By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Italo Scanga’s Meta (Violin), 1985, and Meta (Guitar), 1985, in the Thompson Gallery

The late Italo Scanga, as I remember him from a meeting in Minneapolis, was a stocky guy, not too tall, whose major aesthetic revolved around long tall poles, handles, piping, tree trunks, occasionally the human form — anything that had a vertical central axis.  From this base he hung, extended, contrasted or attached in precarious balance, many other forms.  In the earlier, delightfully odd juxtapositions, most of the references were to farming, purposefully drawing from his rural beginnings in Calabria, Italy.  His installations, very popular in the early 80’s, were extensions of that focus, often spare yet elegant in the selection and interplay of forms. They contained farm implements and some surprising elements such as blown glass forms, a framed painting with Catholic iconography, barn detritus and harvested seeds or vegetables. Scanga showed one of these installations from the series entitled The Potato Famine at the Thompson Gallery (Then called Gallery One) in 1979. Throughout his career, Scanga referenced farming, nature, the human form and art world itself in his paintings and constructions.  While the early work was minimal and carefully designed, it seems Scanga began increasingly to cultivate a more spontaneous, even primitive energy that had not been in the previous installations and sculpture.  He liberally painted the surfaces of his work – the frames on the flat work and the pedestals under the sculpture – incorporating everything into the viewer’s encounter.  Stylistically, his painted surfaces drew from the Cubists and a European fluidity in representational line. Sometimes his assemblage sculptures incorporated a lot of stuff, embracing in The Metaphysical series an explosion of complex forms that were a 3-D manifestation of Cubist inspirations:  musical instruments, picture frames, multiple actual paintings, lathe-turned ornamental wood fragments from furniture or architecture, and full pieces of both small and large furniture.  An artfully placed section of a shoe, an oval frame, a rope or a stringed instrument provides an organic contour in these architectural constructions, an upside object becomes some new entity entirely.

Scanga’s Meta (Clarinet), 1985

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A Woman and Her Islands

Posted by erin on October 6th, 2010

Nova Jiang’s “Archipelagos” Project at the 01SJ Biennial

by Patrick Lydon

Often incorporating works of technological marvel, but never forgetting the merit of old-fashioned mechanical devices, Los Angeles-based artist Nova Jiang has been busy since earning her MFA from UCLA in 2009. In the past year, she has exhibited works in California, Japan, Netherlands, Italy, and Mexico. Her most recent piece, titled Archipelagos, was commissioned for the 01SJ Biennial of Art and Technology in San Jose, California.

Jiang’s bright green, three-wheeled, metal and wood islands that roamed the streets of San Jose during the biennial are interactive, public expressions of struggle and isolation, and in many ways represent a somewhat personal agenda for the artist.

But the islands aren’t just a personal refuge for Jiang; they represent feelings that each of us have from time to time, and by the artist’s design, they call for us to address these issues with interaction. Each asymmetrically shaped mobile island is fitted with it’s very own sand dune, out of which stick pens, and corked glass bottles with empty papers inside.

These tools are provided to the public with the hope of obtaining messages in bottles, which Jiang is using in a web-based format that allows the public to view and respond to the anonymous messages.

As Jiang sat inside of her artwork on South First Street during the nighttime Absolute Zero street festival, her head seemed to float – sometimes happily, sometimes broodingly – atop her island, and under her fabricated plywood palm tree, which spun slowly with each brisk gust of early-autumn wind. It was here that she offered a chance for the public to envision themselves the same way… and hundreds took her up on the opportunity.

Jiang also gave me the opportunity to pilot one of the three islands during the street festival. The interactive element of her artwork put the Archipelagos pilots and the public in close contact with one another, perhaps belying the lonely island theme and even making it an island party of sorts. It was revealing to witness thousands of passers-by stopping in their tracks, at first to smile, gawk, ponder, or criticize Jiang’s works as they floated gently amongst the tides of people.

The few hundred who stopped to interact with the particular island I piloted seemed to have an instant connection with the piece, yet they were often confused about what to do.

The simple line of “fill out a message in a bottle” seemed to start some rusty, forgotten, gears turning in the heads of most people.

“OH! I get it! Clever!” quipped a few participants, while others simply gestured with smiles, wrinkled foreheads, bit lips, blank stares, or a combination of such looks as they filled out a piece of paper, placed it in one of the bottles, and sent it down a PVC tube, into the rear collection unit of the Archipelagos. Not everyone appreciated the rather innocent notion Miss Jiang was attempting to convey however; a handful of visitors, perhaps not ready to envision themselves as an island, let out a grumpy “humph!” at me as they spun around and stomped off to the adjacent food lot, burning man vehicles, or concert stages.

In a general sense though, Jiang’s roaming artwork connected with a good number of 01SJ biennial visitors who wanted to touch, see, connect, or take a joy ride themselves. Whether these visitors were artists or computer programmers, Archipelagos communicated with each one on common ground, giving them at the very least a tactile opportunity for interaction both in public and private senses.

Although we may not have our own green plywood islands to drive around town, Jiang reminds us that at times, we can all be islands ourselves. For a short few days in downtown San Jose, California, Archipelagos gave people an opportunity to reach out from these bubbles we construct … even if it was only in the form of a message in a bottle.

Article and photographs by Patrick Lydon


For more on the Archipelagos project, or on Nova Jiang’s work in general, visit


Posted by erin on October 6th, 2010


By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Nancy Sevier’s 2010 Reconfiguring Memories, at the Art Ark, combines piano parts with old slides, a funnel and electric light.

Assemblage is art in spirit of finding, reconfiguring and inventing.  In some senses it is recycling. The first sculptors who dared to gather discards, unconventional and mundane materials and assemble them into art objects and sign their names were audacious and scandalous.  Dubuffet gets credit for coining the term “assemblage”. Duchamp, with his urinal and “ready-mades” found esoteric meanings and puns in his juxtapositions. He was vilified by the academy and became a hero to subsequent generations of artists who embraced his defiance and complex yet extremely personal and secretive projects. Picasso took a couple of found objects and made handsome sculpture with an economy of means.  Joseph Cornell made his historic mark in the context of a collection of forms within a box.  California favorites, Ed Kienholtz and Wallace Berman continued the tradition with everything from large tableaus with narrative to flat collages of collected images.

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David Middlebrook at the Triton Museum

Posted by erin on October 5th, 2010


by Chris Hofer Borror

The Triton Museum in Santa Clara is the site of David Middlebrook’s most recent exhibit, The Nature of Things, which runs through December 5, 2010. The 25 works in this show span the last ten years, which have been very productive ones for this artist.

Middlebrook’s Collision Course seems to suggest a parable on gravity.

Middlebrook’s work is about celebrating the Earth and the sanctity of nature. At the same time we see threads of cautionary tales, and one can’t help but feel that we are being urged to preserve Mother Earth. The pieces in this show don’t stray from his overall message, which questions the establishment and the known world with humor and grace. In his usual fashion, Middlebrook puts everything into question, even gravity. For example in Collision Course, you’ll find a precariously balanced assemblage of large eggs of endangered birds whose habitats have been encroached upon by airports in flyways. And in Apparition, you’ll see a cast marble tree stump raised high above, while balancing on slender birch branches.

All of the work is stunningly beautiful. His wall piece titled The Price of Beauty is at first glance a large wooden comb with a twig protruding from it. But this is more than just a two and one-half foot comb: it is representative of the old growth trees that are being strangled out of extinction. The bronze twig that grows out from one of the tines represents the 1.5% of old growth trees remaining on Earth.

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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.