Archive for September, 2010

Dancers “Migrate” Through Santa Clara University

Posted by erin on September 29th, 2010

A Performance choreographed by David J. Popalisky, SCU Director of Dance

by Patrick Lydon

A small, contemplative crowd gathered outside at Santa Clara University this past Sunday, curiously following a wandering, colorfully dressed ‘bag lady’ and her intriguing worldly soundtrack from the Mission Church Gardens to the Library Commons, and finally to the north side of the university campus.

The Wanderer Figure in David J. Popalisky’s Migrations was performed by Sally Mitchell.  photo: Patrick Lydon

At each of the locations, the wandering woman summoned a group of dancers to perform works based on “intersecting motion of migrating humans and animals”, or, at least this is the recount of choreographer David J. Popalisky, SCU Director of Dance and creator of this outdoor dance experience titled Migrations.

Dancers develop the theme of migration — both human and animal.  Photo: Patrick Lydon

Including transit time between each piece, the performance lasted around an hour, snaking its way through the university campus and taking the audience through three movements, each seeming to sight some aspect of duality or juxtaposition of opposing forces, illustrating the beautiful yet often uncertain conundrum that is our existence. That’s some heavy material for a 90+ degree Sunday afternoon, but the crowd never dwindled, and in fact picked up a few curious bystanders along the way.

They were entertained with three dance movements that, while connected in theme, varied in story line. The first two pitted issues of environmental beauty against the danger that inevitably lurks amongst that beauty, posing humans as both cautious hunters and as prey. The third and last dance work offered the audience a completely different — and more personal — tone to the theme of migration, injecting a sobering narrative recounting of a family’s decision to flee from Peru to the U.S.

David Popalisky thanks the crowd that gathered to follow the performance on campus.  Photo: Patrick Lydon

Mid-way through the wandering performance, the line “The earth turns, we are all passengers” was spoken repeatedly by the wanderer figure, performed by Sally Mitchell. From my view — atop a grassy hill on a scorching hot day, under a barely adequate sliver of shade from one of the newly planted trees at SCU — this line summed up the theme of the show well.

Sean Boyles 20 Year Survey at Empire Seven Studios

Posted by erin on September 29th, 2010


By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Filling the gallery of Empire Seven Studios in San Jose’s Japan Town are an assault of images from large canvases to drawings, prints, painted constructions and a quirky series of paintings on liquor bottles and long playing records. Sean Boyles gives us everything from in his notebook sketches to side trips into abstract expressionism.  There is no room on the walls for title cards but in the tradition of anti-establishmentarianism that accompanies his youthful genre, the titles and prices are casually noted directly on the wall itself.  Sandwiched in together with the aggressive or sad faces, nascent ideas, and sometimes-forgettable trivia, are the many works that reveal a talented observer of life around him.  Within this giant collage, I felt rewarded to discover a pair of untitled mixed media-screenprint images that were rich in layers and details and some small linocut portraits that were delightfully controlled and composed.  The big paintings grab most of the glory, nevertheless.

Sean Boyles’ Draw a Crowd Like an Architect, at Empire Seven Studios

Boyles’ color pallete and overall style talk about the grimy streets, graffiti, young people who are scarred by the neighborhood, their economics, and a life without the imagination of better possibilities. They are often undesirable and cast-off, perhaps even by their own overworked or drugged-out parents, before they are even old enough to hit the streets to play.  Borrowing from Barry McGee, as many artists working in this tradition do, Boyles’ boys in the ‘hood have abnormally widely spaced eyes and teeth, and bags under their eyes.  In one large painting, Draw a Crowd Like an Architect, Boyles assembles a motley crew of folks against a vague city skyline.  Several appear to be railing against each other or maybe just “the system”. Some seem spaced out or crazy. Collectively, their distorted faces and insensitivity to each other remind me of an early 20th Century George Grosz critique of government beaurocrats.  Boyles’ guys, however, do not abuse the public nearly as much as they victimize each other and themselves. They interact but do not seem to connect. Their life hangin’ on the stoop or gathering to listen to a favorite local DJ, drinking and getting high appears to be without relief, a constant circle.

With 21 doors strung together, Boyles creates a screen with two views of reality.

Boyles captures the contrast between the dreary urban routine and a less artificial life in a 21-door folding screen that runs the length of the gallery. One side suggests the isolation of each life caught in the inner city, and the other is a running outdoor scene of animals against sky and foliage.  In a curious twist, the animals engaging nature are domestic dogs and a vulture, mixed in with other species both wild and tamed.  No, there is no pure nature anymore.

VS (Verse Us) by Sean Boyles

My favorite painting is VS (Verse Us). I am reminded, with this title and others, of the love that youth in all generations have for creating their own language — and that we all have for the double entendre. In VS, two individuals who have adopted the most defiant life posture of ghetto weirdness, hang in the ‘hood.  One, too young to be so hardened, is wearing only a light tee shirt, but the other wears his padded parka that never comes off year round. Here, I appreciate, finding more of the characters’ individual personalities developed.  (I am guessing that the guy in the tee shirt is the rapper who will “verse us”). Behind these figures there are signs, dripping paint, marks and drawings that deface a brick wall. Small folks peer from the windows.  In this work, like the giant folding door/screen, Boyles creates a more complete narrative than in many of the other paintings, and that is what I think makes it important.

Sean Boyles is a neat guy, somewhat soft-spoken for an artist that has degrees from both CCA and Mills College and now teaches at Santa Clara University.  His experiences in the North Bay seem to have given him a rich bank of material from which to make his unsettling observations.  He himself appears to have escaped relatively unscarred and embarked on a promising career.  Still I leave this major exhibition with some questions.  Does Boyles truly want us to see this dark side of the inner City, or maybe only to talk about its style?  There are places in the viewing experience where I feel that the exhibition is a celebration of that camaraderie that young men everywhere — in the ‘hood or not — yearn for.  The clues are faces reflected on endless liquor bottles, painted on records and in the innumerable portraits of local characters.  In other places, I begin to see Boyles, the veteran, stepping out bravely to be a critic.  His large paintings begin to go that direction.

For myself, having looked out the window for 25 years at a family of young men who are not educated, are constantly in and out of jail, look pretty beat up for it and are still posturing on the stoop to share a good score of weed, this urban dilemma is not a pretty picture.  Not pretty, but often very interesting.

ZERO1: Lineas: New Modes of Contemporary Urbanism, MACLA

Posted by Bradshaw on September 24th, 2010

Tanya Aguiniga and Teddy Cruz at MACLA

By Megan Bailey

Step off the bustling, downtown urban dynamics of First Street and into MACLA before October 16th, and you may find yourself in the color-soaked, design-privy imaginations of artists Tanya Aguiniga and Teddy Cruz. Not only do these visionaries present everything from housing interiors to urban design maps that are simply beautiful, but they challenge the contemporary notions of acceptable labor practices in construction of home furnishings, meaningful border policy and intercultural collaboration, land use practices, and more.

Figurines from Chiapas natives at MACLA. Photo courtesy of Jim Dewrance.

 Tanya, a native of Tijuana who crossed the Mexican-American border every day for 14 years to attend school in the U.S., is intimately familiar with the lifestyles and politics of the border neighborhoods. The work she displays in Lineas showcases the powerful potential of cross-border dialogue: it is all the result of her residency in Chiapas, Mexico. When she asked the traditional artisans of the area to teach her their crafts, such as spinning wool or weaving the fabric that now covers the many colorful stools that populate MACLA’s floor, the question ignited a craft revival, raising interest within the local residents about their very own traditions. Empowered with the renewed knowledge and practice of these skills as well as financial support from Tanya, the value of the artisans’ handicraft has been included in the mainstream, “high art” market instead of marginalized by it.

 From the materials to the final product: Giant rolls of yarn and swatches of felt are presented abstractly and beautifully, behind stools covered with fabric from the Chiapas. Photo courtesy of Jim Dewrance.

At MACLA, the traditional figurines created by the Chiapas weavers are displayed intermingled with the furniture and draping wall pieces Tanya completed with the weavers’ fabrics, intermingled with Tanya’s fusion of Modernism and traditional aesthetics. Thus, the show pays tribute to the beauty and quality of the traditional craftsmanship of the Chiapas natives not by giving their products the stamp of approval from a Eurocentric, gallery-dominated art world, but by allowing a pure, fair cultural exchange between two people groups and an artistic production that is an outgrowth of that exchange. Tanya’s exhibition offers an alternative not only to the production processes but also the sense of design  dictated by current outsourcing practices, allowing for these traditional crafts to be part of the livelihoods of Chiapas natives and introduced to the US. In fact, Tanya is offering workshops at MACLA throughout the duration of the show for those interested in learning the craft skills handed to her.

Teddy Cruz’s ‘Compendium of Voids: A Chronology of an Invasion and Levittown Retrofitted: Non-Conforming Buddha’, a series of maps and stories that offer a fresh perspective on land use. Photo courtesy of Jim Dewrance.

As an architect and Associate Professor of public culture and urbanism at UC San Diego, Teddy Cruz has a unique perspective to offer fellow onlookers of the Mexican-U.S. border trends. His portion of Lineas, entitled Mapping Non-Conformity: From the Global Border to the Border Neighborhood, offers videos, maps, photos, and small-scale sculpture. Through these works, Teddy provides viewers with an overview of cross-border migration and labor dynamics: vast numbers of people are moving from the global south to global north to evade poverty, yet much labor from the global north is being outsourced to the south.

On a smaller scale, Teddy has mapped the vastly different landscapes in terms of land use and zoning requirements on either side of the Mexican-U.S. border in Compendium of Voids: A Chronology of an Invasion. Land use practices common in Tijuana have been seeping into San Diego. Documenting the stories of an in-neighborhood Buddist temple and a group of teens who challenged the city to convert abandoned space under a freeway overpass into a skate park, Teddy implies that San Diego and other U.S. cities could successfully change existing zoning laws to create more sustainable neighborhoods. He even provides a model of how a large family home could be retrofitted to become part home and part workspace. At Teddy’s artist talk on Saturday, a woman who worked for the city of San Jose noted how much his work challenged Americans’ current values of privacy. Teddy responded that he is not proposing any radicalization of current laws; he just wants people to see our current building laws and habits as just one approach of formatting society–and it may not be the most environmentally sustainable, financially efficient, and socially inclusive.

ZERO1: Tomato Quintet

Posted by Bradshaw on September 21st, 2010

Tomatoes and music make strange bedfellows–except when it comes to salsa.

By Megan Bailey

When approaching Tomato Quintet, an installation near the primary entrance to the Zero1 Biennial’s South Hall, viewers were greeted with a music stand. Adorned with green and red tomatoes and above a full bucket of the popular fruit, the music stand presented viewers with a musical score and a map of the bizarre, cone-shaped tent behind it. The tent featured several tunnels protruding from the central cone as well as a dim glow and various electronic beeps and moans emanating from behind its mysterious mylar.

Tomato Quintet in South Hall, ZERO1.  Photo Credit Andy Muonio

This tent seemed to be alive. In a way, it was: housed in the central dome was 1 cubic meter of ripening tomatoes. As fruit ripens, a complex interplay of gases taken in and released by the fruit causes the cascade of genetic, enzymatic, and cellular changes that often make it softer, sweeter, and a brighter color. Tomato Quintet was recording how two of these gases­ ethylene and CO2 along with temperature, light, and air movements differed between that cubic meter and the rest of the tent. Each variable made up a member of the quintet, playing its values as a unique sound output.

Tomato Quintet at South Hall, ZERO1. Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

As if the ripening process was not aleatory enough, the quintet invited audience participation. Viewers could crawl through the tent, subtly altering the balance of gases, light, temperature, and air movement therein, changing the arrangement of electronic beeps with their presence.

I entered through the zippered flaps after awaiting the exit of the teenage boys in front of me. The tent hallways were lined with various speakers, and I wondered which member of the quintet was “playing” each recording: Were the gurgling, bubbling noises controlled by the ethlyene levels? Was the temperature or air flow altering the volume or speed of the Latin music? As I made my way to the Mecca of ripening fruit in the center (a plexiglass jar of tomatoes that were, despite it being the last day of the Biennial, still mostly green) I strained to focus on each speaker. Neither my movements nor heavy, intentional exhalations made any noticeable difference on the musical number.

Tomato Quintet at South Hall, ZERO1.  Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

I exited through the opposite side of the tent, guided by the arrows made of sod, with many questions. Could and did my presence affect these variables significantly enough to change the musical output of the quintet? How exactly are ethylene, CO2, and the other components involved in ripening again? The score from the music stand only provided a rather confusing diagram. And what was with the unlabeled monitor, displaying various oscillations over time, on the outside of the ethylene cycle portion of the tent?

 All good ideas need some ripening before they are truly sweet. Yet, while visitors to Tomato Quintet’s ongoing performance may not have left with a clear understanding of the fruit ripening process, how their bodies affect it, or what contribution they made to the John Cagian production, perhaps they still were provoked, as was I, to think of how both organic processes like the ripening of fruit and man-made processes like the performance of music are both a combination of planned or predictable elements with those of unplanned, “random” (though still measurable) variables. Then again, perhaps man-made processes are all an extension of the organic, being orchestrated by the complex neural circuitry of our brains.

In any case, I had fun playing my way through the make-believe tent of transforming fruits and noises, and I later fantasized of linking my kitchen music to my fruit basket. I’m not sure when the promised salsa-serving and musical playback of the Tomato Quintet’s performance took place, but I wanted to indulge in some salsa of my own (the edible and danceable kind) and chew on the contemporary collisions between biology and technology that the Biennial highlighted.

ZERO1: Zoë Keating at the Empire Drive-In at South Hall

Posted by Bradshaw on September 20th, 2010

Zoë Keating and Robert Hodgin, Into the Trees, South Hall at the Empire Drive-In.

By Kevin Powers

Her tools are few: a chair, cello and bow, laptop, and a set of effect pedals occupy the stage. But it’s what she does with them that are amazing. Zoë Keating’s mastery of her instrument is only enhanced by the technology she uses. She plays solo cello and, with the aid of looping effects, she is able to create a live orchestra that is beautiful, transcendent, and current while being mindful of traditional classical music. Using the aid of live sampling, she is able to control and perform her vision and compositions – solo. 

Zoë Keating at the Empire Drive in. Photo by Kevin Powers

One of her latest compositions, Into the Trees, is collaboration with Robert Hodgin. To accompany the live playing of her cello piece Hodgin created a digital road trip of sorts; an endless road that traveled through forests, and other mysterious landscapes. In some ways the projection resembles an iTunes animation. There were beautiful moments, where the animation and music came together in a striking way, and though I can appreciate the work, I felt there were certain aspects became distracting, particularly the heavy use particle generators, which created flying chunks and bits of debris. I also wanted a break from the snowfall. A highlight was the animated segment through the forest. As the animation urged you along the road, trees would rapidly sprout up; creating a forest that enveloped the viewer.

Zoë Keating performing ‘Into the Trees’ with a projection by Robert Hodgin. Photo: Patrick Lydon

Seeing her perform live adds another layer of appreciation, not only are the multiple layers of sound both beautiful and intense, and one is witness to the skill and aware of the complexity of composition and timing. According to her website, her album, Into the Trees has spent 9 weeks (and still counting!) on the Billboard classical charts and made it to #1 on iTunes Classical” without any marketing or publicity.  It appears that others are appreciating her music, as well.  Check her out on iTunes.

Zoë Keating performing ‘Into the Trees’ with a projection by Robert Hodgin. Photo: Patrick Lydon

ZERO1: Attention shoppers! This is a Public Art Announcement…

Posted by Bradshaw on September 20th, 2010

Christopher Baker – offscript, 2010-Santana Row

by Kevin Powers

“Today’s Question: What is your dream for the future?”

Christopher Baker’s offscript at Santana Row, photo by Kevin Powers

 The intersection of Stevens Creek and Santana Row is always clogged with cars, and pedestrians clamoring to either spend or drool in the upscale shopping district. Strangely, Santana Row does not appear to be hit by the recession, the sidewalks are crowded, the stores busy, and the restaurants to capacity, not to mention parking, which before 10 pm is challenging. offscript, is an interactive projected work that is heavily reliant on participation, which I think is challenging both in our time and more specifically the location where the work is installed. This is not a bad thing, far from it, Baker uses laptops connected via Wi-Fi to upload the drawings or typed phrases, it is charming, engaging, entertaining and offers the casual passerby an opportunity to create a drawing or a phrase that others can enjoy almost immediately, that is if they notice.  

Passers-by interacting with Christopher Baker’s offscript  photo by Kevin Powers

The challenge of having this artwork at Santana Row is getting the attention of the public. Even though the projection is gigantic, it is not always noticed, when they do, it is met with genuine surprise and interest. The artwork solicits participation through a variety of means, “Participants will be asked to submit their thoughts using social media technologies such as Facebook and Twitter alongside live SMS and voice-based interaction.” This means you can participate from your home or office, or anyplace for that matter. This ambitious project seems to have garnered good response in terms of participation and online presence, could the project continue to other shopping malls or public environments… quite possibly, so look up it may be right in front of you?

Christopher Baker’s offscript at Santana Row for ZERO1 photo by Kevin Powers

ZERO1: Todd Chandler’s Flood Tide Remixed at Empire Drive In

Posted by Bradshaw on September 19th, 2010


Photography and Text by Kevin Powers

The film starts with a close-up shot of the water on the Hudson River as the band, Dark Dark Dark, plays a slow melancholic cadence that is both hypnotic and atmospheric, working in sync with the visual elements. The band’s music is a little hard to classify, they are billed as a “chamber folk-sextet” but their recipe is more complex and includes a a dash of Indie, a twist of Klezmer, and a healthy portion of southern folk infused with Eastern European chamber music. While listening to them play, a bottle of homemade corn whisky is proffered from inside of a broken down Datsun, I take a generous drink, the perfect accompaniment. The bottle continues to be passed, as we continue to float down the river.

Interestingly, the film uses footage that is not to be included in the forthcoming release of Flood Tide, which is described as, “ …blurring the line between fact and fiction…shot on the Hudson River during the real-life art-raft project The Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea”. The Remixed version is a meditation on water as a natural resource both something to be respected and enjoyed for its life giving qualities. It is also breathtakingly beautiful exploration of the Hudson, showing a spirit of community within the group of artists as they struggle with mechanical trouble and weather conditions as well as explore decaying buildings, dive off cliffs, and swim in abandoned quarries meandering down the river on their ramshackle junk ships. The live performance of Dark Dark Dark, works to create a more visceral experience, following perfectly, the pacing and tone of the film. 

A definite highlight of the festival for me is The Empire Drive-In installation, not only the perfect companion to the film and to a host of others that have and continue to be shown here  in South Hall during the biennial. It was constructed and designed by Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark using recycled materials. Through exacting design and production, viewers are transported to an 80’s era Drive-In, down to the standard issue Snack Shack and Ticket booth, as well as the missing letters on top of the giant screen, making it complete is the ability to view the films/performances from inside or on top of the junked vehicles, and even tune in from the car radios inside.  Pass the bottle and popcorn…and enjoy the show!

ZERO1: Defying Gravity and Sounding Off on Urban/Nature Issues

Posted by Bradshaw on September 19th, 2010

Floating World: A Camping Ground/Tent City for Displaced Human and Bird Song

By Andy Muonio

The West San Fernando Street Bridge over the Guadalupe River and under the 87 Freeway, is a noisy place. This cacophony is heard any day or night of the year. It is a mix of urban machines – from jet engines to bicycle chains, humans sounds – voices and footsteps, as well as what is left of nature running through the center of San Jose – river sounds, with fish jumping and birds hunting. Currently thanks to ZERO1 and the City of San Jose, a site-specific artwork joins the chorus with a visually and acoustically stunning piece by Robin Lasser and Marguerite Perret, with their partners: Bruce Scherting, James Stone, Keay Edwards, Anthony Teieira and Sasha Rieker.

Floating World by Robin Lasser and Marguerite Perret Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

The sculpture titled: Floating World: A Camping Ground/Tent City for Displaced Human and Bird Song, consist of five miniature tent villages cantilevered off the south side of the bridge. The villages contain three to five structures modeled after FEMA disaster tents. These structures sit on chrome pipes that snake up from the cantilevered arm raising the villages above eye level giving them the impression of floating out over the river. Each village has a sound track and each tent contains a light. At night they glow with an aesthetic charm in their colors of red, white and green enhancing the floating effect. The spiked cantilevered rail is to keep humans off the work; it is bird friendly, though the doors to the tent are sealed for housing metaphor not living creatures.  The work is in sharp contrast to its environment, yet it hauntingly belongs there.

Robin Lasser speaking about Floating World below the Guadalupe Bridge Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

In the daylight the first thing you notice as you approach, is the sound (listen here for rivertentsaudio). The vehicle and air traffic is loud, but the audio that emanates from the sculpture is able to rise above it and be heard. This is partially due to its own capability to monitor the ambient sound and escalate the bird song in volume and pitch, paralleling nature. (According to the artist, Marguerite Perret, recent studies have shown that birds are changing their song in urban environments so their mates can hear them). What sets the song of this sculpture apart from the ambient sound and makes it so noticeable is its artificiality to the space. It is not mistaken for the extreme white noise of the urban setting -under a freeway in the flight path of low flying jets, nor can it be mistook for the natural avian inhabitants of the river. This audio reverberates through the cathedral space of a bridge, spanning a concrete-lined river, spanned by a freeway viaduct. It fills the immense space with a new track that the spectator knows consciously does not belong there but accepts immediately. The mix of bird song, human speech and song and natural sounds such as the plopping of water highlight the transitional space between nature and the urban setting. The spectator does not need to immediately know that one of the human voices is a Nobel prize winner, discussing climate issues, or that each village begin their own audio song after a five minute chorus with the others, or that the water sounds are based on the rise and fall of a rivers height. These are deeper layers that add profundity to the piece as the spectator explores it.

Floating World by Robin Lasser and Marguerite Perret Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

The ZERO1 theme is “build your own world,” the artists here have built a small world for light and sound. In its aesthetic beauty it houses a voice for the connection with nature in an urban environment, particularly the river, but it also goes further. It brings up gentrification issues. It highlights a truly urbanized river and the problems that arise in the attempt to tame it. This river is the heart of the “Silicon Valley” everything thing from our roads flow into it. All around this spot new stadiums, rail and housing projects and high-rises are going up and in the planning. The site itself is a testament to the modern use of concrete in its sheer height and scope. It poses the question of how can we maintain a relationship to the Guadalupe without it losing its nature and its soul. The model FEMA tents also speak to rescuing the displaced citizens that were ejected from the hundreds of houses that were leveled for the flight path of the airport and the extensive causeways carrying the ever-increasing traffic. It highlights the consequences of modernity’s desire for growth and societies addiction to speed and convenience.

Andy Muonio, MFA

Andy Muonio holds a Masters of Fine Arts from San Jose State University, and has lived most of his life in the San Jose. He teaches Drawing and Painting courses at The Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, CA and is an active figure painter and printmaker at his studio in San Jose’s Japantown.

ZERO1: A Trojan Horse in Spartan-land?

Posted by Bradshaw on September 19th, 2010

Images from the Green Prix – ZERO1, 2010


Artists Scott Kildall and Victoria Scott’s Gift Horse Photo Credit: Andy Muonio


Artist Jessica Findley’s Aelian Ride Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

A Participant in Cyclecide Heavy Pedal Bike Rodeo, Altercycles

A Participant in Cyclecide Heavy Pedal Bike Rodeo, Altercycles Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

Dave Hershberger’s Unwheely Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

Carl Heiney’s Rajaphant Photo Credit: Andy Muonio

Bruce Gardner, Steve Durie, Geri Wittig, Kyungwha Lee, SLO DOG Photo Credit: Andy Muonio



ZERO1: Slo-Dog – Whimsical Food Science Experiments

Posted by Bradshaw on September 18th, 2010


Look beyond the spectacle at some of the participant projects in the Green Prix and you will find serious enterprise.

Slo-Dog team members: Kyung Lee, Geri Wittig and Steve Durie (Bruce Gardner is not visible)

Four people, cycling furiously, seated on a bicycle platform driven contraption, pedaling either facing forwards or backwards inched their way along South Market Street at a slow pace as part of the Green Prix. These people were working hard. And for what purpose?  To cook some hot dogs! Once parked on South First Street, the team invited you to climb upon the bikes and as a reward for pedaling furiously you got to eat a hot dog which you had just heated using your own energy. The sausages rotated and warmed when two people created about 100W of energy apiece – enough energy to generate the rotating roller cooker.

The inspiration for this whimsical project arose when team-member Steve Durie stood transfixed by the hot dogs rotating slowly and evenly in his local 7/11. A series of questions followed: How long have these sausages been here? How many times have they rotated? And how far have they travelled? (The entire story of his train of thought can be read on their website, here).

The Slo-Dog team of Bruce Gardner, Kyung Lee, Geri Wittig and Steve Durie has been investigating the amount of energy required to create and serve our food and the distance food travels before it reaches the table. The Slo-Dog contraption is a whimsical device which serves as a seriously serious scientific food-study utilizing information technology, a visit to the farmyard, analog sausage grinders and a good dose of the absurd.

The Slo Dog website tells the story much better than I can. Take a look – you will be amused.

01SJ, 2010  and Leo Villareal

by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Leo Villareal’s Flag of lights draws viewers from outside into the San Jose Musuem of Art

The San Jose Museum of Art has not failed to deliver in a big way when it comes to this San Jose art biennale that is 01SJ 2010.  In artist Leo Villareal’s first museum survey show, 20 major light sculptures are presented and cataloged.  Viewers’ highest expectations are met with an exceptional experience of spiritual and transformative participation.  The scale, color, subliminal suggestions and overt effects are quite magnificent. In the subdued light of the Museum, the many installations blaze with color, energy, shifting and changing patterns and even sound programs that accompany and add to the extraordinary if not extra-terrestrial experience.  Contrary to any possibility that the work would be superficial or over-the-top, I found it beautiful, inspiring and endlessly moving.

Influenced by artists like Dan Flavin and James Turrell, Villareal makes light and reference to the night sky more than entertainment for all that it is still spectacle.  In Firmament, (2001) viewers enter an entirely black room where they recline along the exterior perimeter in black specially designed “zero gravity” sofas that direct their vision to the ceiling.  Above, a bank of white strobes in concentric circles produce endlessly mutating effects that suggest alien craft about to land or ascend, a celestial vortex of light, perhaps coded messages and certainly the eternally human pursuit of unity with the universe.  Of course, the Roden Crater comes to mind.

The artist received a BA in sculpture at Yale and went on to graduate school at NYU’s Tisch School of Visual Arts.  Villareal became involved in writing his own code for his light works after the convergence of two importance West Coast experiences.  First, as a graduate student he became involved in a workshop where participants explored technology and computers as artistic tools.  Then, after finding himself lost on the Playa at night at Burning Man, he envisioned his first (1997) light work as a beacon for home base.  This piece, relatively simple in its square format and grid of bold lights behind a gray translucent plexiglass, yet eerie and powerful, is included in the exhibition.  It sent Villareal on his continuing path of exploring simple code that allows random and unpredictable sequences of pulses through his light patterns.  He states, “Inspired by mathematician John Conway’s work with cellular automata and the Game of Life, I have sought to create my own set of rules.  Central to the work is the element of chance.  My goal is to create a rich environment in which emergent behavior can occur without a preconceived outcome.”

Leo Villareal may push the boundaries of what is color field imagery or light/color as form, and may indeed make an earlier generation cringe.  It is brave work, yet elegant, and fully in-sinc with the unpredictable aesthetic that Zero1 offers for viewers to contemplate, assimilate.

ZERO1: Office for Movement Advancement

Posted by Bradshaw on September 18th, 2010

Office for Movement Advancement and Research (OMAR)

By Julia Bradshaw

Imagine applying for a job you see posted on Craigslist for a position of Office Worker and finding yourself in the midst of an artistic-experimental-creative-office world. This is what Rick Lau did when he sent his c.v. to Nancy Nowacek in an earnest response to her request for office workers. Following a ‘phone interview, which he took very seriously, he was appointed to the position. He was one of two workers selected from over 92 applicants for the two-week position and was not fully prepared for his first day of work in South Hall.

It is fortunate that he does not mind being the center of attention as he perches upon what looks like a sand-pit hemmed in by boxes of office paper. He does realize the incongruity of his position and is aware that he is somewhat of a spectacle but he seems to earnestly believe in what Nowacek is trying to achieve by her playful re-situation of a standard office space. Apparently buried under the six tones of sand are a table and a chair. Nowacek and her office workers spent their workshop time in South Hall creating the office space and developing mounds and areas to work in.

In creating the space, Nowacek is concerned with asking her audience to think about how much time they are SITTING in an office space (as I am doing now). She is earnestly advocating a need to design spaces that enable knowledge workers to move and flex and kneel as they undertake their duties. By creating this playful space, she is working to convince the viewer that it is time to develop a healthier manner of working. She and her workers are also collecting movement data, so this is likely not the end of this project.

ZERO1: Learn to Play – Games as Art at the Euphrat Museum of Art

Posted by Bradshaw on September 18th, 2010

Learn to Play at the Euphrat Museum of Art

by Julia Bradshaw

Learn to Play is an exhibition assembled by guest curators James Morgan and John Bruneau at the Euphrat Museum of Art at De Anza College, Cupertino. Running from October 4th – November 24th the exhibition had a preview opening on September 17th and 18th in conjunction with ZERO1. Several of the artist and artist teams were present.

This is a small but important exhibition. There is a sub-culture of people involved in designing games who are interested in creating an aesthetic and emotional experience. These are the artists of the game-world, the indie and experimental game makers; usually known to just a small sub-set of people. Putting together a group of games that ‘people-in-the-know’ talk about with a tone of awe must be rather wonderful. So I encourage you to pay attention to this exhibition and become acquainted with some key indie games as artworks.

Attend the exhibition and you are expected to play – or learn to play. Some of it is instinctive, other games some visitors might need a nudge in the right direction. I was told you cannot break anything in the video games, so I encourage you all to have a go. Of the 20 games included in the exhibit about 15 are playable. The nostalgic retro-computer game graphics on the web-site suggest that this is just an exhibition of electronic games. But this impression is wrong, the exhibition includes board and other table-top games. You also have an opportunity to build a game – some people came to mini-workshops at the event and, in one short evening, were guided into building and creating their own computer game. Children would have fun at this exhibition as well.

Curator Bruneau guided this reporter to play Passage by Jason Rohrer. This is a game that he attributes to giving the indie game movement acknowledgment in the US. In participating in the game, you gain a life partner (apparently you can avoid this, I swear she just glommed onto me), come across obstacles (way to many if you ask me) and then progress into old-age – until the inevitable death of one and then both of the characters. In selecting the games in the show, curator Morgan said he was “looking for games that are actually art.” In his view, Passage’s interactive experience is both an aesthetic experience and also a thought-provoking one about the various paths one can take in life.

Joe DeLappe’s paper soldier – a three-dimensional recreation of one of the fallen soldiers from the free-downloadable online recruitment game American Army– is included in the exhibition. When playing the multi-player online game American Army, DeLappe spends his time typing in the names of the fallen American soldiers. This confuses and sometimes angers other participants so inevitably DeLappe’s soldier-character is killed. At that point, DeLappe would then re-enter the game and once again begin his ritual of typing in the names of the dead. DeLappe has created a three-dimensional paper soldier replica of his fallen soldier. This soldier lies on the floor of the museum like a discarded game-piece. Look closely and you will see that the names of many people are written on the paper form. This is DeLappe’s memorial to the Iraqi war. This is a sculptural iteration of the video Dead in Iraq.

The game Train by Brenda Brathwaite is on long-term loan for the exhibition. This is a table-top game and one game that some of the fellow artists talked about in hushed tones. There is only one copy of this game in existence and the game has to be run by someone who understands how it proceeds. As it currently sits in the exhibition space, it is merely an artifact but a visitor can surmise what the game is about – by looking at the train-tracks which sit on a window-pane or by looking at some of the cards. The curators have scheduled the designer to come to the venue and play the game at some point during the exhibition. Contact the museum for more details.

As a non-gamer I liked the subtlety of Flower by Kellee Santiago and Jenova Chen. I enjoyed the playful subtlety of this game and the graphics had a very calming effect as I moved the game controller. Apparently you are meant to try and pollinate the flowers in the landscape and the scenery becomes greener – but that is not important. It is fun flying through the landscape regardless. Playing the game is a playful but aesthetic experience.

I spent some time talking to the collaborative team Dave Walker and Jim Babb from the art project Socks Incorporated. This is a game that children will definitely enjoy. Currently on view as a video of the beta version of this game – the team hope to launch this game as a web-based interactive experience by December.

The US/China ping pong game provided energy to the space. During the opening, four visitors recreated the famous US / China ping pong summit of 1972 when the US and Chinese table-tennis teams visited the other’s country. Created by artist Yunan Cao this game requires cooperation and interaction. A video of the famous ping pong summit with President Nixon runs in the corner of the room and the table tennis table has the words Trust and Mistrust graphically imposed in both English and Chinese. Although the game is fun and lively, Cao successfully makes visitors think of our flawed system of international communication. The artwork is inspired by the Cold War of the 1970s when for 20 years there was no official interaction between China and the US. The project is updated by the use of other visuals on the paddles that represent more contemporary international misunderstandings.  As Cao said “The game has to be collaborative, you have to make friends. The images are all symbolic – using images on the bats that irritated either the US or China.”

During the preview exhibition people could come in and create games in small workshop groups. Attend one of the workshops (open today, September 18th) and you will receive free direct tutoring. This will enable you to create a computer game in a short space of time. The stakes are high, as Morgan said, “If you make something worthy of art, we will curate it into the show.” Both curators believe that games have to reach more into the diverse experience. By creating the game challenge and offering workshops they are acknowledging the need to bring more diverse voices to the table.

Game Development for Everybody Workshop with Marek Kapolka &
Kelsey Higham of SJSU GameDev

The City of Cupertino Balance or Bust board game was brought into the exhibit by Jan Rindfleish who is a curator and Executive Director of the Euphrat museum. The game was brought in because it was an excellent example of local community creativity and involvement in games (unusual in government, and this game was actually used), has won an award, and is particularly timely, since California has just hit a record of days gone by without having a budget. This is a board game that encourages you to think how the city is run. A visitor who works in public service looked at the game and declared “I want this game; I want these pieces.” The game, although simple in its creation, strikes a nerve particularly in this current fiscal crisis.

The exhibition has some nice touches. On each of the computers are a set of cool graphics  and other tags around the museum by the artist RIGO to connect the exhibition to nostalgic video games.  The wall mural, which harkens back to old Super-Mario games is by Sean Boyles.  The computers that run the electronic games would have been e-waste had Bruneau not re-purposed them for this exhibition.

The exhibition will also be open on Saturday 18th September before taking a brief hiatus and opening on October 4th. ArtShift San Jose will run an interview with the curators prior to the October 4th opening.

ZERO1: Absolute Zero Festival – Just Pictures

Posted by Bradshaw on September 17th, 2010

Chico MacMurtrie in front of his kinetic spider on South First Street for Absolute Zero, 2010

Tim Roseborough demonstrates his “Singing Garden”

Archipelago by Nova Jiang Photo Credit: Patrick Lydon

Archipelago by Nova Jiang Photo Credit: Patrick Lydon

Stan and Marguerite Welsh sitting “The Garden Grows,” by Karrie Hovey made up entirely of retail plastics

Inflatable Dumpster by Sarah Lowe

Illuminated Ark by Valerie Raps and Judy Roberto

Inside the Illuminated Ark installation by Valerie Raps and Judy Roberto

Students from CADRE (Digital Media San Jose State University) with their wearable Red Cross supporting Blood Donations.

Executive Director of ZERO1, Joel Slayton, interacts with the MAP installation

ZERO1: The Youth of San Jose Build their Future.

Posted by Bradshaw on September 17th, 2010

The Youth of San Jose Build their Future

By Julia Bradshaw

Over the past two weeks the Adobe Foundation Global Youth Media Initiative sponsored a series of workshops between youth aged 13 – 18 and artists. The participants were given access to Adobe software and artists shared their skills in story-telling, digital manipulation and editing. The artist-instructors worked with the students and encouraged them to think about various aspects of their lives: from the sensory to the virtual.

On Friday 17th September, the participants in these workshops showed their films in the Empire Drive-In in South Hall – the coolest venue for anyone’s screening. When students from the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley arrived for the screening, they dashed to the cars clambering over them with enthusiasm. Their enthusiasm was infectious; I typed some of these words sitting in a junked out car, sound coming from the radio dashboard speakers and watching the films created by the students.

Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley at the Empire Drive-In, South Hall

 The mantra of the Adobe Youth Voices is “Activate an Idea / Deactivate a Problem”.  They posed themselves the question “What will the world look like in 3010?” The students built screen-based landscapes to tell their stories. Darrin and Bryce Marrin from the Boys and Girls club of Silicon Valley participated in some of the workshops. They used software tools to “put ourselves into movies using a green screen”. Darrin said “I liked that we got to express the ideas we had. That we could create ideas; that was very fun”. Bryce agreed and said that they also wanted to “show that the future could be fun”. The movie was a group project with many ideas integrated into one movie which included avatars and flying cars – they said they all came up with the idea of flying cars. Van Nguyen added that they also came up with the idea of having “cell phones with a holographic”.

About 15 – 20 kids were involved from the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley along with other local youth – a total of 50 youth in total. Adobe has been involved with ZERO1 since its outset and has always had a global media project as part of the festival. With this project they wanted to actively engage the youth with the issues of today.  Adobe Youth voices is the prime program of the Adobe Foundation. The program works with youth from all over the world to give them the tools so that they need to create a voice.