Location: The Chinese Gardens, Sydney & Shanghai, China Performance: Russian Jazz from Shanghai Performance 1930s
Pathway icon: North Wind piece from a Mah Jong game.
Visual trigger: Red fans glide across the screen to reveal a key in Nina's hand & an old Chinese box is open, the contents spilling out - a jade ring, a photograph of a Russian orchestra with the Pathe label, a Soviet passport, a silver bracelet, & a red fan.
Moving Image: Reflected in the mirror of the Chinese Box we see a girl in Cheong Sam wandering aroundthe Yu Yuan Gardens (Shanghai 1930s), peeping through the Oriental windows that frame her asian face. What is she searching for? And what will she find?
Sound: Audio montage of Chinese bells & chimes.
Shanghai Modern dancing, Whitey Smith's dance band, rooftop tea dance the Cathay Hotel, Shanghai, c. 1930, PATHE Newsreels (archive).
This story unfolds from observations of the protagonist/ and the protagonist’s point of view - through movement around the Chinese Gardens, Sydney.
As the girl, explores the various aspects of the garden – a reflective pond, the Willow trees, a Pagoda, Rock gardens, & a Tea House we are reminded of the original site in Shanghai (Yu Yuan gardens), and the legendary Willow Pattern motif, repeatedly imprinted upon ceramic. The design symbolizes the dialogue between the Orient & the West.
The legendary teahouse in Shanghai was the location of the first projection of cinema in China (Lumiere Brothers 1896). The girl’s imaginary & dreams of Shanghai (her grandmother Xenia & Rose, the cabaret dancer) haunt the surface of the garden, reflecting imagery of a time long past. What is the girl searching for, and why the sojourn in the garden?
She finds an elaborate Chinese Box containing a series of symbolic objects (a jade ring, photograph, Soviet passport, silver bracelet), in opening the box she unlocks a series of conjured perfomances of Russian Jazz from Shanghai (Chinese couples waltzing to contemporary 1930s pre-revolutionary pop tunes, her grandfather Sergei Ermolaeff's jazz band plays Cole Porter's Night & Day in the Majestic Hotel & the Rose Tsing, a caberet dancer is superimposed over the elctric neon of Shanghai Modern - Treaty Port, Paris of the Orient & New York of the East.
Interface Design The dominant colours defining the screen designs for the Chinese Box pathway, are Mandarin Red, Silver, Gold, & Black. The journey appears and disappears inside a set of modern Chinese 1930s advertising inspired frames. The player/participant interacts with the surface of the screen, engaging with a series of icons revealing hotspots that unveil the narrative.
Soundscape (audio elements) The story is narrated intermittently through a Chinese woman’s voice & the voice of an older Russian woman from Shanghai. Moving between archival/documentary voice-over description of aspects of modern Shanghai, the internal dialogue of the girl, her grandmother Xenia’s words, and Rose, the cabaret dancer’s modern Chinese song.
Interactive Digital Sequences: (i) moving image – the girl’s movement through the Chinese gardens, (ii) images- collaged black & white studio portraits); (iii) graphics – modern Chinese advertising imagery from the 1930s, and digitized found objects (jewellery, documents, papers).
Musical Score: Movement #1 – CHINESE BOX, Sergei Ermoaeff recorded a series of songs at Riverlights Club, Sydney in 1978 that were popular jazz ballads, old Russian ballads & original compositions – the audioscape is based on these & edited into a series of audio bites that form the soundtrack triggered by movement across the screen and interaction with screen events, these audio bites mixed with voice fragments and resolve into the jazz composition (replayable & potentially downloadable for archive).
Explorable Publicity Statement (appearing on the album cover) Serge Ermoll & His Music Masters
Background Historical perspective on Russian jazz from Shanghai jazz (texts)
Sound Texts: [extract from documentary footage on Shanghai]
Composition : digitzed 35mm film stills/ reportage/ cinematic images/ found photographs and 1930s Chinese advertising material. Musical score : Serge Ermoll & His Music Masters recordings/ Strange Cities album, Jungle Drums album & appropriated film score soundtracks & 1930s Shanghai popular tune Soundtrack : Dramatic voice over recordings, excerpts from archival voice-over statements in respect of Shanghai.