HIGH MUCK A MUCK: PLAYING CHINESE
High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem, consisting of a website, 8 videos and a gallery installation. The project explores historical and contemporary Chinese immigration to the west coast of Canada and the tensions that exist between these narratives. High Muck a Muck was created through an interdisciplinary collaboration of nine Canadian artists and programmers including Fred Wah, poet, Jin Zhang, composer; Nicola Harwood, project director and designer; Thomas Loh and Bessie Wapp, video artists and performers:, Hiromoto Ida, dancer; Patrice Leung, filmmaker; Tomoyo Ihaya, visual artist and Phillip Djwa, creative technologist.
High Muck A Muck: Playing Chinese also features oral histories of community members from Nelson and Vancouver, BC, Canada including Cameron Mah, Karin Lee, Patrice Leung, Jin Zhang, Sid Tan and Lawrence Ma . The work was programmed into an interactive website designed by Nicola Harwood and Phillip Djwa and programmed by Haley Hunt-Brondwin of Agentic Communications and an interactive installation designed by Phillip Djwa and Nicola Harwood and programmed by Simon Lysander Overstall.
The project launched in Nelson, BC at Oxygen Art Centre on July 4th, 2014 and has gone on to be exhibited in Bergen, Norway at the Electronic Literature Organization Conference and Arts Festival in 2015, at the Langham Cultural Centre, in Kaslo, BC in 2016. Selections have appeared the The Capilano Review and it has been collected in ELC 3, an international collection of electronic literature.
Visit the project here.
Our title “High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese,” suggests the complexities of mimesis at the vortex of diaspora and globalism. Here is an opportunity to scrutinize the reflective nature of “playing” with dreams: is the gold of “Gold Mountain” perhaps shifting back to Asia? And, beyond a Chinook jargon, what accouterment of hybridity have we recuperated from the contact zone? As artists, how can we offer some mediation between history and what has become an increasingly “mixed up” world?
High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese plays with the notion of fakery, of imitation, of wearing the master’s clothes; of a reversal of roles as white Canada now strives to serve a Chinese economic master. It expresses some of the internal community struggles that erupt between different generations and classes of immigrants and it challenges the racist paradigm of an all white Canada into which Asian immigrants enter but are never fully allowed to arrive.
High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese troubles the cliché of historical tales of Chinese immigration to “Gold Mountain” by juxtaposing this classic narrative against one of mobility driven by the exigencies of contemporary global capitalism. Disrupting a charming world of hand-painted graphics and traditional Chinese music is the winking gleam of a highly adaptable, well-monied, digital class. As we take our chances and enter the diaspora, the myth of immigration as a pathway to increased fortune and happiness disintegrates from within. The journey may take you nowhere, the winnings of the game may be bitter. Home becomes forever dispersed: the Pacific ocean is the real boss.