Orientation is fast and crazy.
ZERO1 is a triumph of biting deep into projects and rolling with what you are actually able to accomplish. Big public projects almost always need to play by a certain set of rules. People aren’t going to give you money unless you can scale the ideas way down, have concrete illustrations of each part, and are able to spoon feed tiny ideas to the key players involved.
ZERO1 seems to understand these constraints and provide ways to work around them — which is awesome.
I have had plenty of proposals rejected for these very reasons. Organizations, especially large bureaucratic orgs, necessarily have difficult times trusting overly-ambitious artists with broad-scoped projects. However, this orientation has introduced me to an organization as fearless and ambitious as I am. Joined with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, they not only embrace projects which do not limit their scope to simply one area: “art”, “technology,” “science,” “community building,” and “social justice”, but in fact, encourage a hybrid.
Preparing my proposed project, I decided to pitch a massive concept. I am going to build a huge floating hackerspace! It’s going to be 10 meters wide on a side, and stocked with all the essential gear to make a floating laboratory. The key is to be able to have tools for creating and iterating on digital devices for exploring and understanding the aqueous environment in the sea.
I submitted the idea, and waited patiently for the inevitable kickback. I sat for weeks, nervous about the email that would come stating something along the line of “oh… that’s great, but you need to think smaller,” or “perhaps you need to just take one tiny piece of this idea and only go with that.”
But it never came.
And honestly I was confused. I kept talking with more people about it as I arrived, and I only kept getting positive responses and suggestions and improvements. Finally on the day of the actual pitch, the director of ZERO1, Joel Slayton, was the first person to finally call me out.
“You are BUILDING A BOAT, you realize how big this project is, right?”
“OK, here’s some ways we can get started…”