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CAN Launches Augmented Chinatown 2.0

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The app includes visuals, miniature audio dramas, atmospheric music and a guided tour.

Augmented Chinatown 2.0 is an app from the UK's leading platform for British Chinese artists, Chinese Arts Now, producers and creators of art telling Chinese stories in contemporary and innovative ways.

London's Chinatown, and the area it sits in, has been the stage for a multitude of stories over its constantly evolving history. Augmented Chinatown 2.0 brings some of those stories to life in an immersive augmented reality experience which mixes striking visuals, miniature audio dramas, atmospheric music and a guided tour through the area's past and present and how it became the centre of the Chinese community in London.

Users start the tour in Newport Place and walk the streets guided through their phones by writer and narrator, Joel Tan. Over the course of an hour, Tan's narration looks at Chinatown's history, architecture and culture, as well as ideas about belonging, identity and migration. He evokes the sensory impact of the streets, the ornate decorations, the tempting smells and tastes, and distinctive sounds. He takes us to the four gates, only the last of which was created by Chinese artists, and tells how the iconic pagoda was demolished in 2015 without consultation.

At five locations along the way, there is the opportunity to delve deeper into hidden dramas and, for a few minutes, plunge into the lives of characters including Kim, a stripper who met the Beatles; Anita, a homesick waitress; and a woman whose home is being raided by immigration officials.

Donald Shek's augmented reality adds another dimension, creating dazzling visual overlays on the real-life environment. Tall flowers blossom from the pavement, lanterns light up overhead and washing hangs down from the buildings. The soundscore, composed by An-Ting Chang with DJ QuestionMark, includes interactive elements in response to both the augmented reality and the miniature dramas.

For those unable to travel into London there is an off-site version of the app which can be done from home.

Augmented Chinatown 2.0 has been developed from an earlier iteration by artist Donald Shek which was first seen at the CAN Festival 2019. Chinese Arts Now's director An-Ting Chang then came up with the idea of expanding his app into a singular multi-media storytelling experience. They then brought writer Joel Tan on board and the three collaborators devised the structure and direction of Augmented Chinatown 2.0.

The creative team is: app developer and augmented reality artist Donald Shek; writer Joel Tan; director and co-composer An-Ting Chang; co-composer DJ QuestionMark; and sound designer Michal Kuligowski.

The actors are Mia Foo, Jennifer Lim, David Yip and Daniel York and the musicians are Midori Komachi and Xiao Wan.



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