Immigration is a gamble, some players win big and others feel that they have gambled everything and won only a life of irreparable loss. This digital media project, as an interactive poem and gallery installation, explores the narratives of historical and contemporary Chinese immigration to Canada through the poems of Fred Wah and the music and images of other Asian artists.
January 2016 Update: High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese has won the 6th Annual New Media UK Writing Prize that encourages and promotes the best in new media writing and is leading the way toward the future of the ‘written’ word and storytelling.
June 2015 UPDATE: For our work on this digital media project, Agentic has won the Spark of BC Award by BC Creates, recognizing the project’s innovation and creativity. Read the press release here: AgenticAwardsPressRelease-June12015.pdf
High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese is a digital media project that explores the narratives of historical Chinese immigration to Canada vs. narratives of contemporary Chinese immigration.
The project is a collaboration between six Canadian artists including Canada’s poet laureate, Fred Wah; internationally recognized composer, Jin Zhang; architect and artist, Thomas Loh; musician and theatre artist, Bessie Wapp, writer and curator, Nicola Harwood, visual artist Tomoyo Ihaya and creative technologist Phillip Djwa. Developed by Agentic Digital Media of Vancouver. The project is sponsored by Oxygen Art Centre of Nelson, B.C. and has been funded through the Canada Council, BC Arts Council, The Vancouver Foundation and The Columbia Basin Trust – Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.
There were two aspects to the piece.
1) The online poem, which we created with Nicola Harwood
2) The installation, which was programmed by Simon Lysander Overstall under our direction.
The site visitor will approach the content of the work through the portal of Pa Ka Pu – a historical Chinese lottery game that is now called Keno. Online visitors are presented with a series of hand-drawn maps. The maps reference both specific geographies of Canada including British Columbia and several cities within British Columbia; and also the meridians and acupuncture points of the human body. Once the user is in one of the maps, they will then be presented with various links to further experiences including text and video. The text and video use artist generated, archival and found text, visuals, music and sound to express thoughts, experiences and images on the theme.
The gallery installation used a cabinet that allowed visitors to place their filled out Pa Ka Pu into the cabinet which revealed a story/poem based on what they chose on the Pa Ka Pu.
“The narrative of hunting or journeying that structures many digital games provides us with the opportunity to work both with and against the expectations of that structure. Immigration is a gamble, some players win big and others feel that they have gambled everything and won only a life of irreparable loss. Our project will provide a media journey that may take you nowhere, a game whose winnings may be bitter, a low tech aesthetic within the gleam of the digital world.”
Nicola Harwood, Curator
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