Mountain of Gold @ Chinatown Remixed 2011

25 June 2011

"Mountain of Gold" by The Latest Artists (photo by Ming Wu).

“Mountain of Gold” by The Latest Artists (photo by Ming Wu)

Background

Chinatown Remixed is an annual, art festival in Ottawa’s Chinatown district.  For one month each spring, the merchants and restaurants of Chinatown welcome artists’ exhibitions and performances.

Having exhibited lighting installations back in the 2010 and 2009 festivals, Deb and I wanted to try something different from, and more spontaneous than our usual “plan and execute” lighting approach.

After a conversation with one of the primary organizers, Don Kwan of Shanghai Resto, we did indeed come up with something different for the 2011 edition (May 15 – June 15).

Read on for all the details . . .

Project

Speaking w/ Don about the festival, the neighborhood, and the community that lives there, we learned about the gold mountain, and decided to do a performance art piece called Mountain of Gold, creating a mountain of golden garbage, with the idea that such a mountain would be attractive from afar, but not as expected up close.

Here’s the official artist statement that accompanied the piece:

The idea that North America offers a “Mountain of Gold” is an ideology held by many Chinese immigrants.

These newcomers believe that their adopted homeland will offer a vast array of exciting potential and opportunities.

Sadly, for many, this idealized Mountain of Gold, ends up lackluster — gleaning instead with unfulfilled promises and dreams.

To symbolize this metaphorical mountain, The Latest Artists offer a performance piece in which a mountain of golden garbage was generated into a large, heaping pile over the course of the Chinatown Remixed opening day festivities.

Shredded bills, symbolic of lost and wasted money, contributed to the large garbage pile.

The piece also intends to elicit questions about the wastefulness of art and general societal resources.

We were situated perfectly in an alleyway, which we promptly tarped before starting work on the foot of our mountain.


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Over the course the afternoon, our mountain steadily grew with the help of enthused passers-by:

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Until we had a beautiful mountain of gold (and ran out of garbage to add):

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Reactions

Personally, I’d expected the gold spray paint to run off the garbage bags, creating a gross, streaming, golden mess, but instead the paint stuck wonderfully to the clear garbage bags, and the golden heap ended up becoming a highly aesthetic object.  It also really jumped out from a afar, playing perfectly into the golden mountain premis:

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I’d also expected the general public to be disgusted by the spectacle, calling attention to the material waste and pollution generated by painting a garbage heap with golden spray paint.

Instead, people were eager to jump in and help paint the trash bags and shred bills.  Photographers aplenty were attracted to our glimmering garbage pile, and it made for a great photo op of the day:

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The bling factor even attracted China Doll for a photo shoot:

Mountain of Gold

Peter Simpson of the Ottawa Citizen lamented the fact that our mountain only stood for an afternoon before it was dismantled and pushed to the curb (only a few metres away). [ UPDATE: Peter praises  Mountain of Gold here. ]

Who would have guessed that a pile of pretty golden garbage would be so enjoyable?  Well, given the current state of pop culture, perhaps it’s not that surprising after all ;)

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