Adobe Unveils Major New Public Art Commission, "San Jose Semaphore"

Highly Visible Artwork by Noted Artist Ben Rubin Transforms San Jose Skyline and Engages Public with Coded Message

Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) will debut a major new public art commission installed atop its corporate headquarters in downtown San Jose at dusk on August 7. Called “San José Semaphore” and created by noted artist Ben Rubin, the digital artwork is designed to be visible from many streets, freeways and local buildings and will become a significant feature of the San Jose skyline. Commissioned by Adobe in collaboration with the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, San José Semaphore will engage the public with transmission of a coded message. The artwork’s unveiling coincides with the beginning of the ZeroOne San Jose: “A Global Festival of Art on the Edge” showcasing digital art from around the world August 7-13.

Located within the top floors of Adobe’s Almaden Tower headquarters, Semaphore consists of four ten-foot wide illuminated disks composed of 24,000 Luxeon® LEDs donated by Philips Lumileds in San Jose. The disks continually shift and turn, engaging viewers on a visual and kinetic level while providing a steady, glowing, and purposefully moving presence on the San Jose skyline. The giant illuminated disks rotate to a new position every eight seconds and pulse out a message using a visual coding system that is intended to be deciphered. An online audio broadcast will provide a soundtrack of spoken and sung letters, numbers and musical tones that may help decode the message.

Intended as a meditation on the coded nature of communication, Semaphore’s illuminated disks can each assume four distinct positions: vertical, horizontal, and left and right-leaning diagonal. With four wheels and four positions each, Semaphore has a vocabulary of 256 possible combinations, creating a way of communicating its encrypted message, known only to the artist and those involved with the installation. Cracking Semaphore’s coded message will be posed as a challenge for the public. Challenge details will be posted online at after the project is unveiled.

Semaphore was created by noted new media artist Ben Rubin, whose exhibitions have appeared at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Skirball Center in Los Angeles (in a show organized by the Getty Museum). Rubin teaches at the Yale School of Art and is represented in New York by the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery.

“Adobe has a long history of championing the arts and creativity,” said Bruce Chizen, CEO at Adobe. “Semaphore and Adobe share many things in common: both the artwork and Adobe as a company engage people in compelling and progressive ways that invite active viewer participation. We’re committed to supporting the city of San Jose and we’re passionate about helping to make Silicon Valley an important destination for new media art.”

“I wanted to create a beacon for the San Jose skyline in the form of a big, beautiful machine for communication,” said Ben Rubin, the creator of San José Semaphore. “I wanted it to be something that you could see was trying to communicate a message. Semaphore functions as a kind of slow-motion magnifier for digital communications, and for me it connects with early visible communications technologies like the optical telegraph and semaphore flags. Ultimately, this piece is about the impulse to communicate and the basic human need for call and response.”

“San José Semaphore will become a beacon for Downtown San Jose – an iconic symbol of San Jose’s commitment to becoming the North American epicenter for art and technology,” said Paul Krutko, Director of Economic Development for the City of San Jose. “This project represents a successful collaboration among business, the arts and government to enhance the modern downtown experience, which is about interaction, innovation and fun!”

San José Semaphore is part of the City of San Jose Public Art Collection. The work is 70-feet (21.3M) long and 10-feet (3M) tall, and situated on the 18th and 19th floors of Adobe’s Almaden Boulevard office tower.

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