City Beneath the City

An Art Installation by Rene Yung

Event has passed (Sat May 26, 2012 - Sun Sep 16, 2012)
Arts, City Events


"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 will look to the past in order to understand the significance of Silicon Valley today. City Beneath the City is designed by artist Rene Yung and presented in partnership with The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, History San Jose and Stanford Archaeology Center.

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. Through supporting materials including maps, photography, and wall labels, a surprising narrative of a once thriving Chinatown in downtown San Jose, where these object were once from, will unfold for the viewer. By presenting this installation in a contemporary art space and within the context of the ZER01 biennial's thematic Seeking Silicon Valley, the project curators aim to inspire dialogue on issues ranging from immigration policies, labor, minority struggles, land and urban development.

At the height of its existence, the Market Street Chinatown, located at the intersections of Market and San Fernando Streets in downtown San Jose (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. Nearly a century later, the site of Market Street Chinatown was redeveloped to build the Fairmont Hotel and the Silicon Valley Financial Center. Archeologists unearthed what was left at the location only to discover one of the most important excavation sites of Overseas Chinese materials in the United States at the time.

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. In presenting artifacts from the Market Street Chinatown, City Beneath the City will provide a space to reflect on the past - including the remarkable lives and struggles of those early settlers and laborers - in order to imagine the future possibilities for the region."

Open during regular Gallery hours Tuesday through Friday 10am to 5pm and Saturday 12pm to 5pm.


San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
560 South First Street
San Jose, CA
Event has passed



  1. San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art
    560 South First Street, San Jose, CA