Underwater Chinatown is a multimedia project that explores lesser-known stories from Vancouver’s Chinatown through immersive digital experiences, and Cinevolution’s second original art project following Art Talking Women.
Using new digital platforms to create multi-sensory experiences, Underwater Chinatown explored the question of ‘Chinatown’ creatively: where it is, what it is, and how does it look, sound and feel? How can we create a bridge between newcomers, established Chinese migrants and other alternative communities by imagining ‘Chinatown’ as a set of experiences within a metaphorical space?
Digital Storytelling Workshop
In the first phase of the project, Cinevolution partnered with musician/composer Yawen Wang and the Chinese Cultural Centre to present an all-ages digital storytelling workshop in Chinatown. We recruited participants with ties to Vancouver’s Chinatown who worked diligently over a span of five weekends to capture their memories and impressions of Chinatown through story and sound under the guidance of media artist Catrina Megumi Longmuir. Through the workshop, eleven unique audio stories were produced that form a tapestry of life in Chinatown, from childhood to adulthood, from arrival to transformation.
Cantonese Opera in Vancouver – 1895 to 1924 – Interactive Website
The second iteration of Underwater Chinatown is an interactive, multimedia website that explores the intriguing story of Vancouver’s Chinatown and its three competing theatres that staged Cantonese Opera from 1895 to 1924. Meticulously researched and beautifully stitched together by artists Deanne Achong and Faith Moosang, the website weaves fact with fiction through archival video footage, photographs, audio recordings, newspapers and documents to create an immersive experience of a different time and place.
Through Underwater Chinatown, we sought to emphasize the diversity within Vancouver’s Chinese community and the particularity of individual experience within the broader context of migration. We intentionally moved away from a generalized narrative of the immigrant experience to stories that shifted perceptions away from more stereotypical impressions of Chinatown and towards a more nuanced understanding of cultural identity and spatial politics.
Underwater Chinatown was made possible with generous support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Creative BC and the Community Arts Council of Vancouver. The digital stories workshop was presented in partnership with the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum of Greater Vancouver and UBC Learning Exchange.