Off and running: O1SJ Festival kicks off
By Julian Peeples

The waiting was finally over as the second 01SJ global festival kicked off the evening of June 4, as art enthusiasts from around the globe converged on San Jose to experience the work of some of the world’s most innovative minds. Southern California-based artist Ruben Ortiz-Torres initiated everyone to the festival with “High ‘n’ Low Rider,” his hydraulic lift that danced to the brilliant sounds of the Tijuana-based Nortec Collective.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed welcomed festival-goers to San Jose, calling it the “largest progressive party in the United States” during a lengthy opening ceremony. While the weather wasn’t exactly what you might expect for a June night, the festival delivered on its opening day, offering compelling experiences at the intersection of art and technology.

Luis Valdez expounded, entertained and informed an opening night audience.

The highlight of the opening ceremonies was easily Latino theater legend Luis Valdez, who spoke about the significance of the number zero, and its roots in Mayan culture.

“Without zeroes, there is no computer age,” Valdez said, referring to digital art’s birth from the zeroes and ones of binary code.

Australian Craig Walsh’s undulating creatures seen inside the City Hall Rotunda

The crowd took a journey to San Jose City Hall to witness the unveiling of Australian artist Craig Walsh’s “Incursion 37:20:15.71’ N – 121:53:09.51’ W” which turned the city hall rotunda into an organic life form. I’m sure it’s not the first time somebody has referred to city hall as a jungle. Walsh’s creation of an organic habitat in modern architecture is an homage to the experimentation within multiple mediums performed by Ken Kesey during his famous “Acid Tests” in the 60s. The piece will be on display from dusk until dawn throughout the festival, but you won’t actually need any help seeing these lovely visuals.

MAW (Minneapolis Art on Wheels) surprised and delighted 01SJ opening night visitors with their guerilla projection actions on trees and unlikely building exteriors on the SJSU campus.

While Eddo Stern’s “Portal Wormhole Flythrough” was impressive (located at San Jose State University behind the MLK Library), to say the least, it was the work of a small group of University of Minnesota students that stole the show Wednesday night. Nine members of Minneapolis Art on Wheels (www.minneapolisartonwheels.org) set up shop, projecting fractals, art and video on the sides of buildings, shrubbery, trees and anything else available for digital blessing.

This band of new-age Merry Pranksters took a long road trip from Minnesota to show their self-sufficient, fully loaded projection bicycles. While most were gathered at the Stargate-like Wormhole, I spent time with the various MAW projections, the most interesting of which was gracing a large tree in the SJSU quad.

“There’s always been talk of projecting in trees,” said Tyler Hallett, a member of MAW, which began as a class project. “I was interested in taking these on the road and trying something new in each place.”

Besides being really cool and mellow people to chat with, the MAW folks have some amazing art to share. Open-source and pirate at its heart, this form makes even the most random of environment a canvas for expression. These friendly Minnesotans will be roaming the 01SJ landscape for the entirety of the festival, and they have some cool shirts commemorating their road trip as well (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be the only one wearing one of these). Make sure to check them out when you get a chance.

All in all, the first day of 01SJ was impressive, even if it seemed a bit disorganized at times. The festival is about random encounters, such as the one I shared with MAW. I can’t wait to have more during my time here. Digital art is still an emerging medium. And, luckily, we have a unique opportunity here in San Jose to experience the amazing work of artists who have so much to give and mystify. The 01SJ festival is really a gift to us, much like the legendary festivals of Birmingham, England and Linz, Austria. I feel lucky to be here for every second, and I’ll be broadcasting every night about my experiences so you can feel it too. Art is about shared experiences, and I guarantee I’m going to share as much with you as possible.

Information on 01SJ: http://01sj.org

Contact MAW: http://www.minneapolisartonwheels.org

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