City Beneath the City: An Installation by Rene Yung / Rene Yung

Presented by San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

Silicon Valley stands as an emblem of the future, the site of revolutionary technology that will change our lives. Yet, the story of the city at its center remains firmly rooted in the past. City Beneath the City unearths one alternative history of Silicon Valley in an attempt to complicate the dominant narratives of this renowned geography. 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 burned 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. City Beneath the City exhibits a collection of artifacts from the original excavation of the Market Street Chinatown site. Ceramic bowls, glass wares and and broken objects. Each object is presented with equal importance; yet as a whole, the repeated and varied textures, patterns and fragments will render a physical and tactile field. This visual experience seeks to elicit an emotional response, drawing on the viewers’ memories and assumptions of what these domestic, broken and antique 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 the installation in a contemporary art space and within the context of the ZERO1 Biennial’s thematic Seeking Silicon Valley, we hope to charge the objects with visual and emotional resonance in order to ignite dialogue on issues ranging from immigration policies, labor, minority struggles, land and urban development.

May 26 - September 16, 2012
Open Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Open Sunday, September 16th

Rene Yung

Artist website


Rene Yung is an internationally exhibiting artist, designer, writer and thinker, whose poetic and incisive works fluidly cross disciplines to address social and cultural issues in the globalized environment. She develops innovative forms of civic engagement that connect people, history, and place, to reveal overlooked patterns and articulate hidden narratives. Her work has been exhibited at international venues including TransCulture, part of the 46th Venice Biennale; Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, Texas; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. She has created extensive public projects for national institutions including the Wing Luke Asian Museum, Seattle, the City of Oakland Cultural Arts and Marketing Division, and the Goldman Institute on Aging, San Francisco. Yung is the recipient of many grant awards, including from the San Francisco Foundation, the Creative Work Fund, the California Council on the Humanities, and the Center for Cultural Innovation.