Before there was Silicon Valley, there was the valley. As a western territory and wild frontier, the Bay Area has promised opportunity throughout its history, whether in gold, agriculture or technology. Along with these successes, however, are stories of class struggle and racial bias which are often excluded from the mainstream narrative.
Two new exhibits at The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) the topic of Asian Culture and California’s Visual Landscape.
In response to the ZERO1 art and technology biennial thematic Seeking Silicon Valley, City Beneath The City exposes a history of the valley before it was dubbed Silicon Valley. Whereas Silicon Valley is obsessed with the next technology that will revolutionize our lives, this project looks to the past in order to understand the significance of Silicon Valley today. At the height of its existence, the Market Street Chinatown, located at the intersections of Market and San Fernando Streets in downtown San José (a ten minute walk from the ICA), was the largest Chinese community anywhere in the U.S. outside of San Francisco. It flourished both economically and culturally from the 1860s until it was destroyed in an arson fire in 1887.
The installation will include a collection of artifacts including ceramic bowls, glassware and vessel fragments that will be presented to render a physical and tactile field. This visual experience seeks to elicit an emotional response, drawing on the viewers’ memories and assumptions about what these domestic, fractured and historic objects may represent in the context of a contemporary art space.
Archival photograph showing arson fire destroying San Jose’s Market Street Chinatown (History San Jose )
A second exhibit, Chico & Chang: A Look at the Impact of Latino and Asian Cultures on California’s Visual Landscape explores the interwoven and sometimes incongruous cultures of two of California’s largest populations, the Latino and Asian communities. From a low-rider rickshaw to work made by “Dreamers,” undocumented youth who are fighting to gain legal status, Chico and Chang examines the impact of Asian and Latino cultures on the changing face of California through sculpture, video, illustration and painting.
Chico & Chang features work by Pablo Cristi, Sergio De La Torre, Takehito Etani, Ana Teresa Fernandez, Clement Hanami, Mike Lai, Angelica Muro & Juan Luna-Avin, Favianna Rodriguez, Lordy Rodriguez, Tracey Snelling and Charlene Tan