Individual Work
High Muck A Muck: Playing Chinese

Life is a gamble, some win big, others lose. High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese is a hypertext, digital poem highlighting issues of global capitalism and the game of chance immigration plays in an all predominantly-white Canada. A digital poem uses a combination of convergences and links to direct the reader in multiple ways. “The site can be explored in any order and for any length of time” recites the opening home page of High Muck a Muck. Eight digital poems incorporate text, audio, video and imagery to further communicate this ‘media journey’ through specific cities within British Columbia.
In Chinese medicine it is said that vital energies flow along the human body's natural pathways, specifically linked to human organs. The cities within British Columbia are labeled on top of a drawing combined with watercolor of a human body, essentially personifying these various links with specific themes, thoughts, writings and their corresponding characters. This map displays memories from the past, prompting us to move forward and look at the current immigrant workers. Beautiful handwritten poetry by Fred Wah are offered with multiple viewing possibilities. A reader can either click on a digitlized water colored blue droplet on the human torso and read the poem through specific characters, or read the entire poem by clicking on the book in the right hand corner.
Slow, beautifully haunting traditional asian music flows throughout the website's design. The music is shown with purpose, supplementing the despair in Fred Wah’s writings and the repetition of the music on loop forces this upon the viewer. There is no spoken word poetry to go along with Wah’s writings, which this piece might have benefited from. Music is also seen in audio slideshows like Everywhere and Nowhere, a link showing the juxtaposition of age and generation. An old asian man’s face, wrinkled over time, is show to the viewer. The viewer has no context to who this man is and what his significance is. Simply put, he is a symbol of the older generation. The camera zooms into the pupils of his eyes, which then fade transitions to the eyes of a newborn asian baby. Sounds of synths echo throughout the multimedia piece, anticipating some sort of suspense that context will be involved.
Global capitalism and the struggles of immigration are common themes in this piece. In Pacific Rim, the landmark located on the human torsos left elbow, presents the viewer with a video. The video begins showing nonstop motion of a repeated common phrase us consumers are all aware of ‘Made in China’. However, the creators of High Muck a Muck do not just stop at naming China, they name as well Japan, Hong Kong, Korea. This banner of text parades across the screen on top of a rotating surfacing map, making the statement of how the art of trade originated from immigrants. The text begins to form into the shape of circles, lines and ultimately mechanical gears. Rows upon rows overlap one another as the sounds of footsteps march together as one. The banner of text begins to act as waves from an ocean, boats ride these waves with their corporate names across them. Towards the end of the video, prominently all asian men group together in a round table with the view of planet Earth outside the window. Could this be a symbol of world domination? Or is this a dream the project’s six Canadian artists dreamed of?
A journey is a process of personal change and development in addition to traveling from one place to another. In this media journey piece however, the reader finds themselves stuck, constantly going in circles, trapped. The characters represent real people, those documented from the past and present-day Chinese immigrants hoping to make a change in their lives. Characters are distinguished by the landmarks they stand next to, their occupation or dress. Each one the reader clicks opens to a new page, a beautiful handwritten poem. Slow, beautiful music accompanies these links, bring a sense of culture to these web pages. This is most definitely a poem that cannot be printed out.

Link to work:

Author statement: 
High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese troubles the cliché of historical tales of Chinese immigration to North America’s “Gold Mountain” by juxtaposing this classic narrative of struggle 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. The project 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. The piece is a result of a collaboration between eleven writers, artists and programmers and was created over three years from 2011-2014. Embedded within the website are eight videopoems. The work was created in HTML 5.