any English, and it was really tough for us. I ended up working in the construction industry, sweeping floors and getting paid under the table. We were in San Francisco until we met another Georgian who knew me. He had a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose, and he opened his doors completely to us.
What was your first business, and how did it start? We actually started
with TBS Construction, our first business, in 2007, after the window company I was working for closed. I sent letters to the 400 homes I’d serviced, saying I would come over and help them if they ever needed any services. We started receiving phone calls from happy customers saying what a great idea it was, and that they would refer us. The name “TBS” comes from some of the words we kept hearing in our customers’ feedback: tenacity, benevolence, satisfaction.
How did TBS Design Gallery come out of your construction business? I de-
termined there was an issue with how architects did design and what homeowners were assuming. Architects design a framework, like the shell of the house’s structural design. But it’s missing tons of elements: inside finishing, flooring colors and materials, etc. Homeowners assume it’s done and that a contractor should be able to determine a price, based on those designs. And many homeowners would take bottom-line quotes from contractors, which unfortunately led to surprises if it ended up being more. 32
We found it was very difficult to work with homeowners without honest communication. So, in 2009, we decided to start doing design-build only, where we mapped out a design and gave homeowners all the information upfront. In the beginning of 2017, we were able to open the [TBS Design Gallery] space in Santa Clara. We wanted to be honest about providing the best craftsmanship, delivering on time and on budget. These three components are extremely important in the construction industry. I don’t like to say this, but many contractors are setting themselves up for failure by telling clients a project will be done sooner or cheaper than is realistic. Honesty is the key—being honest and upfront with the clients is what makes your business successful.
Why did you decide to have a gallery with various interior design elements, including original art? When we started, we would take clients to dif-
ferent locations by car. We’d go to the window and door showroom, then rush from there to the tiles shop, then go look at cabinets, etc. But we were having problems with Bay Area traffic and sometimes could only do two tasks a day. So, we came up with an idea where we try to get accounts with manufacturers so we could show their products in one place. We also host local artists’ work here for free and even own some of the pieces ourselves. We’ve also started to host seminars for new homeowners so that they can learn about the process from start to finish.
Is there anything unique about working in Silicon Valley? Some of our cli-
ents are very engineer oriented. That’s another reason our business is so successful; we have a process, and engineers love processes. We have a system where everything is upfront and clear, and that gains a lot of trust. Another thing that’s different is California is a trendsetter for design. We get some really interesting ideas from our clients, and it’s a fun challenge to figure out how to make it possible. C 33
SEEING PICASSO Maker of the Modern
Written by Christopher Jalufka Photography by Daniel Garcia pacegallery.com Social Media pacegallery
ablo Picasso is iconic in our collective memory. Close your eyes, and you see his shirt, Breton striped, stretched from shoulder to shoulder; his hands clawed around a paint brush; eyes broad, on the verge of pointed conversation. Yet, we don’t think of his voice. For most, the only comment that can be made on the sound of a Picasso whisper or roar is in reference to his art. His 1932 charcoal drawing Woman with a Flower speaks a celebratory sigh. His portrait of poet and friend Carlos Casagemas on his deathbed, done in 1901, is the guttural whimper, that wet sadness of the mouth, exhausted from tears. Since his passing in 1973 at the age of 91, the name Picasso has evolved from a surname into a verb, a descriptor of genius, innovation, and worth. To open his 2013 track “Picasso Baby,” hip-hop legend Jay-Z matured his focus from the drug hustle, expensive cars, and girls to the art world, riffing, “I just want a Picasso, in my casa / No, my castle.” This is Picasso in the modern world, his name a shortcut to describe one’s own brilliance and wealth. Throughout his life Picasso was a catalyst for full shifts in the arts—his work criticized then adored and followed—making his own creative discoveries a gift for the world. It is these discoveries and shifts that frame the exhibit Seeing Picasso: Maker of the Modern on view at the Pace Gallery in Palo Alto. On display are over 30 works (including the above-mentioned Woman with a Flower and The Dead Casagemas), the earliest being his portrait of his sister, Lola with Doll, a painting done when the artist was 17 years old. The piece shows a young artist in control of his tools, a head full of academia and practiced methods. As the exhibit progresses, there is Head and Shoulders of a
Woman, a work on paper at the beginning of his exploration of African art. Seeing Picasso is focused on these moments that demonstrate changes in Picasso’s output. As Pace Gallery’s Senior Director and Curator Andria Hickey explains, the gallery’s goal is “to share how art and artists can so radically change the way we see, how Picasso’s ability to completely shatter the Western canon of art both reflected, and influenced, the profound changes that were taking place on a broader scale throughout the 20th century. Our frameworks for the exhibition, from the illustrated timeline of innovation that greets you at the entrance to the exhibition, to the associative and poetic approach we chose in making the digital audio-visual guide for visitors, aim to situate the viewer in a context that illustrates the way Picasso, like so many other artists, was taking in the changing world around him and how much it influenced his own way of seeing.” Taking you through the exhibit is an app created by the East Coast design firm Local Projects, an augmented reality (AR) audio guide created in collaboration with Alexander Nemerov, the department chair and Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University. At entry, guests are given an iPad mini and a pair of wireless headphones. As you walk the gallery floor there are plain iPad markers under a dozen of the pieces. Raise the iPad to the piece on the wall, and Nemerov will begin to speak. The phrase audio guide is a misnomer. The voice of Nemerov does not guide you through the exhibit, but follows you, ghostlike, intuitively speaking what you are seeing in five-minute lyrical passages. Many academics can 35
Opposite Page: (Top) Couple with Cup (1969) On app held by Eric Mika from Local Projects (Bottom) Head and Shoulders of a Woman (1907) Photography by Ando Caulfield of Drew Altizer Photography, Courtesy of Pace Gallery
discuss the meaning of each painting and sculpture, crafting a precise theory of the how and why and the purpose of Picasso’s work, but Nemerov takes another route. He crafts a language of expression, not defining what you are seeing, but using words to outline the shapes and color. Of Still Life with Jug, Glass and Orange Nemerov writes, “The jug sits heavy on the right, swan’s neck on swollen tummy, poised on a dense slab of wooden table. The glass is more alert, silver and gray, raising its funnel neck, its periscope eye, lit by a ray falling from a skylight.” The objects are given life—tummy, neck, eye. Picasso painted the inanimate with organic mass, and Nemerov gifts those shapes with a language. As the audio plays, a slow wave of images floods the screen—shadow versions of the piece highlighted, photographs from the era, paintings and sculptures that share a common culture. There is no accompanying text; this is pure stream of visual information. Nemerov explains, “Andria Hickey and I came up with the comparison images in an intuitive brain-storming session; we tried to bring out elements of the Picasso pictures that might not be as visible without the sideways light of these illustrations. We wanted to show also that a work of art, no matter how exalted and singular, draws upon elements that other artists and even the popular culture of the artist’s own time have also explored.” Nemerov worked with Local Projects to maintain the tight focus on the theme developed by Hickey and Pace Gallery. As Eric Mika, the creative director and director of creative technology at Local Projects explains, “The opportunity to rethink the form and content of an audio guide was particularly compelling. The project bene-
fited tremendously from Alex Nemerov’s writing and narration. Typically, audio guides are dry and didactic, but Alex’s approach brings phenomenological poetics to the interpretation of the works.” The use of AR in museum exhibitions has ranged from the addition of flesh and skin to dinosaur bones at the Royal Ontario Museum to the Boston-based company Cuseum’s app that placed 13 stolen pieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum back on virtual display, albeit without the consent of the gallery. Had AR arrived during Picasso’s lifetime, it would be interesting to consider what he would have done with the medium. As Hickey puts it, “Art and artists are always intertwined with influential touch points that they live in and through, from their family and social context, to the philosophy, literature, technological advancements, and political movements of the time and place they live in. Like the community of radical disruptors and innovators in Palo Alto, artists are visionaries that can change the way we think. Today, we can see so many young artists shattering our 21st century ideas of what art can be; each time these pioneering approaches to art emerge, we also see the far-reaching impact of the creative work taking place in Palo Alto today. Seeing Picasso brings this master of profound invention in modern art to the epicenter of innovation today.” Pace Gallery has showcased Picasso’s innovations with such clarity that there is no need for a historical essay on what you are seeing. Picasso is showing you what he sees, how he sees, and Nemerov is there too, giving a tangible presence through the app, a ray falling from a skylight. C
“I always think of being earth friendly as a sliding scale. It’s about your intention and reducing your negative impact—not about –Brittni Paul being perfect.”
Brittni Paul A vegan, eco-conscious artist who paints endangered species into reclaimed wood and uses soy-based ink and plant-based packaging might sound intimidating—but Brittni Paul expresses her passion with graciousness: it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being informed.
Written by Esther Young Photography by Arabela Espinoza brittnipaul.ink/portfolio Facebook brittnipaul.ink Instagram brittnipaul.ink Etsy brittnipaulink
hen she was young, Brittni’s nana took her to Balboa Park in San Diego. There, Brittni would draw all the animals and plants she saw, keeping her art supplies and papers packed in a little wood box her nana had given her. Her nana would beckon passersby over, exclaiming, “Look how amazing she is!” In high school, Brittni continued to draw seriously. She was also studious, earning a 4.1 GPA, and decided to pursue a career that would tell a new story for her family. “Because this was a family where no one went to college, really, except my aunties, who pursued college later in life,” she reasoned. So she put down the pens and squared her wardrobe for the corporate world. After graduating with a BA in marketing and communications, Brittni worked at a pharmaceutical company. It left plenty of energy for a more intriguing hustle—cake decorating. As friends got married and threw birthday parties, she was asked to build cakes that didn’t look like cakes—they looked like Strawberry Shortcake, or Darth Maul’s head, or a sushi board. Eventually, Brittni started her own business, Brittni Sweet Cakes, which proved successful at gig after gig, until she began working at D Bar, run by celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard. Then she realized she didn’t love it anymore. “I’m like, okay I made it. This is what I’m supposed to love, right? I’m working for a celebrity chef, and I just…hated it. I was never good enough, and it wasn’t fulfilling for me. I wasn’t able to express myself; I was just taking orders that people wanted and doing them.” During her final months in San Diego, Brittni decorated cakes at Whole Foods while she figured out her new path. Then, her husband landed a job with Tesla, and she moved up to San Jose with him. At Whole Foods in San Jose, Brittni worked customer service until she became a manager, and eventually accepted a property management opportunity. From there, she was referred to an audiovisual production company as a project manager, a role she filled easily but lacked passion for. After the contract ended, she was 39
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given the choice to either continue or take a severance and leave. This time, Brittni examined her heart. “When you live your life with cognitive dissonance between your soul and who you are in front of everybody, you become really unhappy,” she reflected. “As a little kid, I always said I wanted to be an artist. It’s funny, because I don’t think my parents ever pressured me to pursue something that made more money. But I pressured myself.” Once she made her decision to leave, everything crystallized. With a proven track record of diving 100 percent into everything she does, Brittni applied the same work ethic to her new career as an artist. “I would wake up at five or six o’clock to post at seven in the morning, when everybody is on Instagram,” she recalls. After three months, her rigorously trained habit of drawing daily and strategic search engine optimization paid off—vending right beside the revered corner booth spot at San Jose Made 2018, she nearly sold out her full booth of prints, tote bags, and illustrated work. Yet her proudest achievements lie in her message outreach. As an eco-conscious artist, she sources from local vendors that align with her practice of sustainability. Brittni’s business cards, printed by East Bay Giclee, double as prints on cotton; her packaging is biodegradable, made from plants; and the print she uses is soy-based (GotPrint). Her series Living Ghosts draws awareness to endangered species, such as the Parson’s chameleon from Madagascar—illegal to export, yet a popular pet in America. She adapts each illustration to the unique knots, burls, and “weird squirrelly designs” that occur naturally in the reclaimed wood she sources from Global Wood Source. Looking back on her winding journey to self and happiness, Brittni aims to create art that inspires people to act from an enlightened conscience, rather than a guilty one. “I always think of being earth friendly as a sliding scale,” she says. “It’s about your intention and reducing your negative impact—not about being perfect.” Treating oneself with kindness is sure to last a lifetime. C 41
KENTWARD Making Weird Stuff and Making Everyone Look at It
ebellion is an inherent part of youth. There’s a fire in most young people, a burning desire to challenge the status quo and change things for the better. But as time goes by and the realities of life start to set in, the fire dims. We lose our passion, and in some cases, our courage to fight back. Instead, we fall in line and shrink back into the mold. Some people are able to resist this apathy and complacency. They figure out how to use the skills and experience they gain to fight even harder, to reach even more hearts and minds. Kent Ward is one of these people. A creative director in the corporate world by trade, Kent uses his skills to craft stunning campaigns that drive business outcomes. But outside of the office, he leads a quiet revolution, using his art to inspire people to stand up for themselves, push back against a system that plays on our insecurities and fears, and, most importantly, start feeling something again.
How did you begin building a career in the creative field?
I grew up in a small logging town. I had no idea how I was going to pay for college, let alone art school, so I planned on joining the military. By [my] senior year of high school, I had completed three years of JROTC and started talking to recruiters, but they told me my poor eyesight wouldn’t allow me to get inside the cockpit of a plane. After a brief stint in Phoenix, I moved back to Washington and got a job in packaging, designing cardboard boxes. The company needed help with graphic design to create catalogs, fliers, and 42
other marketing materials. I told them that if they bought me the Adobe Creative Suite, I could take care of all of it. I had never touched any of those tools before, but I figured “how hard could it be?” They ended up getting me the software, and off I went digging into every book I could find, learning how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and PageMaker as quickly as possible. I also told them I could do all of their photography, so I was scrambling to figure that out at the same time, shooting 35mm and trying to get the color correct. A year later, the VP of marketing walked into my office and told me that the company needed a website. It was around 1997, so the internet was young and my exposure was limited to hitting on girls in AOL Instant Messenger and playing Quake II with friends. I told him that I had no idea how to build websites, and he said, “I thought you would say that,” and dropped an HTML book the size of a bible on my desk. He said “learn” and walked out, and that started my coding adventure. My big break came after I moved to Seattle. I had been stagnating, so I packed up everything, sold my house, and moved my family right in the middle of downtown. Soon after, I was able to get a job at Nordstrom. It was there that I met my mentor, Cari Wade, creative director for digital at Nordstrom. Since I had both the design and the coding background, I quickly got put on some high-visibility projects. Under Cari’s leadership, I learned a ton about elevating my design, but I also learned how to navigate the corporate world.
Written by Daniel Codella Portrait by Daniel Garcia kentwardcreative.com Instagram kentwardcreative Twitter kentjward
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She has been instrumental in helping shape my career to this point and opened up so many opportunities for me. I eventually left Nordstrom to see what else was out there and ended up moving to Idaho, working at Coldwater Creek. I helped recruit Cari there as a VP of digital creative, so my learning under her continued for our time there. From that point I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and was the digital creative director at places like Justice and Express, but I missed the West Coast. After 15 years, I moved out of the fashion world to take advantage of this amazing opportunity at Chegg to serve as their Creative Director. I’ve been here for about a year and a half, and I’m loving it. I’ve helped grow my team and now have a crew of 13 super-talented creatives doing some very exciting work.
Which artists inspire you? One of my biggest influ-
ences was Bill Watterson. I remember, as a kid, opening up the Sunday paper to read the comics and being completely blown away by Calvin and Hobbes. Here you are, faced with page after page of simple line drawings and bland stories, and then you get hit smack in the face with a hyper-detailed rendering of a T. rex or Calvin flying a perfectly executed F-16. And not only was the artwork fantastic, but the stories were relevant, heartwarming, and a little rebellious. I was enthralled. I bought every book I could find and spent countless hours poring through them time and time again, drinking in Bill’s attention to detail. It’s the little things, like how he uses thin little lines in his trees to accentuate the contours and bring out the shape. And then came Jim Phillips. I had been exposed to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s work, but Jim’s work was immediately more relevant to me. It was showing up all over skate gear, and I fell in love with the pops of color and the wild characters. So my work is a concoction of Jim Phillips while trying to incorporate the attention to detail from 46
Bill Watterson. Throw in a smattering of Rob Zombie and Salvador Dali augmented by a constant stream of MTV (back when it was cool).
Do you have any specific design or creative philosophies? Yeah, fuck the system. Do what you like
and don’t let anyone tell you what’s good. Make cool shit. THINK! Form a vision, even if that vision looks like it’s from a fever dream. Go in with a plan. Push the boundaries and make something unique. Take inspiration from everywhere, but always make your work your own. Follow your gut and your passions. Above all, never stop hustling.
Your Instagram showcases a very different style than your professional work. Where did that come from? It’s my way to push back, I guess. I’m running around in corporate America doing corporate things for my corporate paycheck, but that’s not me. I finally have a gig in a company that’s mission driven to help students, so I feel great about that. It beats the hell out of selling jeans to people who don’t need more jeans, but artistically that’s not where my head is at. I want my work to have an edge. I want it to make people feel something, even if that something makes them uncomfortable. I recently had a small batch of stickers made from some of my drawings, and they’re getting slapped up all over the office. The CEO comes walking past my desk and sees a sheet of them, so I asked him if he likes my new stickers. He says, “Two things: One, these are really cool. Two, are you okay?” That’s the reaction I want. No, I’m not okay. You shouldn’t be okay. None of us should be okay living in a system that forces bullshit beauty standards down our throats and plays on our insecurities and fears. None of us should be okay where inequality runs rampant. None of us should be okay following the status quo. We should push back, and the only way I know how to do that is by making weird shit and making everyone else look at it. C
“I want my work to have an edge. I want it to make people feel something, even if that something makes them uncomfortable.” –Kent Ward
Artist Oleg Lobykin
OLEG LOBYKIN Disappearing Act
Written by Gillian Claus Photography by Sannie Celeridad lobykin.com Facebook stonesculpt Instagram oleg_lobykin Twitter oleg_lobykin
tanding 18 feet high, Talking Heads is a sculpture composed of empty space surrounded by stainless steel. Artist Oleg Lobykin’s largest piece to date, some have compared it to intricate coral or a spinal column. Lobykin hoped to use the unique language of art to set humans to thinking about their technological impact on future generations. Talking Heads graced the sands of Black Rock City in 2019. “For 12 years I have been to Burning Man,” says Lobykin. “I was amazed and blown away when I showed up the first time, specifically by art and what people do, and creativity on every level—the juxtaposition of technology and nature.” Born in St. Petersburg to a military officer and a midwife, Lobykin has always enjoyed creating. “I always liked to escape from reality, to be in your own world and look for things like curves in the clouds. I like to waste time like that—drawing during school lessons. Before I ended up in the US, I was drawing a lot of cowboys and Indians.” At art school, Lobykin studied to become a master stone carver, following architectural drawings and creating free designs, like gargoyles. After graduation, Lobykin went to New York to work on the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and to Alabama, creating a 23-foot column carved into a mountain at the opening of a limestone quarry, training local stone carvers to help with the work. When the Perestroika movement took hold, Lobykin decided to go back to Russia and “take a break from stone time to wear a shirt and tie and do something completely different” and set up a business. There he met his future wife, a Californian who happened to be in Russia. When she wanted to continue her education, they relocated to Palo Alto. “I am lazy and hate to spend time in traffic, so I started to look close by for a job.” When Lobykin saw the sandstone in the main court at Stanford, and found they had staff architects, he 49
“I wanted to see how you could balance something made by nature—keep the natural shape but at the same time work with man’s interference.”-Oleg Lobykin showed them his portfolio and was hired. Stonesculpt, his masonry restoration company, is still working for Stanford 20 years later—as well as for the Presidio and the City of San Jose. Lobykin has a studio in East Palo Alto where he lives with his wife and daughter and continues to express himself in his art, selling some pieces and showing in a handful of galleries. He created No Swimming for Burning Man in 2008. Over the next few years, the piece went to Google HQ and then to Newport Beach. Now, Playa to Paseo, the Burning Man Project, and the City of San Jose collaboration has brought the 12-foot sculpture to SAP Center. “Its original meaning was about danger, fear, and hope for tomorrow; that is why it is a shark fin,” says Lobykin. “But at SAP, it is all about sharks, or whatever people see.” Searching for the basic elements required to create complex form, Lobykin is experimenting with reflections and form in a massive conceptual piece called Pixel. “I actually look at forms in a different way,” says Lobykin. “How does it start? Where does it meet the form itself? In music you have notes. If you are talking about visual arts, specifically a three-dimensional object, what is the ABC over there?” Lobykin imagines Pixel’s polished curve as an interactive sculpture, more than 30 feet tall, that would allow the viewer to see themselves reflected in the surface. “If you come close to it, you appear in a normal way. If you go far away, you disappear and become part of your surroundings.” Such process requires a combination of technology and natural material. Computer renderings don’t give the full picture. His process can involve 3D printing, traditional bronze foundries, and chromium-plated bronze. But he can equally explore found objects, like beach stones, turning them over in his hands before knowing what his stone will become. “I just take the stone, look at it. What can be done with this? I wanted to see how you could balance something made by nature—keep the natural shape but at the same time work with man’s interference.” C 52
See No Swimming at SAP Center 525 West Santa Clara Street until April 4, 2020
“You’re taking storytelling and turning it into storyliving.” –Leily Khatibi
L E I L Y Khatibi The Intertwining of Nature and Tech
Written by Johanna Hickle Photography by Daniel Garcia leilykhatibi.com Instagram fewnew
ow many books and bloggers have warned us of the isolation of our digital screens? Of the threat of social media corroding friendships or of virtual reality overriding real life? But here’s the thing about tools: They can harm or they can help. It’s up to the user to make that choice, and immersive experience designer Leily Khatibi knows this better than most. The inspiration for Khatibi’s thesis project at San Jose State (SJSU) arose from her introduction to the concept of the Wood Wide Web—a term scientists use to refer to the underground fungal network that connects the roots of trees and plants, allowing them to communicate and share resources with each other. Fascinated by its striking resemblance to the internet, she realized, “They have their own social media underground. It’s so sci-fi, but it’s a real thing!” This inspired a question: “If the Wood Wide Web and the World Wide Web were to intersect, what types of hybrid/techno-botanic life would take form?” What sort of symbiotic relationship might be cultivated between tech and plants? Putting this thought-experiment to the test, the SJSU grad student conducted a series of experiences. Interconnecting with the Wood Wide Web (WWW.) resulted in workshops, a greenhouse installation, and an interactive exhibition at one of SJSU’s galleries. The workshop part of Khatibi’s project unfolded at Backyard San Jose, a pop-up community garden and event space that temporarily sprang up over the summer in an unassuming downtown lot. If you had signed up as one of her participants, Khatibi would have ushered you over to a long table and supplied you with containers
of Play-Doh. She would have instructed you to sculpt a techno-botanic plant that might aid a sustainable future, then write a narrative about your creation’s origin and abilities. These could range from a flower that purifies areas affected by power plant radiation to a genetically modified shrub offering an alternative power source. The resulting dough creations—carnivorous or floral, viny or thorny—were placed atop blackand-white, pixelated QR code squares, then 3D scanned. From there, they were uploaded to augmented reality (AR), which, unlike virtual reality, adds to the physical world rather than wipes it out. For viewing, participants stepped over to a small “greenhouse” made of transparent, iridescent plastic the color of a soap bubble and picked up the AR HoloLens headset resting on the platform within. With the apparatus strapped on, participants witnessed the virtual organisms they had “grown” now thriving in the midst of Backyard’s real foliage. “You’re taking storytelling and turning it into storyliving,” Khatibi declares. She also got the greenlight to set up her AR greenhouse among the fronds and ferns of SJSU’s climate-controlled rooftop greenhouse. “It was really meta!” she says. One of her favorite factors of the whole experience? The collaboration—a process that has increasingly progressed to the forefront of her practice. “It wasn’t so much about what my vision was. It was more about how we could collectively create something together…it was a platform for them to bring their own ideas to,” Khatibi says. She also notes that collaboration is implicitly tied to the nature of the internet—an exhaustive number of databases, documents, and other resources
pooled into one massive amalgamation. All those different angles of observation reveal a more multifaceted, in-depth understanding of the world around us. “Together we’re stronger and the ideas are more powerful. It’s a more universal message,” she says. Partnership is also essential to big-vision projects. When we don’t have time to become an expert in multiple fields, tasks can be delegated to different specialists. “You don’t need to know all of it! You just need to know people who know what you want them to know,” Khatibi laughs. Another main theme of the WWW. project was reconsidering our perception of technology as artificial. Sometimes it partners with nature, Khatibi observes, explaining how undersea cables connect continents to achieve the World Wide Web and how cell towers masquerade as trees. From this perspective, the advancement of society doesn’t necessarily have to carry us further away from the natural world. It’s possible to blend the two spheres rather than widen the divide (its own kind of collaboration, if you think about it). This can be as simple as making the switch from synthetic materials to eco-friendly ones. In a past experiment titled Sacred Geometry, Khatibi explored 3D printing by replacing man-made plastics with clay. And it can be as intricate as biophilic design— the concept of blending contemporary architecture with nature, resulting in structures that unfold like organisms, flowing and flexible. In this quest to pull our heads out of the virtual cloud and mentally ground ourselves with organic elements, we’ve ended up with projects like the Amazon Spheres in Seattle, a greenhouse-style workspace with a small rainforest of 40,000 plants and treehouse meeting rooms. And let’s not forget Sin-
gapore’s iconic Supertree Grove—man-made, tree-like towers covered with ferns and orchids and embedded with solar panels that supply energy for a stunning light show every evening. Coincidently, Khatibi gained her bachelor’s in architecture. Such cross-disciplinary studies allow her to apply an understanding of the relationship between humans and physical spaces to her VR/AR installations. “It’s all about environment building and world building,” she says of both fields. Khatibi’s hopeful view pushes back against progress pessimists who predict a harsh future. “With technology replacing humans, it is kind of scary how robots might take over the world. We see it in all these dystopian narratives in movies. I just saw the most recent Terminator,” she says with a wry smile. “But I also see a lot of potential in it. Even though there’s these phobias or narratives that don’t have such happy endings, I think it could be quite useful to have technology improve.” And artificial intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean humanity will one day grow outdated. “I was a part of that whole transition—from analogue use to a hyper-digital maturity,” Khatibi notes. As a ’90s baby, she saw Walkmans and CD-ROMs yield to smart phones and Spotify. She watched VHS cassettes give way to Netflix. “As technology changes, I’m changing with it, and it’s just a natural part of who I am,” she says. A variety of voices will continue to shape our expectations for technology and the future— whether that be dystopian society or cultivated civilization. As she continues to create, Khatibi’s immersive installations are sure to lend a hopeful voice to that discussion. C
Written by Grace Talice Lee Photography by Daniel Garcia cinequest.org Facebook: cinequest Instagram: cinequestinc Twitter: cinequest YouTube: cinequest Baobab Studios baobabstudios.com Social media: baobabstudios
VR CINEQUEST FILM & CREATIVITY FESTIVAL
The wild frontier of media and storytelling The Cinequest Film & Cre-
ativity Festival doesn’t just exhibit great content—it explores the most innovative methods through which to exhibit that content. This event innovates in tandem with the constantly shifting landscape of technology, keeping step as cameras, projectors, and screens evolve in size and scope. Among many other accolades, Cinequest was the first major festival ever to bring films onto handheld mobile devices; the first to present live and online experiences at the same time; the first to accept all digital formats, with digital projection on all its screens— proving that whatever is about to happen in media and storytelling will most likely happen at Cinequest first. Cinequest doesn’t just show movies the way we know movies: watching them while silent and still, remote and removed
from the characters and adventures onscreen. At this Film & Creativity Festival, there’s virtual reality, augmented reality, and extended reality, where the drama and intrigue happens to you, interacts with you, befriends and converses with you. Take Asteroids!, for example, made by Baobab Studios and exhibited as a virtual reality program at Cinequest 2017. In this piece, you’re a helper on a spaceship with three other characters—a taskmaster-alien who micromanages and criticizes you through your daily chores, his otherworldly friend, and their pet robot. Suddenly there’s an accident, and the friend-alien ends up on a medical table, moments away from death. The taskmaster-alien panics, totally helpless—then realizes that you alone can save his friend by using a special tool that only you can op-
erate. He begs you to help. So, what do you do? Take action, or take revenge? If you save his friend right away, the whole spaceship erupts in a happy reunion—then the taskmaster humbles himself before you and invites you into a friendship. If you hesitate to save the friend, the taskmaster harasses you with increasing urgency to act. If you refuse completely, the pet robot rips the tool away from you, and it saves the day instead. There’s still a happy reunion between the aliens—but then everybody walks away from you, celebrates without you, and leaves you in the cold. Herein lies the biggest difference between virtual reality cinema versus traditional film cinema: VR happens with you, about you, to you. Eric Darnell, the director of Asteroids! and the chief creative officer of Bao59
(Left) Aripi (Top) Out There (Right) Everst
CINEQUEST 2020 VR AND AR PROGRAM This year’s Cinequest VR and AR program will present the public with a wide range of culturally diverse and thought-provoking programs. Whether you’re with characters trying to flee a dying planet or hurling effortlessly through space, the Cinema Program has it all. Perhaps you’re on a more intimate journey, crewing with Dr. Who in the TARDIS or on your own planet, climbing to the top of Mount Everest. All these experiences will take your mind for a journey that you won’t forget. Three augmented reality experiences meld real-world with digital objects to create
a visual and auditory delight. You’ll come face to face with extinct creatures in Sir David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive and enjoy the beautiful vocals of Vanessa Williams in Out There, the first truly interactive music video. You will also be able to take part in hyperreality experiences that allow you to move with complete freedom in a virtual world. Walk through three different dinosaur landscapes in DinoMundi or team up with two of your buddies in the world of the Cartoon Network series Ben 10. Come experience the latest in virtual reality content at Cinequest 2020. – VR Department Manager May Yam
Since 2000, Cinequest has played a vanguard role in not only showcasing pioneering media technologies but also in implementing them. Cinequest was:
•The first film festival to provide
comprehensive distribution solutions for festival films, encompassing internet, DVD, and internet-TV. •The first to engage in direct internet-to-TV distribution. •The first to enable DVD/HD-quality online downloads of feature films. •The first to present coinciding live and online festival experiences. •The first to bring films to hand-held mobile devices. •The first to showcase 24P workflow and cameras. •The first to showcase solid-state filmmaking
technology. •The first festival to accept all digital film formats with digital projection on all screens. •The first to create and to implement its own server system for digital content. •The first festival to showcase Barco Escape threescreen experience. •The first major festival to include a comprehensive VR, AR, XR showcase of cinema, immersive, and interactive content and workshops for audiences and content creators.
Museum Alive with David Attenborough AR
bab Studios, described how this distinction factors into the storytelling process. “If you make the viewer the main character, then the question becomes, ‘How can I put the viewer in a position where they have to make a decision under pressure, that feels meaningful, that perhaps even reveals something to the viewer they didn’t realize about themselves?’ ” These decisions are designed specifically so they do not have an obvious right or wrong answer. The viewer’s choice then becomes a function of who they are—or, perhaps, a function of who they are within the context of that VR experience, with the particular characters of that story. This way, the viewer becomes convinced that their decisions matter, and they develop real empathy for their alien companions. Only then can the viewer act on that empathy to make a brave choice for compassion and therefore to rescue their taskmaster’s friend from the very brink of death. “You can’t do this with films,” said Darnell. “You can have all kinds of empathy, but you can’t help the little girl who’s in harm’s way onscreen. It’s not to say that films don’t generate acts of compassion— they certainly do—but real-time VR is the rare medium where you can actually inspire the viewer to make a compassionate act right there—right when they’re feeling it the most.” Of course, the VR experience continues long after re-
moving the headset. As said by Darnell, “Maybe by giving people an opportunity to get into these stories and connect with these characters and take action that’s not driven by a desire to win—but driven by this connection with this world and these characters and this story— [VR] becomes a way to practice becoming compassionate. So when they take the headset off, and they’re in the real world, they might be more inclined to do something like that.” It’s likely that Darnell is right about the correlation between virtual reality heroics and real-world empathy. In 2013, Stanford researchers, including professor Jeremy Bailenson, psychologist Robin Rosenberg, and student Shawnee Baughman, conducted an experiment where subjects had to save the day in a VR scenario—either as Superman flying through the clouds or as passengers on a helicopter. After the program, the researcher would “accidentally” knock over a cup of pens and count how many seconds it took before the subject knelt to pick them up. Those who played Superman would help within three seconds. For the helicopter passengers, it took more than twice the time. Darnell is also right that the more you practice becoming compassionate, the more the practice sticks. As the neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky writes in The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, humans typically act with honesty and
compassion, not because it’s the logical or even the right thing to do, but because “it’s what moral imperatives have been hammered into you with such urgency and consistency that doing the right thing has virtually become a spinal reflex.” In other words, if you ask the lone hero from a paralyzed crowd why they ran into a burning building to save a child, the answer is usually, “I wasn’t thinking anything. Before I knew it, I was already inside.” They’ve been conditioned since birth to make these moral decisions, so it’s easy to make the same choice in the face of temptation or blind fear. They’ve been practicing for years to become heroes—just like viewers can practice for the same during a VR show. Virtual reality is changing the face of entertainment, whether you know it or not. One day, VR headsets will be as ubiquitous as televisions and smart phones are today—and as comfortable to wear as a pair of glasses or a contact lens. Until that day, you have two options for experiencing the magic of this medium: either shell out almost a thousand dollars for a PlayStation 4 and an Oculus Quest, or simply pick up a ticket to Cinequest. So swing by the Film & Creativity Festival. Test out every new and burgeoning form of storytelling. And step into all the fantasy worlds that come along with it. C
IDEA FAB LABS Technology and the Joy of Making
Written by Kevin Marks Portrait by Daniel Garcia Idea Fab Labs Santa Cruz 2801 Mission Street Ext #204 Santa Cruz, CA 95060 santacruz.ideafablabs.com Facebook flsantacruz Instagram idea-fab-labs-santa-cruz
The digital revolution might have meant the end of craftsmanship altogether, until we realized that digital tools could enhance our human ability to make awesome actual objects. Still, in the high-rent, instantaneous culture of Silicon Valley, is there a place for makers to gather, meet, and make? Yes, and it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn it’s in Santa Cruz. While many maker labs have lost their leases due to frenzied Bay Area rental competition (RIP TechShop), Idea Fab Labs (IFL) is thriving by gathering makers on the other side of the hill. Co-founder Jordan Layman knows about the possibilities inherent in a place where the community harnesses bearing-edge technology for the sake of art, creativity, utility, and the joy of making stuff. Humans and robots unite!
What is the origin and history of Idea Fab Labs? IFL is the brain-
child of myself and my business partner, Erin Banwell. We both are very social and sort of stumbled on the idea of a mak-
erspace/fab lab while looking for models to sublet a large space that we were renting for cheap up in Chico, California, in 2013. It was a pretty natural progression. Erin is a visionary and extremely talented artist. He wanted to share his knowledge and coach artists in integrating technology into their art process. We built out zone areas and gallery walls in an old dilapidated building in Chico, and people started building crazy projects for Burning Man and other events. It’s been a wild ride ever since. Erin was under a lot of pressure from his friends in his hometown, Santa Cruz, to bring the whole thing here, so we started this facility in 2015. Both locations have over 100 members and we do everything: gallery shows, contract production work classes, workshops, field trips, consulting, you name it.
What tools and classes are offered at Idea Fab Labs? We currently have
two large laser cutting machines, two large CNC router tables, a full woodshop, a CNC metal mill, many 3D printers, an electronics lab, a jewelry zone, lots of design stations to make shapes for the tools, and plenty of amenities. In order to use the different tool zones, you need to take a free and mandatory safety and basic use class. They are the best place to start if you are completely new to a tool or craft, and they also introduce you to the Zone Manager, who is usually a skilled resource. In addition to the basic courses, we are in the process of putting together the first quarter’s classes and workshops, and they will be posted on our events calendar. We host several meetups at the space, as well. These are also found on the calendar and Meetup.com.
How has the Santa Cruz community embraced the lab? Santa Cruz fasci-
nates me because it really has a strong self-identity. People say things to me, almost every day, like: “This place is so Santa Cruz” or “Nice, very ‘Santa Cruz.’ ” I laugh all the time about it, but it seems like people think we fit in really well. The artistic, creative culture here
“Digital tools and technology are merging into every part of our lives, and Silicon Valley is the hub for that innovation.”
Word on the street is there are “Robot Wars” at the lab...explain! Robot
is prominent, and we do fit. Additionally, being in the Old Wrigley Building, we are a significant part of what’s happening on the Westside: art, beer, fresh food, design, etc. We get people involved in all of it coming in to support their businesses or feed their passions.
Talk about the volunteers at Idea Fab Labs. Volunteers are the life-
blood of our community. We have over 20 right now, and they teach the safety classes, keep the shop in order, improve the space overall, do tabling events, hang art shows, and a lot more. There are so many amazing people here who are both members and volunteers. It’s really the best part of the lab. We have room for more, too. We have discounted membership opportunities for people who volunteer.
Can you recount a story of one of your members and how their idea or project flourished at the lab? Yeah. We definitely had a
Come join an open house is every Monday, 5 to 7pm. New member orientations are after at 7pm and Wednesdays at 5pm. Safety classes are held throughout the week...it’s easy to get started.
ton of activity around Burning Man, with five concurrent large builds in the space. Everyone was helping each other and working together. This holiday season was also really fun. One member made a giant Settlers of Catan board game for her boyfriend and another couple designed a very well-made Weasley clock for a family member. Our Instagram account is full of cool projects, gallery images from our resident artist program, the IFL Tech Art Incubator, and other interesting happenings around the lab.
Wars is one of our meetups. The end goal is to host sanctioned robot battles like the show BattleBots. Currently, the meetup is mostly geared towards designing our own platform to build the robots with and designing and building an arena.
Talk about the maker movement and its place in Silicon Valley. Digital
tools and technology are merging into every part of our lives, and Silicon Valley is the hub for that innovation. The maker movement is completely built on top of digital tools—either designed digitally or driven digitally or both. Robots are the future whether we like it or not, and almost all of the tools we use in the shop are robots. If you’re a designer, you use software. If you’re a developer, you understand software. If you can use the software, you have an incredible edge with the tools that are key to the maker movement. All of the digital progress that’s made in this area drives the whole movement forward and simultaneously makes accessing [the tools] easier and easier for everyone whether they are tech minded or not. It’s all intertwined.
Why is working with one’s hands good for the soul? I wouldn’t know, I
rarely work with my hands...We let the robots do the work. It’s not working with one’s hands, I think. It’s the putting in an effort that matters. It’s also sharing discovery and holding each other up. That’s what’s more fulfilling to me.
What does it mean to create actual objects in the digital age? It means
Star Trek replicators are coming soon. Ha! Couldn’t help myself. Really, we could take this question in a lot of directions, so, first, it means democratizing enhancements and repairs. You can 3D model or just download brackets, gears, utensils, tools, whatever. Three-D printing is fairly limited to plastic for now, but that’s going to change this decade. It’s really going to shake up how people think about the things that they buy. Coupled with a mind for sustainability, it solves a lot of the disposability problems we face. Really, though, I think it does bring us full circle. At first we went really far away from our roots of craft and manufacturing into the digital world, but now the digital world is producing actual objects. There’s a feedback loop in there as well, I think. At least you can do pretty cool art by repeatedly printing and scanning and printing and scanning the same object.
What excites you about Idea Fab Labs in 2020? It feels like we are just getting going. There’s so many passionate people in here now, doing and making awesome things, sharing with each other, helping each other, learning and growing together. We’ve just started to hit a magnetizing level, and it feels energized. Classes are on the horizon next month, lots of sweet improvements and zones in the works—virtual reality, fume room, jewelry torch, a water jet cutter—big art collaborations with our neighbors, the Art Cave...It’s happening. C
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TSHAKA CAMPBELL Sharing the Words
Written by Yale Wyatt Portrait by Robert J Schultze tshakacampbellpoet.com Facebook tshakacampbell Twitter pappatshak Instagram pappatshak
f you’ve seen slam poetry live in the Bay Area, chances are you’ve seen Tshaka Campbell performing. Campbell has dedicated his artistic life to sharing his world of words and the performance of his own perspective. Wherever Campbell has called home, he’s brought his poetry with him, lending his intimate stories and words of longing to other lovers of craft or to anybody willing to lend an ear. Campbell can trace his affinity for words back to his father, who read aloud the speeches of Marcus Garvey and the poems of Claude McKay. Campbell picked up the politics and artistry of what was shared with him, but it was much more than simply context. Even as a young boy, Campbell felt the texture of the words themselves, informed not just by their content but by their intonation, rhythm, delivery—their poetry. He started writing his own poems at a young age, privately, but it took him awhile to find his own style. It wouldn’t be until he performed his poetry in front of an audience that his voice would come into its own. For Campbell, it was about elevating the subject. “When you own it, your body starts to perform it. And when you write about something you’re passionate about, that passion will come through it.” He and his friends started attending open mic nights at the local poetry club. On the first night of his first performance, the owner pulled him aside and told him that he had something special, and that he needed to perform at the dedicated slam poetry night. Immediately, Campbell saw that people were interested in what he had to say, in the perspective he could share. “At these sessions, you quickly realize how empathetic people are,” Campbell says. “That was impactful. As long as I had integrity in my poetry, people would share in my experience.” Getting a taste of the audience’s reaction to his performances initiated a reciprocal relationship—he realized he could affect them, and in turn they could affect him. Since then, Campbell has lived the life of a traveling poet. When he isn’t working his day job as a marketing director, he’s either writing poetry or performing at a slam. In his older age, now that 67
Hesitate I am the shale in your palms molded into a passing wisp that hollows marrow from bones Itâ€™s the expectation of sacrificed fingers that cements my stare The rest of me aches for the kiss of night to sneak between us Body tempered Sharpened for the finishing We wait as the sun layers... Slowly the night invisibles the shape of the furniture to walls I watch you by not watching at all Just examining how things move around you air water sweat hands Like shaping clay your form slips into positions it seems accustomed to I remember that we are young enough to sow seeds but old enough to know where to dig I crawl into the shadow we cast all the while condemning all that may have shared its gaze
Excerpt from Tunnel Vision, NaturalKink Enterprises, 2018.. 68
“When you own it, your body starts to perform it. And when you write about something you’re passionate about, that passion will come through it.” –Tsahaka Campbell
he has “calmed down,” the focus of Campbell’s poetry is more domestic. He primarily writes about politics and the struggles of African-Americans, but he’s noticed that regardless of the topic, the poem will center around a message he wants to send his daughter. He’s currently working on a collection of lessons he wishes to impart to her, aptly titled “Letters to My Daughter.” “It’s almost an unconscious thing,” Campbell says. “Whether it is politics or the BLM movement, as time went on, she was the undertone. It’s like a different lens through that same prism.” Campbell eventually wants to bring some writing-centered youth programs to San Jose to help cultivate the raw talent he knows the city has. He believes that there is a stigmatic barrier against poetry—that the important distinctions between “page” poetry and performed is often disregarded, and so, too, is the art. At the same time, others believe that the written form is “intellectual” and performed is “low-brow,” when the two come from the same wellspring of necessary human expression. “Like everything in this world, we dilute and compartmentalize poetry, but people use it every day,” says Campbell. “There should be more of an appreciation for it. But there is a stigma attached to this thing called poetry.” Performing slam across the world has taught Campbell one thing—that no matter where you go, there will be some niche where people will hole up and share their poetry. Campbell has noticed that, locally, poetry clubs are currently in a trough, with turnout low, especially during the economic downturn in the late 2000s. Still, Campbell is not worried. He knows that the desire to perform and share one’s voice is alive and well, and it won’t be long until others join him and grab the mic. “It’s all cyclical,” Campbell says. “People will come and go, but there will always be somebody to slot into that space and share their voice. C 69
Local indie rocker Natasha Sandworms is learning to write from a place of happiness
Written by Isaiah Wilson Portrait by Leopoldo Macaya natashasandworms.bandcamp.com Instagram natasha.sandworms
atasha Sandworms carries a punk swagger when she performs, a confidence she has built from being a newcomer in the local SJ indie scene. “It can be intimidating walking into the room and having the attention be on you,” Natasha admits, being a frontwoman of color in a fairly homogenous scene. Despite this, she feels confident in her artistry. Brandishing her iconic heart-shaped guitar, this indie-rock artist tethers the lines between new wave, post-punk, and something entirely unique to her. Natasha is as DIY as it gets. Her work has a lo-fi feel to it, mostly because she was recording and mixing her music in an old Santa Cruz motel and in her car. Single Celled is Natasha’s debut coming-of-age album, which she recorded using her iP-
hone and voicemail. Single Celled quickly became a personal favorite of the Come Up collective and was recognized as one of the best local music projects from 2018. The album felt like it was released out of necessity. Natasha has been writing and making music since she was eight, but losing friends and being alone at college led to a depression that extinguished her passion to create—she even stopped listening to music. “I had cultivated an entire life that I hated,” Natasha says. “I wasn’t active, I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing to make me happy.” Natasha took it upon herself to address her unhappiness. She ended a relationship, quit her job, and moved out of her apartment. What came from this dras-
tic change was a new-found love for music. “[Music] felt like something, and I was like, ‘Wow, I should do this. I’m feeling it now.’ ” This moment in her life became the lyrical backbone of Single Celled. “You get this backed-up creativity, and it all just came out. The album just wrote itself in a couple of weeks.” The record feels like an homage to the 1980s—a combination of the Cure and Elvis Costello, with a touch of New Order. The lo-fi quality is a nod to new wave, pop, and punk sprinkled throughout the album. Some tracks are more contemplative and reminiscent of contemporary artists such as Phoebe Bridgers, Current Joys, or Pinegrove. While her music can be upbeat, the lyrics paint a picture of an artist in a place of pain. 71
“You get this backed-up creativity, and it all just came out.” –Natasha Sandworms
“[My music] can vary in genre, but it’s always very emotional,” Natasha assesses. “I only perform four songs off the album, because they are the only ones I’m comfortable performing. There are some songs on there that are painful that I just can’t play in front of people.” The album takes a mature approach to a breadth of difficult subject matters—depression, love, heartbreak, loneliness, and the shaping of one’s identity. The title track, “Single Celled,” digs into the complicated nature of
being true to oneself while feeling alone, which may serve as the theme of the entire project. After releasing the album, Natasha was contacted by her good friend John Carlo, drummer of local act Eastern Westerner and one of the founders of Yeah! Records. Still in the initial phases of creating his label, John Carlo released the album on cassette. Fresh from a six-month stint living in Thailand, Natasha is adjusting to living in San Jose and writing from a place of contentment and stability. She now
has a four-piece band—guitarist Cole Calvo and bassist Will Merveau along with John Carlo as her drummer, seasoned musicians of the local scene who have performed with other Bay Area acts such as Bread Club, Drop In, and Pardoner. She has become more collaborative with her writing process, sharing her rough drafts and recordings with her band. She admits that her previous reticence and reluctance to collaborate came from stubbornness and insecurity, but now she deeply values collaborating. “The experience of playing shows and receiving generally positive feedback makes me more confident,” she says. Natasha is learning that creating in a more positive mindset has its own challenges, but she is willing to take them on. C 73
ALBUM PICKS Curated by Needle to the Groove Instagram: needletothegrooverecords
Yeule Serotonin II (Bayonet Records) Release date: October 25, 2019 Written by Chris Jalufka
Various Artists Cruising (Waxwork Records) Release date: March 1, 2019 Written by Chris Jalufka
Until recently, ambient music has never really had true mainstream appeal. With a multitude of Spotify “relaxation” and “lo-fi chill” playlists, there has never been a stronger pop appreciation for textured and unobtrusive electronic music. It’s within this realm that artists like London pop songwriter Yeule are making their name with true ambient pop. On her debut record, Serotonin II, Yeule brings together hazy soundscapes with the sweet 16-bit melodies one might find in a video game soundtrack. It’s a simple formula, but Yeule’s creative presentation makes the results surprisingly novel. Each track is a potent display of ambience and texture mixed with trendy e-girl aesthetics. Most interestingly, Serotonin II is distinctly ambient in song structure and sound, but the sharp melodies and Yeule’s singing give the record a pop edge. The best example of this dynamic is the track, “An Angel Held Me Like a Child.” It opens with a haunting piano line and Yeule’s breathy vocals, both of which are slowly overtaken by a massive, pulsing wall of synthesizers. It’s as enveloping as it is touching, making you feel exactly like the title describes. Similarly, “Poison Arrow” is just as atmospheric, with Yeule gently intoning over a driving pop beat, without sacrificing any of the texture of swelling synths. It’s a testament to Yeule’s skill as a songwriter that she understands how to make the most out of the sounds she pulls from. When listened to as a whole, Serotonin II might seem a bit one note, in part because of the dominant overarching aesthetic. But Yeule’s unique synthesis of the pop and ambient assures that whatever she does next, it will make a mark in the electronic world. Yeule stands alongside many other pop stars that seemingly come not from the physical world, but the digital, and she is among the few that will actually take you there.
Since its 1980 release, director William Friedkin’s thriller Cruising has grown from a forgotten Hollywood failure to a highly regarded treasure of modern cinema. The film follows straight-laced cop Al Pacino as he goes undercover in the leather bars of New York City’s gay scene in search of a serial killer. The 2019 triple vinyl edition of the soundtrack released by Waxwork Records collects 28 tracks of pure punk noise, avant-garde jazz, funk grime, and synth rock. The track list is in constant balance between euphoria and fury, matching the drug-fueled dance floors in Friedkin’s exploration of late ’70s New York City. Willy DeVille’s “Heat of the Moment” is all bravado and guitar chug with DeVille’s coarse wail showcasing ’80s machismo at its peak. The Cripples follow with “Loneliness,” where frontman Shawn Casey O’Brien howls the lines “This loneliness is eating me up / Eating me, eating me up / I said, eating me, eating me, eating me up,” and if someone were to look for lyrics written from inside the mind of a serial killer, they’re here in this tightly wound musical panic attack. On a release that features five remastered and highly sought-after tracks by punk legends Germs, it feels a bit odd to find that the 1980 track “Lump” by funk band Mutiny is the highlight. “Lump” begins with an angular guitar line, tense and claustrophobic, before breaking out into a straight-up frenzied slab of sweaty club funk. Recorded in 1979, it could have easily been written yesterday. “Lump” is more in tune with Cruising, a timeless oddity born out of no specific era—within this one song is the crossing of punk, jazz, funk, and hints of the future creation of hip-hop.
Favorite Track: “Poison Arrow” BANDCAMP.COM/ALBUM/SEROTONIN-II Instagram: yeule
Favorite track: Mutiny - “Lump” WAXWORKRECORDS.COM/PRODUCTS/CRUISING Social Media: waxworkrecords
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Roc Marciano Marcielago (Independent Release) Release date: Dec 1, 2019 Written by David Ma
Maverick Sabre When I Wake Up (FAMM Records) Release date: March 22, 2019 Written by Taran Escobar-Ausman
Marcberg (2010) set ripples in underground rap that spawned an entire era, a sea of little Roc Marcis lobbing swift run-on rhymes over slow-burning soul loops. As we approach 2020, it’s clear that Roc’s catalog has aged wisely. From 2012’s Reloaded, to Marci Beaucoup (2013), to Rosebudd’s Revenge (2017), Roc has been quietly building a masterful and influential oeuvre. It’s easy to forget that Roc is a devout rap veteran, a member of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad, whose growth took decades before its engulfing emergence at the end of the early aughts; 2004 saw a group project by the UN—UN or U Out—considered a New York classic of early group material reissued in 2014 to fans playing catch-up with Roc’s catalogue. A 2018 trifecta of triumph, three huge releases that defined the year in rap for listeners and colleagues alike—RR2: The Bitter Dose, Behold a Dark Horse, and Kaos, an elegant collaboration with legendary DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill fame. Over two decades since emerging from Hempstead, Long Island, Roc sits atop a tiny list of consistently impactful rapper-producers, able to spit rapturous lines over subdued samples, as evenhanded in his brilliance behind the mic as he is on it. As 2020 approaches, Roc aims to amplify his status as the most copied in the game, the one whose blueprints set forth a sea change in tone, style, and approach—drums, sans drums, boom-bap, lushness, stacked sentences, mood—all of it. Marcielago captures the split second push comes to shove, dripping with drug life calculations, gun clicks, hood politics, sunroofs, and dark favors. The release has a cache of key collaborators, many of whom have since proliferated the style that Roc ignited. Producers Alchemist (on “Saw”) and ANIMOSS (on “Molly Ringwald”) round out the backdrops (Roc manned the rest), while KA adds typically brilliant and quiet poetics on “Aphesians.” Other familiar names, Willie Da Kidd, Cook$, Knowledge the Pirate, and omnipresent Griselda chief Westside Gunn (“Boosie Fade”) add firepower and vocal presence to an album already bound with subtle ballistics.
On his third album, When I Wake Up, Irish crooner Maverick Sabre sings with a balance of personal introspection and societal commentary, meditating on one’s place in an ever-changing and, at times, deceitful world. His rich and soulful voice, with its slight warble, is put front and center on the opening track, “Preach.” The poetic blues number sets the tone for the album as he reflects on his personal faith and whether it still serves his best interests. Lyrically, the album takes on an inquisitive theme, whether he is questioning who he is becoming or how we coexist with each other, though many times these become one and the same. In the song, “Into Nirvana,” Sabre cleverly pays homage to two of his biggest influences, Stone Roses and Oasis, by using song titles to describe finding himself as he transverses early adulthood in London. He sings, “I’ve been searching for roses / In a land man made of stone here / There’s waterfalls in the graveyard / There’s fool’s gold in my pocket / Is anyone still a dreamer?” The song plays with a late-night, head-nodding vibe courtesy of its downtempo hip-hop beat and infectious pedal-point bass line. Sabre has always leaned toward modern soul arrangements, but his new sonic vision is more realized and thought out, giving more room for the arrangements to breathe. Sultry songwriter, singer, and longtime friend Jorja Smith joins Sabre for the R&B number “Slow Down,” in which they play lovers feuding over trivial disagreements. When I Wake Up is Maverick’s first attempt at a proper album that is cohesive in both sound and theme. The soulful and warm instrumentation helps deliver his thoughtful exploration inward. While at times it seems that all has become bogged down in despair, there is reason to hope, even if it’s with cautious intent: “Left my pain with the breeze, / I rise up in the morning sun / …I know better days will come, / So I try to believe.”
Favorite Track: “Tom Chambers” ROCMARCI.COM Instagram: rocmarci
Favorite track: “Into Nirvana” MAVERICKSABRE.COM Social Media: mavericksabre
ATTENDEES Written by Nathan Zanon Illustrations by Kristina Micotti cinequest.org Facebook cinequest Instagram cinequestinc Twitter cinequest
The Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival is one of the Bay Area’s premier events, bringing 13 days of films, conversations, virtual reality experiences, creative explorations, networking events, and parties to venues in downtown San Jose and Redwood City. With the festival coming up (March 3-15), there are a number of approaches you can take to get the most out of your experience, depending on your style. Here are just a few:
THE FESTIVAL FANATIC
This is the person who wants to see it all. If you can take nearly two weeks off of work, get yourself an All Access Pass for just $500, and plant yourself in the downtown region of either San Jose or Redwood City—the peculiar decision to split the festival into two distinct locations that are a hefty commute from one another means you should probably just pick one spot and stick with it on any given day. You will find plenty to do. Start with the opening night festivities on March 3, then dive into more than 300 films, a slate of virtual reality experiences, an interactive storytelling event, a poetry slam, demos of new technology, and live art making. Don’t forget to enjoy dinner at a featured restaurant and networking at the VIP Lounge, Soirées, and nightly Maverick Meetups.
THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
Maybe you have a full-time job and can’t take any festival weekdays off. You get off of work too late to get to a movie, the nightly Maverick Meetups don’t get rolling until after 10 PM, and you need to be up early in the morning. No worries: you can be a Weekend Warrior. Clear your calendar for the two weekends of the festival and get started Friday night. Squeeze in three to four movies or events each Saturday and Sunday, making sure you don’t miss the closing festivities on Sunday, March 15. You’re sure to have an experience that rivals those who burned their valuable vacation time.
If you’re a purist when it comes to cinema, you might want to just skip all of the extra hullabaloo and stick with watching the movies. No shame in that! And with hundreds of films to choose from, many of them world or US premieres, there’s a lot to see. A good rule of thumb is to check out the nightly Spotlight Films at the stunning California Theatre and mix in mostly international and documentary selections throughout the day.
THE PARTY ANIMAL
Yes, you love movies and want to support an amazing cultural experience taking place in your hometown. But let’s face it: what you really want to do is party. Good news, Party Animal: Cinequest is packed with opportunities for you. From the Opening Night and Closing Night bashes to the free drinks in the VIP Lounge, plus nightly Soirées and Maverick Meetups at locations throughout both host cities, the festival can truly be a nonstop party for those who are committed to revelry.
THE STAR CHASER
If you’re obsessed with celebrities, don’t miss Cinequest’s Maverick Spirit Award events. The festival gives this honor to influential people who have been innovators in their fields; in recent years, this has included Harrison Ford, Andie MacDowell, Nicolas Cage, Rosario Dawson, Neil Gaiman, Tatiana Maslany, and others. This year, pioneering beat poet Ruth Weiss and actress Hong Chau are among the awardees, but additional names are often added closer to the event. And what are the odds you’ll bump into one of the stars—or perhaps an up-and-comer who starred in the movie you just watched—at an afterparty? Better than you might think: celebrities often want to see the festival and the city themselves; just approach them to say hi, and they are almost always happy to take a picture with a fan.
THE METICULOUS PLANNER
The festival guide is a goldmine of events, from the movies to the conversations to the parties. If you love planning out your days down to the minute, you’ll want to comb through the program and start marking up your calendar ASAP. Just be sure you’re paying attention to locations: the calendar mingles movie screenings in both San Jose and Redwood City, so don’t wind up late because you didn’t anticipate the travel time. But stay in one place and the venues are all within walking distance of each other, so planning your screenings, events, and meal breaks is a breeze.
THE SPONTANEOUS ADVENTURER
Some people revel in spontaneous fun. If this is you, the recommendation is just to pick a few days and show up at the festival. Don’t even look at the schedule. If you have an All Access Pass, drop into the VIP Lounge. See who’s around, talk to other attendees, ask what people are seeing, tag along, and figure it out as you go. It’s a great way to uncover the unexpected.
THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT
Want to cram as many films into as little time as possible? In that case, the short film programs are for you. With more than a dozen unique collections—dramas, comedies, animations, documentaries, “Mindbenders,” VR experiences, and student films—you can see over 100 films that you’re not likely to find anywhere else. These little gems can often be as memorable and impactful as any feature you might see but will take a fraction of the time.
THE ASPIRING FILMMAKER
Are you hoping to break into the industry? Want to learn some tips from the pros? Interested in the latest technology that can help you make movie magic? Your path should include as many Soirées and Maverick Meetups as possible, where you can network with other filmmakers, actors, writers, and producers in attendance. If you meet people that have films screening (and you will), be sure to go see their movies and listen to the Q&A afterwards; directors will often share their insightful experiences for you to learn from. And watch the two Student Shorts programs (11A and 11B) to see what young filmmakers are crafting and how their ideas are percolating into the cinema landscape—you’ll be amazed by what you can learn.
Join the team at Cinequest by volunteering! You’ll meet fellow film enthusiasts, make new friends, and receive free passes to some events. The festival basically runs on volunteer help, with community members staffing the venues, checking your tickets, hosting the screenings and Q&A sessions, manning the projection booths, and running the day-to-day operations. If you’re interested, there’s almost certainly a job for you.
These are just some of the ways you can think about approaching your time at Cinequest. Regardless of how you do it, it’s an event that’s worth checking out. There’s nothing else quite like it. C
MUMMENSCHANZ: You & Me
A Statue For Ballybunion
An Evening with C.S. Lewis
A Thread of Color
The Soul of the Burkitshi
Opening Weekend at Gilroy Gardens
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
New Ballet presents Fast Forward
2020 CONTENT CALENDAR
CQ’s 30th festival expands to include creative experiences such as virtual and augmented realities, fashion, writing, television, dance, art & design, a creativity summit, and more! 3/3 - 15 various venues cinequest.org
Starring David Payne. Seated in his living room and in front of a warm fire, he recalls the people and events that inspired his thoughts, writings, and shaped his life. 3/11 - 15 Montgomery Theater sanjose.org
Photographer Oliver Klink shares about environmental portraits of the continuity between family, work, and spirituality. 3/12 7pm Art Ark Gallery artarkgallery.com
A gifted boy falls under suspicion for killing a neighbor’s dog; his journey to discover the truth will change everything. 3/12 - 4/5 Pear Theatre, Mountain View thepear.org
Representation in Portraiture Join a discussion on representation of marginalized in art and how portraiture can challenge assumptions and stereotypes. 3/15 3-4:40pm Institute of Contemporary Art sjica.org
For over four decades, MUMMENSCHANZ has inspired audiences around the world with their wordless but extremely poetic art. 3/16 - 17 7:30 pm Hammer Theatre hammertheatre.com
Based on the true story of a group of Ballybunion residents who hatch a plan to unveil the world’s first statue, then U.S. president, William Jefferson Clinton. 3/17 - 22 3Below Theaters 3belowtheaters.com
Works by Natalie Ciccoricco who takes found images and pulls colors into a wheel of embroidery thread. 3/19 - 5/1 Gallery 1202 gallery1202.com
Join us for the best Birthday Party ever as we celebrate Gilroy Gardens’ 20th season! 3/27 - 29 Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park gilroygardens.org
Audiences will be thrilled and inspired watching choreographic and dance artists take risks and create at an evening of new contemporary ballet. 3/28 7pm Hammer Theatre Center newballet.com/fast-forward
MON 8:30PM Jazz Jam at Five Points Weekly Jazz Jams curated by Oscar Pangilinan and in partnership with SJ Jazz. Five Points fivepointssj.com
TUES 7PM–10PM Caffe Frascati Open Mic Open Mic Night! All styles welcome. Happy Hour all night. Caffe Frascati caffefrascati.com
THURS 9PM The Changing Same This excursion keeps time with the future of soul, R&B, and jazz through guest DJ sets and live performances. The Continental Bar thecontinentalbar.com
MON 7PM–9:30PM Red Rock Open Mic Night A family-friendly open mic experience that welcomes people of all talents to share and perform their art. Red Rock Coffee redrockcoffee.org
WED 9PM The Caravan Lounge Comedy Show Comics from all over the Bay Area and the world perform, hosted by Ato Walker. The Caravan Lounge caravanloungesanjose.com
FRI 8PM & SAT 7PM Comedy Sportz The award-winning interactive comedy show where two teams of players compete for laughs and points. 3Below Theaters and Lounge cszsanjose.com
The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival
Abel Barroso: Upgrading
Schoolhouse Rock Live!
The Secret Garden
Paper Chase: Ten Years of Collecting
Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose
The Spirit of the Village & The Heart of the Yi
Content Pick-Up Party 12.2
San Jose Day
15th annual festival of film screenings, speaker panels, mixers, and community events in the historic downtowns of Morgan Hill and Gilroy. 4/1 - 4/8 Gilroy, San Martin, & Morgan Hill pjiff.org
A full-length musical of everyone’s favorite “edutaining” Saturday morning cartoonshorts. 4/2 - 5/3 3Below Theaters 3belowtheaters.com
Experience over 100 acquisitions to the Cantor’s collection that investigate issues of identity, social justice, and humanity’s changing relationship with nature. 4/3 - 8/3 Freidenrich Family Gallery museum.stanford.edu
Guest Curator Sara Cole brings together a group of artists to explore forms of distress, healing, and radical acceptance. 4/3 - 5/3 Opening 4/3 Fri 12-6pm workssanjose.org
Artist Oliver Klink shares insights into his experiences photographing the Yi. 4/8 7pm Art Ark Gallery artarkgallery.com
An annual festival dedicated to embracing the city’s widely diverse culture through a celebration of local art, fashion, music, food, classic cars and conversation. 4/11 12-6pm 2nd Street & San Carlos sanjoseday.org
Exploring how global pressures and technologies impact culture, Barroso’s two series have particular resonance in Silicon Valley. 4/16 Artist Lecture and Reception 5-7:30pm bit.ly/SJSUABarroso
Born in India, it is only when lonely orphan Mary Lennox is sent to her uncle’s Yorkshire estate that her real adventures begin. 4/17 - 5/10 Tabard Theatre tabardtheatre.org
Print a wood type poster or make your own book. Shop the marketplace. Celebrate letterpress, printmaking, and bookarts. 4/18 10am-3pm History Park sjprintersguild.com
Exploring Partnerships and Collaboration With guest presenters Lauren Benetua & Mateo Mossey from OF/BY/FOR ALL 4/23 9:30am-3pm School of Arts and Culture svcreates.org
A celebration of the local creatives and innovators that make up the Sights and Sounds of the South Bay. 4/23 7- 9:30pm AC Hotel by Marriott Santa Clara content-magazine.com
A literary classic adapted for the stage and performed by local youth age 10 to 18. 4/29 - 5/2 Mexican Heritage Plaza teatrovision.org *Events are subject to change. Please confirm event details with the presenting organization or venue.
3RD TUES 7PM–10PM Two-Buck Tuesday The gallery hosts $2 art sales, along with a combination of performances, live painting, and/or art-making activities. KALEID Gallery kaleidgallery.com
3RD WED 7PM–10PM Meeting of the Mindz 2 artists randomly selected, work on one painting. Citadel Art Studios IG: @meetingofthemindz
1ST FRI 7PM-11PM South First Fridays Artwalk Self-guided, nighttime tour of galleries, museums, and creative spaces featuring eclectic art exhibitions and performances. SoFA District southfirstfridays.com
2ND TUES 7PM Well-RED Poetry reading series with open mic, presented with Poetry Center San José Works Gallery pcsj.org
2ND WED 8PM-10PM Cafe Lift Open Mic + Canvas Play music and/or create a painting. Or, enjoy a cup of coffee and music with friends. GateWay City Church cafeliftsj.com
4th SAT MIDNIGHT The Rocky Horror Picture Show Experience Presented with long running live cast, Barely Legal. 3Below 3belowtheaters.com
CONTRIBUTORS The production of CONTENT MAGAZINE would not be possible without the talented writers, editors, graphic artists, and photographers who contribute to each issue. We thank you and are proud to provide a publication to display your work. We are also thankful for the sponsors and readers who have supported this magazine through advertisements and subscriptions. Be a part of the CONTENT community. Contact us at:
CHRIS JALUFKA Chris is a writer focused on the working artist. His articles have appeared in HOW Magazine, Print Magazine, Juxtapoz, and his own venture, Evil Tender, eviltender.com instagram: eviltener_
YALE WYATT Yale is a writer living in San Jose. Heâ€™s an avid vinyl and video game collector and can be found anywhere posting on Twitter.
ROBERT J SCHULTZE Robert grew up in Wisconsin, moving to San Francisco in 2008 to study photography at AAU. He focuses on Characters, making unique portraits of interesting people.
MATT KELSEY Matt is a letterpress printer in Saratoga, and lead organizer of the San Jose Printersâ€™ Guild seventh annual Wayzgoose (April 18, 2020).
AVNI LEVY Avni is a visual content creator and Silicon Valley native who is passionate about unique products and experiences, especially those that empower people to creatively share their own stories.
ISAIAH WILSON Isaiah is a San Jose based creative and writer. He is one of the cofounders of The Come Up, a DIY music curation collective.
ARABELA ESPINOZA When not enjoying an iced vanilla latte or a craft cocktail at her favorite bar, Arabela is working full-time at Weekend Creative, a creative photography agency that she cofounded in 2018.
SAMANTHA TACK Samantha is a contributing editor for CONTENT. She is very passionate about editing and works in online content operations. In her free time, she enjoys all things crafty, weekend road trips and country music.
New Ballet Presents
March 28 - 7pm
Hammer Theatre newballet.com/fast-forward
Contemporary ballet through a new lens
Media, art, culture: tools for social change
Exploring Partnerships & Collaboration With guest presenters Lauren Benetua & Mateo Mossey from OF/BY/FOR ALL
CreaTV Presents gives our community new ways to experience and discuss
Join us as we tackle a new theme each month and see how your community center can be a hub for creative problem solving and community building.
Events listed at creatvsj.org
/2020 | 9:30AM â€“ 3PM
School of Arts & Culture Mexican Heritage Plaza 1700 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose, CA 95116 Search SVCreates on Eventbrite to register today!
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