A whiskey-jonesing-bar-hopper for art

IN 2006, NORTHERN LIGHTS.MN founder, president, and artistic director, Steve Dietz, helped organize the first Zer01 SJ biennial, a seven day festival of art highlighting the theme of “the interactive city,” which took place in San Jose, California. The event was a huge success, featuring the work of more than 250 artists representing over 40 different countries and drawing in excess of $9 million dollars in revenue for the city. The problem?  The activities ended at 2 a.m. every night, and like a whiskey-jonesing bar-goer just diving into his second wind, Dietz wanted still more.

“Four years of idea-percolating and 18 months of practical planning later, Dietz has turned his a.m. arts bender dream into reality. On June 4 and 5, Northern Lights.mn, a “roving, collaborative, interactive media” nonprofit art agency, will host Northern Spark: A Nuit Blanche, the Twin Cities’ first ever all-night outdoor art festival.

Read the rest of Regan Smith’s preview of Northern Lights’ all-night arts festival, Northern Spark: Nuit Blanche, featuring dusk-to-dawn interactive art happenings throughout the Twin Cities, with work by more than 100 artists and organizations, on June 4 & 5.

via mnartists.org

A Machine to See With is coming to Minneapolis this week

Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With is coming to Minneapolis April 15-19, 2011. Buy your tickets now. The experience begins at an appointed location at St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis. Allow 60–75 minutes. It’s worth it.

Blast Theory, A Machine to See With

Blast Theory is a UK-based artist group (led by Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj) who use performance, gaming, and interactive media to create participatory experiences that explore the social and political aspects of technology. One of their better-known works is Ulrike and Eamon Compliant, which premiered at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and invited participants to take on the persona of Ulrike Meinhof or Eamon Collins as they walked through the city directed by calls to their cell phone.

Blast Theory, Ulrike and Eamon Compliant.

While less political in its premise, A Machine to See With is similar in that it’s a cell phone led experience that takes place outside on city streets. I experienced the work when it premiered in San Jose, CA at the 01SJ Biennial last September and was able to observe and participate throughout the concept and testing phases of development. I hesitate to reveal too many specific details about the work because I want to avoid spoilers. This is an artwork that you must experience yourself.

As opposed to a site-specific work that is crafted for one particular geographic location, A Machine to See With (AMTSW) is better classified as a site dependent work. The premise of the work is the same from city to city, but the work isn’t explicitly about responding to a particular location—the narrative is a stencil overlaying a place and the artists are location scouts who scour an area to unearth the characteristics and spaces that support their narrative to the desired effect.

According to Nick Tandavanitj, the artists feel a sense of jeopardy each time they stage the piece because the work is so dependent on geographical details and physical properties of a place. When the artists arrived in San Jose (a city they had never visited—all scouting was done via Google Earth) they knew the narrative would center around a bank, but were still determining how the work would resolve. In Park City, Utah they had to scale the experience to a smaller city and make accommodations for the snow and harsh weather. In Minneapolis (which they did visit in advance), Blast Theory looked at three different locations to serve as the anchor point of the work, and admit that they could have rewritten AMTSW as a different experience at each of the three locations.

The work relies on maintaining an air of intrigue and anonymity to what is going on. Playing yourself, you are challenged to imagine the previously unimaginable and question what and who is behind every corner. Blast Theory clearly designs the work to allow spaces for people to craft their own experience. When I participated, it was left up to me to decide when and how to follow the instructions delivered to my own personal cell phone and at times the work reminded me of the “choose your own adventure” stories I used to love as a child.

Blast Theory, A Machine to See With. Still from San Jose.

Blast Theory is highly adept at blurring genres and mediums. AMTSW connects to urban gaming in that it enables interaction, but the work does not have the structure or clearly outlined goals of a game. In the context of a film festival like Sundance, the work takes on a cinematic element where the city is cast as set and participants as live actors in a reality-based action thriller.

In the end, I left feeling like the work was about taking a risk—not knowing who is playing along, but following directions anyway. As impersonal as the mechanism of phone calls seems to be, AMTSW crafts a finishing point that becomes a starting point to a moment of real personal connection with someone.

A Machine To See With is a Locative Cinema Commission from ZER01 for the 01SJ Biennial, the New Frontier Initiative at Sundance, and the Banff New Media Institute. It is being presented in Minneapolis as part of the Walker Art Center‘s Expanding the Rules of Engagement with Artists and Audiences initiative.

Midnight concerts recorded

First skyscraper – design fiction?

The world's first skyscraper was proposed by British architect Charles Burton in 1851

The world's first skyscraper was proposed by British architect Charles Burton in 1851. via Gizmag

via Gizmag

In “Design Fictions: From Props to Prototypes” (Build Your Own World: 2010 01SJ Biennial), Julian Bleecker writes:

“Design fiction is a way to speculate seriously. It’s not quite brainstorming, nor is it ideating. It is design that tells stories. It creates material artifacts that force conversations and suspend one’s disbelief in what is possible. It’s a way of imagining a different kind of world by outlining the contours, rendering the artifacts as story props, then using them to imagine. The prototyping activates the idea, giving it a few material features and some density, and forcing the refinement that comes from making something.”

I don’t know how fanciful Burton’s proposal was in 1851, but it was one heck of a story.

Goodbye and hello

For its first year, Public Address, our blog about experimenting with art in the public sphere, was a collaboration with Forecast Public Art, publisher of Public Art Review since 1989 and one of the premiere public art organizations in the country. Recently Forecast’s pioneering efforts were rewarded with grants from both the NEA and the Warhol Foundation to fund an online version of PAR, and that is where they will be focusing their energies online for the foreseeable future. It has been and honor and a pleasure working with Jack Becker, Melinda Hobbs Childs, Kaitlin Frick, and Nichole Goodwell, and we wish them all the best with their ongoing efforts and look forward to working with them again on Northern Spark and other efforts.

On a personal note, I recently completed a 6-year stint with another pioneering organizations ZER01, as the founding Artistic Director of the 01SJ Biennial in 2006 and again in 2008 and 2010. It has been an incredible run, and I will miss my colleagues and friends on the West Coast dearly, but I also look forward  to directing my efforts full time as Founder, President and Artistic Director of Northern Lights.mn.

And I am especially pleased Jaime Austin, who was the Assistant Curator for the 2010 01SJ Biennial and is now Curator and Director of Programs for ZER01, has agreed to become the West Coast Editor for Public Address. She will be writing about and finding writers about art in public on the West Coast of the United States. Look for her byline soon.

Thank you Forecast! Welcome Jaime!

steve “mediachef”

Janaki Ranpura, Egg and Sperm Ride

by Stephen R. Miller

The Egg and the Sperm are a matter of prosaic beginnings. They meet in passion, lust, happiness, joy; in individuals coupled to each other. They can meet through violence; they can be frozen and shipped like cargo. Are they commodities sans soul? The conversation rapidly evokes larger questions. “Manhood’s repose of If,” as Herman Melville says in Moby Dick, is shaken by the subject. Adding to this existential ambivalence, the egg and sperm reference not only life but after life; Marilynne Robinson writes in Gilead: “We participate in Being without Remainder.” T.S. Eliot reminds us that the egg and sperm’s passage, the passage of a journey, is also the passage of time: “To arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” (Little Gidding)

Reach out and message someone

"A Woman and Her Islands - Nova Jiang’s “Archipelagos” Project at the 01SJ Biennial" by Patrick Lydon via Artshift

“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.”

Nice article by Patrick Lydon on Nova Jiang’s Archipelago at the 01SJ Biennial.

via Artshift

Today’s question – What is your dream for the future?

"Hello world, goodbye San Jose," from Christopher Baker, offscript, 300 Santana Row, San Jose, CA Today's question - What is your dream for the future? Commissioned by ZER01 for the 01SJ Biennial

I’m heading home after an amazing 01SJ Biennial. What should I see on the way?

What should I see on the way?

01SJ Biennial

San Jose, California, is the 10th largest city in the United States. Surprisingly, it is not necessarily on everyone’s top 10 list of places to visit. If, however, you have even a passing interest in contemporary art, in particular the ways it intersects with contemporary (digital) culture and technology, San Jose is the place to be for the next two weeks.

Admittedly, as the current Artistic Director of the 01SJ Biennial I may not be an entirely unbiased voice in this matter, but let me share 10 reasons you should come to San Jose for 01SJ, September 16-19, and see at least some of 100 art installations, 46 commissioned works, 9 exhibitions, 20 workshops, 12 public artworks, 4 urban games, 1 drive-in movie theater, a nighttime street fair, a green prix of eco-locomotion, an epicurean multi-media dinner, a requiem mass for fossil fuels, audio ballerinas and robotic sitars, musical performances, operas, and more.

1. Largest DIY garage in the world

1. Largest DIY garage in the world

I don’t know if it really is the largest "garage" in the world, but Out of the Garage, Into the World takes place in the 80,000 sqaure feet (7,432 square meters) South Hall of the San Jose Convention Center. Essentially a domed parking lot, for two weeks, beginning September 4, 01sj.org/art/out-of-the-garage/ will publicly build their projects in and around a scaffolding structure designed by Madrid-based architect Angel Borrego Cubero. The projects run the gamut from a book-making workshop by Guggenheim fellow Monica Haller for war veterans the Eyebeam Roadshow to a contemporary hurache workshop by Pilar Aguero-Esparza and Hector Dionicio Mendoza to mobile archipelagos by Nova Jiang to a zipline "xAirport" wearing innovative wing designs over an artificial marsh "ark" for endangered frogs by Natalie Jeremijenko to public orchards, DIY solar sculptures , gift horses, i-weather, pirate radio, and much more . The entire "garage" is serviced by a full tech shop with laser cutters, CNC mills, shop bots, and industrial sewing machines.

Come often to see these works-in-progress September 4-14, admission is free, and only $5 for multiple visits September 16-19.

2. “Drive in” trip out

2. “Drive in“ trip out

As part of Out of the Garage, Into the World, artists Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark and cohorts will be constructing Empire Drive-In, a full-scale drive in theater using salvaged materials, including the cars for seating. There will be a daily film program and nightly live cinema performances such as Chandler and Dark Dark Dark’s Flood Tide Remixed, Graham Weinbren’s 50 Letters, Stephanie Rothenberg’s Second Life talk show Best Practices in Banana Time, Zoe Keating’s remarkable cello in collaboration with Robert Hodgin’s visuals on Into the Trees, the California premiere of Rick Prelinger’s latest archive mash up The Lives of Energy, Sheepwoman by SUE-C & Laetitia Sonami, and a series of telematic performances, Domain, curated by Rhizome’s John Michael Boling, by Jeremy Bailey, Petra Cortright, Constant Dullaart, and JODI.

3. Art in the streets

3. Art in the streets

Art is not just in the garage and theaters and galleries at 01SJ, it is also in the streets, everywhere. Luke Jerram’s acclaimed Play Me I’m Yours has 20 pianos throughout San Jose, which anyone can play – and decorate. Rigo 23 is producing a newly commissioned video projection, Oglala Oyate: Sister City for a Better Future. Chris Baker’s interactive projection, 01sj.org/2010/artworks/offscript/, will play nightly at Santana Row . Yung-ta Chang’s Signal Flow, in a nod to San Jose’s radio history, will greet visitors to South Hall along with Sabrina Raaf’s Meandering RIver. A half dozen works have been commissioned by the San Jose Public Art Program for 01SJ, and Chico MacMurtrie’s Inflatable Architectural Growth will expand on 1st Street during AbsoluteZER0 and the Green Prix.

4. City Hall reacts

4. City Hall reacts

Each Biennial San Jose’s Richard Meier-designed City Hall has been the canvas for a major public art commission. On Thursdsay, September 16, duirng the 01SJ Opening Ceremonies, the Rockwell Group LAB will power up Plug-in-Play, an interactive projection, which suggests a new type of environment where social interactions, citizenship, and personal activities are more dynamically reflected. Inside the City Hall Rotunda, Ken Gregory will present his sound sculpture, wind coil sound flow . During opening ceremonies, Benoit Maubrey and Ballet San Jose will perform Audio Ballerinas.

5. AbsoluteZER0

5. AbsoluteZER0

Now an annual event, AbsoluteZER0 is a vibrant street festival where the public can engage with art, music, science, and technology in new and compelling ways outside on city streets. From an Art Ark to CITY/SPACE/SHARE, a pilot project out of CCA intended to revitalize vacant storefronts and transform urban activity in the City Center of San Jose to Marcus Young’s solo dance program Can’t You Feel It Too? to Steven White’s two-person Ferris Wheel, Over the Top, AbsoluteZER0 is an event not to be missed.

6. Play in the streets

6. Play in the streets

"Go play in the streets" is not just something your mean uncle said. At 01SJ it is a new strand of programming where artists use the city itself as a playground for "serious play." The world premiere of Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With is co-commissioned with the The Banff Centre, and Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Initiative. It mixes documentary material, stolen thriller cliches, and the films of Jean-Luc Godard and invites you to become someone else. Step inside a film as you walk through the city, receiving phone calls. Are you the protagonist or a bit part player? Start making decisions and you will find out. Participation slots are limited, and you can buy tickets ($12) here. You can also become a Zoropathian or participate in an EST-like seminar, LevelFive in commissioned projecs by Ken Eklund and Annette Mees and Brody Condon. And don’t forget to transform your favorite hoodie for an interactive game of zombie tag during AbsoluteZER0.

7. Artful eco-motion – the Green Prix

7. Artful eco-motion - the Green Prix

The Green Prix is a parade and all day festival of sustainable, ecological friendly, and fun modes of transportation—artful “eco-motion.” It will include and Aeolian Bike Ride, Art Bikes, a burlap 1964 Ford, a Gift Horse, Maria del Camino, a video game concept car , a mechanical elephant on wheels , solar cars and much more. And It is open for EVERYONE: artists, designers, families, schools, and anyone else who has or wants to create a new mode of sustainable transportation. It is your opportunity to create, participate in, and cheer on innovative projects related to eco-themed transportation. So break out your banana-bikes, self-propelled jet packs, soapboxes, and solar cars to come out and strut your stuff in front of a cheering audience. The Green Prix Parade will begin at 11:00 am on Saturday, September 18th. It’s not too late to register here . The Green Prix culminates in a special mass by O+A at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Requiem for fossil fuels.

8. After midnight

8. After midnight

During 01SJ, San Jose will be a 24/7 city. Three midnight concerts by contemporary sound artists curatd by artist and musician Stephen Vitiello will take place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at midnight inside one of San Jose’s historic venues, Trinity Cathedral. untitled composition for piano, field recordings, sine waves by Olivia Block, Possible Landscape (for Donald Judd) by Steve Roden, and Untitled by Stephen Vitiello and Molly Berg . For other nighttime events check out the live cinema at Empire Drive-In, Randall Packer’s multimedia opera A Season in Hell , and KarmetIK’s symbiotic Robotic/Human Ensemble in collaboration with Abhinaya Dance Company.

9. Workshops and artist talks

At the heart of 01SJ is the artists, of course, and many of them will be participating in an artist talk series beginning Tuesday, September7, through Sunday, September 19. The full schedule is here. And you can do more than listen to many of the artists, as enlightening as that can be. Many are offering hands-on workshops open to the public from a barn raising to a biodiesel bus tour of San Jose’s urban orchards and farms to DIY solar sculptures to a youth workshop on future sounds to Imaginary Airforce Flight Attendant Training and much more. The complete listing of workshops is here.

10. Help 01SJ to continue

The 01SJ Biennial is one of very few similar events in North America. ZER01 receives very little support from government sources, unlike similar events in Europe, South America, and Asia. Help this important event to continue by chipping in whatever you can. Every $5 helps. Donate here.

Above all, come and visit. Tickets are online here.

See you in San Jose @01SJ.

Sign up for LARP “LevelFive”


LevelFive is a live role-playing event organized by the artist Brody Condon, which is focused on critically exploring self-actualization seminars from the 1970s. The 3 day physically and psychologically participatory performance will loosely follow the structure of early Large Group Awareness Training sessions like Erhard Seminars Training, but it is not a re-enactment.

[clip from “Century of the Self” by Adam Curtis, LevelFive inspiration.]

This open-ended live role-playing environment with up to 75 players will provide a space in which players are free to explore self-actualization issues with varying degrees of personal intensity, but via an alibi or fabricated character. Players from the LARP, experimental theater, academic, and performance art communities are encouraged to participate.


LevelFive will be organized twice: At the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles on September 3-5, 2010 (50 spots); and at the San Jose Convention Center on September 16-18, 2010, during the 01SJ Biennial (75 spots).


This performance is created and organized by the artist Brody Condon. The live game mechanics and management are being developed by the Scandinavian based progressive live game designer Bjarke Pedersen, along with character and workshop development by Tobius Wrigstad and Monica Traxl. The event has been commissioned by ZER01 for the 01SJ Biennial and Machine Project in conjunction with the Hammer Museum residency program in Los Angeles, along with special thanks to Southern Exposure in San Francisco.

More Information and Sign Up


One or more of everything

(Some of) the fast company of 01SJ Biennial

Michael Silverberg, "Creating Digital Worlds of the Future," Fast Company, September 2010

Michael Silverberg, "Creating Digital Worlds of the Future, Fast Company, September 2010

“Under the theme “Build Your Own World,” more than 100 artists are creating fanciful universes in the hopes of prompting civic engagement at this arts-and-tech biennial in San Jose. We peeked at six intriguing projects.”

via Fast Company

Nova Jiang, Archipelago
MTAA (Michael Sarff & Tim Whidden), All Raise this Barn, West
David Rockwell/Rockwell Group LAB, Plug-In-Play
Victoria Scott and Scott Kildall, Gift Horse

Scaffolding – backbone for and as art

I’ll be writing a full preview of the upcoming 01SJ Biennial this week, but this “urban nest” (via Alias Arts) reminds me of the central role that Madrid-based architect Angel Borrego Cubero’s scaffolding design for Out of the Garage, Into the World sets the stage for a different way of thinking about the “exhibition.”

Luzinterruptus - "little birds inhabiting scaffolding'

Some images of Angel’s design from the 01SJ publication (designed by Matthew Rezac).

Angel Borrego Cubero, South Hall design, Out of the Garage, Into the World

He writes in the catalog.

Some Principles

Working Space

The architectural concept for Out of the Garage, Into the World should be as close as possible to that of the exhibition itself, to what the curators are trying to achieve, and to what the artists themselves are doing. We should achieve the transformation of the exhibition into a working space, in which the processes are transparent to the public. Its architecture should not rely on dividing and blocking parts of the space, but rather should help bring work and public together.

Public Space

The public should experience an atmosphere that involves them, that places them in the space of work and empowerment. This atmosphere should produce the fascination and anticipation of entering a good restaurant through the kitchen.

Exhibition Space

Agglomeration, juxtaposition, sharing, decking, groupings, and, in general, the renegotiation of the limits of the artwork should give way to a rethinking of what it is to organize an exhibition and offer a new paradigm of how these elements and actions can be understood. From schemes that suggest the master plans of suburbia, we would like to propose exhibitions that evaluate more dense, collaborative, and diverse urban and architectural strategies.

Of course, the urban nests are also reminiscent of Misako Inaoka’s Red Bird, which is included in the Small Wonders wundkerkammer curated by ZER01 for the amazing public art program at the San Jose airport. You gotta fly into there sometime.

Small Wonders installation view, San Jose airport. Photo Jaime Austin

Small Wonders installation view, San Jose airport. Photo Jaime Austin

Small Wonders flickr set by Jaime Austin.

How to Build a Voice Box I: Dunce Caps into Megaphones

Join Futurefarmers on Saturday, August 7, for part of their residency “A People without a Voice Cannot Be Hear.”

Futurefarmers, A People without a Voice Cannot Be Heard

Small paper megaphones will be made by the general public. Posters will be printed with a template for the megaphone form and a space for people to write a statement they wish to shout or whisper.

Alongside the public making workshop, Futurefarmers + core group will be building a large, mobile multiple person megaphone.


And come to the 01SJ Biennial in September for more Futurefarmers’ Sunshine Still / Speak Hard.

Futurefarmers to come to Open Field

Futurefarmers: A People Without A Voice Cannot Be Heard, August 4-September 4, 2010

Founded in 1995, Futurefarmers is a San Francisco–based interdisciplinary collective of artists aligned through an open practice of making art that is socially, politically, and environmentally relevant. As part of Open Field, the Walker is partnering with Northern Lights.mn to commission A People Without A Voice Cannot Be Heard, a temporary, free school using the “voice” as a theme to guide workshops and public events that explore methods to amplify, coordinate and channel our individual and collective voice. Auctioneers, theorists, conductors, ethnomusicologists, local newspapers, artists, and speech pathologists are invited to consider “voice” as a tool for exchange and liberation.

Working with a core group of local collaborators, Futurefarmers Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine will look at ways that the voice has been used to pass time through song, to elevate the spirit through oratory, to create camaraderie through conversation, and as a “megaphone” in the media. The new group will then teach what they learn to the public throughout the month. The project culminates with a public event and live auction called “Auctions Speak Louder Than Words” on Saturday, September 4.

Sunshine Still

Futurefarmers will also present Sunshine Still at the 2010 01SJ Biennial in September.

Futurefarmers, Sunshine Still, 01SJ Biennial