Gold Mountain Dream explores the themes of Chinese Diaspora and culture through interactive media arts, live music and spoken word, and is backed by life-stories collected from numerous insightful interviews from different generations of Chinese Canadians. It starts with BC’s Chinese community but expresses a shared experience of all immigrants from different cultures, acting as a bridge between communities. The visuals extrapolate and extend the pictorial representation of Chinese visual expression in a new media context, while the music combines Chinese and western musical languages for the cross-cultural instrumentation of erhu/Chinese violin, zheng/Chinese zither, marimba and percussion.
Media artists Aleksandra Dulic and Kenneth Newby of Flicker Arts Collaboratory punctuate the space with their live and interactive media projections: images from Chinese calligraphy, landscape brush painting, dance, opera, and videos and photos from museum collections. The themes of water and fire represent the duality of ying and yang - elements present in much of the visual work. Dulic and Newby lead an animation team of talented UBCO students to create and extended the pictorial and narrative representation of Chinese brush painting in a new media context. The Creative Studies visual arts students involved in this project include Rankine Suen, Oliver Szeleczky, Michelle Wilmot, Nadine Bradshaw and Laura Gourley.
Incorporating Asian traditions with contemporary expression, the Orchid Ensemble combines Chinese traditional musical instruments with western percussion, performing original scores by Canadian composers Jin Zhang, Ya-wen Wang, Dorothy Cheng, Mark Armanini, Michael Vincent, and Lan Tung. Spoken words sampled from the interviews are used to form a non-linear narrative. The root of this project started with a collaboration with composer Ya-wen Wang in a CBC/BBC commissioned radio play on Chinese Diaspora in 2003. Her electroacoustic work Della’s Different Trains, inspired by Steve Reich’s Different Trains, has Cantonese opera singer Della Tse’s voice riding on a number of train sounds recorded across Canada.
Just like most Canadians, the artists are themselves different generations of immigrants from different lands. In this project, they examine the search for cultural identity and social acceptance in four themes – water, fire, travel, and dream. These themes suggest many layers of meaning in the overall work. Water, which at one time covered Vancouver’s Chinatown and was the only medium to carry immigrants to the “new” country, symbolizes here their emergence from a repressed world to a new frontier. Like water, which changes its form in natural cycles, the immigrant communities continue to transform and renew with each generation. The theme of fire takes inspiration from a major fire that burned Nanaimo Chinatown to the ground in 1960. Fire also represents struggle, hardship and the opportunity for regeneration and rebirth. Travel is a familiar reality for the immigrant generation, making it possible for the new Canadians to stay connected with their birth countries. Dream is the world of imagination and creativity, and the link between the past, the present, and the future. Today we are here on this land because we like our ancestors have had the dream!
Presentation in partnership with Roundhouse Theater, Vancouver.