SJ in 3-D
By Gary Singh
JUST WHEN I thought I was finally exhausted of zonked-out ideas for 25-mile drives on the same road in San Jose, along comes Peter Carter, who is launching a gorgeous art show/project about exactly that subject. Beginning this weekend at the American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley Chapter (AIASCV), Carter's exhibit, "First Street Project: Mapping at Human Scale," documents how Carter drove all the way up Monterey Highway from Morgan Hill and then continued on First Street all the way through San Jose to Alviso.
I know—your first thought is, What?!? But yeah, that's exactly what he did. And not only did he shoot video of the whole freakin' thing from three different angles out the car window, he also took field recordings while taking the same journey on foot and took photos while biking the whole shebang. You can experience the results beginning this Friday, just in time for the now-rocking First Friday gallery hops in the SoFA District.
AIASVC sits there at 325 South First St., a few doors south from Original Joe's, and it's the kind of place that everyone walks by but never even notices. And since the joint is actually included in the show—being part of the continuous drive up First Street—you can sort of justify the gig as a site-specific show. Carter is originally from San Jo but is currently finishing up an urban planning degree down in La-La Land at that unknown school in Westwood.
The show itself exists as a three-screen video installation titled Road Map and a photo book called Field Guide, which consists of shots taken by bike at each mile point along First Street. The project explores the "physical, cultural, temporal and historical topography of San Jose at the scale of the individual traveler." It's all there—from the pastoral country-bumpkin scenes of Morgan Hill to the commercial soon-to-be-rezoned-for-housing stretch of First Street near 280 to the North First light rail corridor. And of course, it culminates in Alviso, which is pretty much the end of everything in more ways than one.
"I developed the [project] as a way of thinking about the road and the city," Carter explains in the documentation. "Road Map involved driving and filming First Street by car. The road is just over twenty-five miles long, and it takes less than an hour to drive. Three cameras filmed continuously for the length of the drive from the right, left and front windows. When displayed, three separate monitors bring these three separate tracking shots together in a single plane. The result is a portrait of the city from an otherwise impossible perspective." It's totally true. When you see the three continuous video shots before you all on the same level, you get something almost like a 3-D perspective transposed onto a wall. There is perhaps no better way to fully grasp the entire history of San Jose in a one-hour drive than this, and Carter nails the whole thing. Would anybody outside San Jose actually care? Probably not, but nevertheless, you take with you a very out-of-the-ordinary glimpse into all this without actually having to make the drive yourself, and that's why it works. History. Architecture. Urban planning. From dive motels to high tech—it's all there, ramming home the only conclusion anyone could make: that First Street and Monterey are San Jose.
"My final trip up First Street was made on foot," Carter explained. "I began walking at the city limit in the south and each day made a field recording by hand-held microphone that lasted the length of the recording medium. Each subsequent recording began at the exact time and place where the previous recording stopped, until I reached the end of the road. The total recording time was about eight hours and it took place over the course of seven days."