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San Jose Semaphore


SEMAPHORE: a visual apparatus for communicating messages over distance.

San Jose Semaphore (2006), by artist Ben Rubin, is a permanent public artwork commissioned by Adobe Systems Incorporated in collaboration with the City of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program.

Located within the top floors of Adobe’s Almaden Tower headquarters in San Jose, California, San Jose Semaphore is a kinetic artwork that illuminates the San Jose skyline with the transmission of a coded message. Like the Semaphore Telegraphs of the 18th century, the San Jose Semaphore is a machine for communication. Each wheel of the San Jose Semaphore can assume four distinct positions: vertical, horizontal, and left and right-leaning diagonal; together, the four wheels have a vocabulary of 256 possible states. San Jose Semaphore transmits its message at a steady rate; its four wheels turn to new positions every 7.2 seconds.

Adobe’s Almaden Tower is situated directly beneath the flight path for aircraft landing at the Mineta San Jose International Airport, and the San Jose Semaphore is sensitive to the passage of aircraft above it. When a plane flies overhead, Semaphore reacts visibly to the disturbance, and its steady rhythm is broken. After the plane has passed, the disks resume their steady, purposeful transmission.

San Jose Semaphore is a slow-motion magnifier for data transmission that functions as a beacon in the San Jose skyline. Unlike digital signals that pass invisibly through the air and across microscopic circuitry, the San Jose Semaphore’s communication efforts are visible and clear.

Location: San Jose, CA

Photos of San Jose Semaphore on Flickr

And below is a slide show with a few images:


1.  Huffington Post

Four Stories

Built into the structure of the two glass elevator cabs in Library Hall, “Four Stories” displays the titles of recently checked-out books in large, illuminated text as the elevators move between floors. This text is visible from much of the Library Hall. “Four Stories” is a permanent public artwork commissioned by the city of Minneapolis.

Dimensions: two panels, each 48″ x 90″ (122 cm x 229 cm)

Media / Technology: Addressable LED tube fixtures, laser range finders, custom software
Custom software by Small Design Firm
Minneapolis Public Library designed by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects

Dark Source

Dark Source

Dark Source Installation


Dark Source shows the inner workings of a commercial electronic voting machine, the Diebold AccuVote-TS touch-screen voting terminal that has recently been adopted in many U.S. states. What you see here is a representation of the software program that runs inside this machines. To be specific, it is a printout of version 4.3.1 of the AccuVote-TS source code 49,609 lines of C++. 720 pages of the printout are suspended, and several hundred additional pages can be accessed on microfiche.

Calling its source code a trade secret, Diebold has asserted its proprietary interest in protecting its intellectual property. Therefore the code, which had been obtained over the internet following a 2002 security failure at Diebold, has been blacked out in its entirety in order to comply with trade secrecy laws.

What is on display, then, is not the forbidden source code, but rather the state of affairs in which we find ourselves today, one in which the critical infrastructure of democracy in the United States is becoming privately owned, and being private, is also being made secret.

Premiered at “Making Things Public. Atmospheres of Democracy” exhibition, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany.
March 19th – August 7th, 2005

Curated by Bruno LatourPeter Weibel and Steve Dietz.
Location: ZKM in 2005 and at The Kitchen in 2008

Photos of Dark Source on Flickr


Thanks are due to Cindy Cohen, Sarah Gifford, Mark Hansen, Dieter Jansen, Tom Keenan, Tom Levin, Luke Smith, Peter Zuspan, Dan Wallach, Hong-kai Wang and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, all of whom provided indispensable help and guidance in the conception and realization of this artwork.

Sign Language

Sign Language at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery
Featuring new light works
by Ben Rubin and Tatsuo Miyajima


In Ben Rubin’s new pieces, texts extracted from topical online sources emerge from tubes of moving light. For (in)stability (2003), created in response to the war in Iraq, Rubin (working with Mark Hansen) filtered 1,000 online news articles five days after the 2003 U.S. invasion and extracted the most commonly cited quote: “The situation is stable.” The show also included two new works created from reactions to the reelection of George W. Bush. Circumstances Have Changed (2004) references quotations pulled from 4000 news articles posted online in the hours following the election, and Untitled (2004) traces online chat rooms’ widespread conversations at the same moment.

Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery


Listening Post

Listening Post

Listening Post is an art installation by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin that culls text fragments in real time from thousands of unrestricted Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and other public forums. The texts are read (or sung) by a voice synthesizer, and simultaneously displayed across a suspended grid of more than two hundred small electronic screens.

Listening Post cycles through a series of six movements, each a different arrangement of visual, aural, and musical elements, each with it’s own data processing logic.

Dissociating the communication from its conventional on-screen presence, Listening Post is a visual and sonic response to the content, magnitude, and immediacy of virtual communication.

Listening Post can be seen at The London Science Musuem and The San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, Calif.


Photos of Listening Post on Flickr








Sound is produced as if each disc were a phonograph record. As each disc spins fast or slow, backwards or forwards, speeding up or slowing down, its sound follows accordingly.

Presented at the Bumbershoot Visual Arts Exhibition, Seattle. August 26th – September 1st, 2003



Look and Listen: Ben Rubin gives shape to sound The Stranger, week of August 28th, 2003, by Emily Hall

Open Outcry

Sonic Garden artists:
Ben Rubin, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, and Marina Rosenfeld
Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders


Commissioned by Creative Time for Sonic Garden

World Financial Center, New York
October 17th, 2002 – November 30th, 2002

Winner of Best Documentary: Honorable Mention at the 2003 Third Coast International Audio Festival / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition.

Featured on Chicago Public Radio’s Third Coast Festival under “What We’re Listening To:”. Includes an interview with Ben Rubin.
April 29 – May 12, 2003

A few months after 9/11, I was asked to create a sound that would commemorate the reopening of the Winter Garden, a huge atrium space in the World Financial Center that was destroyed when the towers came down. The place was still in shambles then, and the World Financial Center complex was mostly empty, but one building on the far end of the complex was already filled with people. And those people were doing something curious. They were standing around in huge circles, hundreds of them, and shouting at each other, for hours, every day. It turns out that this shouting has a name; it’s called open outcry trading, and through it these people, almost all of them men, set the price that the world will pay each day for a barrel of oil, a gallon of gas, an ounce of gold, and a few other things. Although their building was surrounded by wreckage and accessible at first only by boat, the traders of the New York Mercantile Exchange had come back to work only a few weeks after 9/11. When I thought about what sound represented that place, it was this: the sound of these men shouting, each doing his best to buy low and sell high, a music of call and response that had been produced in lower Manhattan by generations of traders since the 19th century. More recently, it’s here that the traders have been reacting to rumblings of war, and then to actual war, the prices of energy and precious metals lurching and trembling as events unfolded in Washington, at the U.N., and in Iraq. This piece was made before the war; it was first played last fall in the Winter Garden.

Credits Featuring the voices of Madeline Boyd, J. Robert Collins, Jr., David Greenberg, John Hanneman, Vincent Viola, Elisa Zuritsky, and others.

Special thanks to Mark Hansen, Nachamah Jacobovits, John Kilgore, Andrew G. Milmoe, Charlie Richmond, Julie Rottenberg, Richard Schaeffer, Guy Taylor, Marc Wise, Jamie York, New York Mercantile Exchange, and the New York Board of Trade.

Weeks of April 25th and October 24, 2003, The Next Big Thing included Open Outcry as a feature on their weekly program.

Story Pipeline


In the BPEC community center in Anchorage, Alaska, stories told by Alaskans appear on a plasma video screen and simultaneously emerge as real-time text transcriptions on a 150 long LED display. The text zig-zags indoors down a glass corridor, then veers out through the plate glass, dancing between the trees until it disappears out of sight.

Original design by Ben Rubin/EAR Studio in collaboration with Robin Sylvestri, Cecile Bouchier, Bill Ballou, Alexis Kraft, Bruce Williams, Ron Bateman and the architects of Koonce, Pfeffer, Bettis, Anchroage, Alaska. Installation fabrication and video production by Batwin+Robin productions. LED sign by Sunrise Systems. Audiovisual installation and programming by Scharff Weisberg.



Ear Studio collaborated with Diller+Scofidio on the media and interactive aspects of Blur, the centerpiece pavilion of Swiss Expo 2002. A football field-sized suspended platform shrouded in a perpetual cloud of man-made fog, the Blur Pavilion was to host an interactive media project featuring wearable, wireless technology embedded into “Brain Coats,” technologically-enhanced raincoats. Visitors’ Brain Coats were to react to each other, indicating either positive or negative affinity between visitors through color changes and sound.


The project was open from May to October of 2002 in Yverdon, Switzerland.




Brasserie Video Beam Installation Created in collaboration with Diller+Scofidio


Customers entering through the revolving door are photographed by a video camera. An ephemeral record of the clientele emerges as the images shift to the right each time a new arrival appears on the leftmost screen. Together with the architecture, the video installation plays on the notion of a “grand entrance.” The Brasserie won the 2000 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design, and was selected for Design Distinction by the 2000 I.D. Magazine Design Review Jury. Together with the architecture, the video installation plays on the notion of a “grand entrance.”

“Diller and Scofidio’s renovation of the beloved restaurant, in the basement of the Seagram’s building, designed by Mies Van der Rohe, was hailed for its restrained use of technology, particularly the installations by sound and video artist Ben Rubin, of EAR Studio.” – I.D. Magazine, July/August 2000