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Counterculture A.D.

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INSIDE the old Camera One Theater on South First Street, the chairs are gone and the screen is nowhere to be found. Behind it, weeds grow out of the concrete, flyers from nearby clubs litter the parking lot and an empty pint bottle of Jack Daniels sits on the air compressor. Shattered glass covers the back porch. The place is gutted and Brian Eder of Two Fish Design is tearing out what's left of the front counter with a crowbar. It's pure manly destruction on a hot Wednesday afternoon, reminding me of when I used to work in the Spartan Bookstore receiving department in my college days, smashing old store fixtures on the receiving dock off San Fernando. The store always seemed to be in a state of remodeling, so we always had a wealth of old junk to physically destroy and throw into the dumpster—that is, the stuff we didn't take home and use for furniture. A co-worker would show up and work a 3-5pm shift—at $7 an hour—and do nothing but break shit out on the dock. God bless Spartan Bookstore.

Downtown is likewise in a constant state of remodeling and Eder, along with his partner Cherri Lakey, is moving their Anno Domini art gallery operation into the old Camera One building—a perfect return of counterculture to the SoFA district. It's about freakin' time. The district was always supposed to be a Bohemian artsy nexus and now that Anno Domini is moving on up (yep, start belting out the Jeffersons theme), the district will only get better. Actually, it hardly makes sense to call it a "district," since it's just two measly blocks—the equivalent of calling Market and San Carlos the "Hotel District." Only in San Jose ...

But anyway, Anno Domini represents the only counterculture arts operation around these parts and it has hosted several noteworthy shows, film screenings, performances and overall subversion over the years. For example, legendary San Francisco illustrator Barron Storey closes out his show with an artist talk this Thursday the 21st. Anno Domini has hosted Guerrilla News Network a few times and they once even convinced legendary S.F.-based countercultural publisher V. Vale from RE/Search to infiltrate the San Jose Museum of Art for a panel session. Who else would have pulled that one off? Vale would never have visited San Jose in his life if it weren't for Anno Domini.

Now, the word "counterculture" is problematic at best, and I'm using it loosely. This is not to say that Anno Domini is necessarily "counter" to any other establishments in the neighborhood. With the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, MACLA, the SoFA Lounge and the new locale for the Quilt Museum, the strip could finally revert back to the originators' artsy intentions. (Don't trash the Quilt Museum, by the way—they're a nice bunch of folks. Sure, they're displacing what used to be the best thrift store anywhere in San Jose, but that's another story ...)

And will Anno Domini's clientele clash with the furs and suits attending the California Theatre across the street? No. A resounding no. Folks from every part of the social and antisocial spectrum attend shows at the gallery and the artwork usually sells. The whole point of all this, for chrissakes, is just to support the artists, and folks who go to the opera or the symphony just might find a piece of artwork at Anno Domini they like. In fact, I know they will.

According to Eder, the new place will feature two galleries, a studio space and a permanent home for Anno Domini's collection of zines. The First Friday receptions will continue, but the monthly shows will now last a little longer. It's a much more lucrative location than their current one—some old brick building by the train station. And, most importantly, it will be a catalyst for bringing the insurrectionary disruptive culture-jamming mind-set back to South First. I can't freakin' wait.

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From the July 20-26, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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