The 2010 01SJ Biennial rightly cements San Jose and Silicon Valley among the destinations for global contemporary art gatherings.

For more than 20 years now, new-media art fests have emerged on several continents, addressing key issues in the overlapping fields of art, science, critical theory, digital media and cultural studies. Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, is the oldest, and similar festivals take place from Brazil to Japan to India. But there has never been a definitive equivalent in the United States, which is why everyone involved with 01SJ says it will become the North American model.

For 2010, the 01SJ Biennial arrives with an ambitious theme: “Build Your Own World.”  With that premise in mind, more than 100 art installations and dozens of commissioned works, plus exhibitions, workshops, musical performances and a high-tech street fair, will take over downtown San Jose through Sunday night, with some events carrying on beyond.

For those preferring the kind of art that occupies a museum or a gallerylike space, plenty of themed exhibits are currently running in conjunction with the biennial. Tech-related works to coincide with 01SJ can be seen at the San Jose Museum of Art, the Museum of Quilts and Textiles, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, MACLA, Anno Domini, WORKS/San Jose, the Thompson Gallery at SJSU, Santana Row and even Mineta San Jose Airport.

Attendees more suited to participatory events—like narrative cell phone games or bicycle rides with inflatable suits—can also participate. “Out of the Garage Into the World” features several works blurring the boundaries between art and research, with the public invited to join in.

All projects, in one way or another, envision and imagine what the future might look like, and especially, how to begin building that future today.

Opening Ceremonies: Plug-in-Play
San Jose City Hall, Thursday, Sept. 16, 7–9pm
Each 01SJ Biennial features some sort of transformation of the Richard Meier–designed San Jose City Hall. This year, David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group Lab (stage designers for the last two Academy Awards) will turn the portion of City Hall housing the elevator shaft into a multifaceted interactive experience for the opening ceremonies.

South First Street between San Carlos and Reed, Friday, Sept. 17, 5pm–midnight
This night is the crème-de-la-crème of the entire weekend and it goes on for hours. More than 100 artists will set up shop on the pavement and sidewalks of South First Street in order to exhibit their art, music and scientific ideas. Free and open to everyone, there will be high-tech crafts, experiments, philosophies, extractions, contractions, contraptions, immersions, acts, miracles on wheels, street shows, interactive games, behaviors, robots and more.

Out of the Garage Into the World
South Hall
The entire 80,000-square-foot South Hall (the blue-and-white bunker-shaped tent behind the McEnery


Convention Center) will host dozens of independent artists, designers, architects, engineers, programmers and corporate and academic researchers publicly displaying whatever they’ve been working on. It’s like a gigantic machine-and-carpentry warehouse of the future.

A Season in Hell
San Jose Stage, Friday, 2 and 8pm; Saturday, 2 and 8pm; Sunday, 2pm
Pioneering multimedia artist and composer Randall Packer will present the premiere of A Season in Hell, his new multimedia opera. Written as a last will and testament to the apocalyptic, hallucinatory and most recent decade of American history, the story chronicles Packer’s journey through the post-9/11 world.

The Green Prix
Saturday, Sept. 18, 11am–6pm
This is one the kids will especially enjoy: a parade and festival of “artful eco-motion,” inviting anyone with a sustainable contraption to join in. There is still time to register. You’ll see banana-bikes, self-propelled jet packs, soapboxes, a video-game-themed car and a mechanical elephant on wheels all taking part in the procession, which begins at South Hall at 11am and travels approximately one mile through the immediate downtown area.

Requiem for Fossil Fuels
St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Saturday, Sept. 18, 9pm
Following a daylong Green Prix, everyone might be inclined to investigate a new reworking of the Requiem Mass for a post–oil, coal and peat world. Written and performed by O+A (Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger) with four singers and an eight-channel “Orchestra of Cities,” the work meditates on the balance between machines and humans.

Symbiotic Robotic/Human Ensemble
MACLA, Friday, Sept. 17, 7 and 9pm
A collaboration between KarmetiK Collective & San Jose’s Abhinaya Dance Company, these ticketed performances feature musicians, dancers and robots performing side by side. KarmetiK Collective fuses traditional Indian classical music with modern technology, including human-computer interfaces, robotics and artificial intelligence.

A Machine To See With (2010)
This is a role-playing game for pedestrians and their cell phones by the U.K.-based collective Blast Theory. The game takes about one hour and a total of 30 minutes of cell phone time, with participants receiving instructions via their cell phones and essentially stepping into a narrative experience as they walk around downtown San Jose. Participants book a time slot for $12, bring their own phones and then receive an introductory call informing them where to start. From there, no one knows what will happen.

Trading Voices (2010)
South Hall
Years and years ago, much of the initial brainstorming conversations for what would eventually become the 01SJ Biennial took place at the CADRE Lab for New Media at SJSU. For the 2010 Biennial, current CADRE grad students will present “Trading Voices,” a video-intensive interview project actively collecting, remixing and publishing oral stories relating to U.N. Millennium Development Goal 3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women).

Project HoodiePlay
During their residency at the Canadian Film Centre Media Lab’s Interactive Art and Entertainment Program, Rose Bianchini, Kathleen Climie and David McCallum created a participatory wearable art game. Basically, folks will be donning their own signature “wearable Hoodie” enabling them to play Zombie Tag during the AbsoluteZER0 street festival. Participants learned how to transform their own hoodies with interactive electronics. Look for them in the midst of the street festival.

Midnight concerts by contemporary sound artists
Curated by Stephen Vitiello, these ticketed events take place the nights of Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Trinity Cathedral, 81 N. Second St. at St. John. On Thursday, Olivia Block will present a composition for piano, field recordings and sine waves. Friday, Sept. 17, Steve Roden will perform Possible Landscape (for Donald Judd) using field recordings, live acoustic and electronic objects, instruments, voice, and electronic processing. Vitiello himself, along with Molly Berg, will perform on Saturday.