Image © Encounter Bow

Encounter Bow: celebrating Bow’s diverse community

With Encounter Bow fast approaching, we chat to the festival’s curator, Moi Tran, about Covid-19, archives and the diverse communities that make Bow so special.

Taking place on the 12th of June from noon to 6 pm, Encounter Bow is a festival showcasing work across a broad range of mediums, from dance to film to performance art.

With different ‘encounters’ unfolding in different locations across Bow, local residents will have the opportunity to move between sites, interacting with and participating in the work as it unfolds.

Encounter Bow has been over a year in the making. Organised by Chisenhale Dance Space, the festival was originally scheduled for 2020, until Covid-19 forced the organisers to shelve their plans.

Since then Moi Tran, the festival’s curator, has worked tirelessly with producer Eve Veglio-White and a team of artists to make the event happen. ‘In a way, [Covid’s] helped us galvanise,’ says Tran. ‘It’s made us realise we’re in this together, and we really want this to happen’.

Coalescing around a theme of “Archive and Care”, this year the festival focuses on the experience of Bow’s East Asian/South East Asian communities. Encounter Bow seeks to ‘shine a little spotlight on the contributions that Southeast Asian and East Asian people have made to the local East London community’, says Tran.

Harnessing sounds data from plants

There is lots of exciting work to look out for. Jason Singh’s Platronica is an exploration of the ways in which minorities access and enjoy nature in urban areas. Harnessing sound data from plants, Singh has created short compositions that capture ‘the magical musical world of plants’. Participants can use their phones to listen in as crab apples and bay leaves grow.

Remembering shops lost during lockdown

On Roman Road, Eelyn Lee’s film Sanxing will be screened on a loop across a shopfront, highlighting the small businesses that have collapsed over the course of the pandemic. Lee’s work will ‘draw out and highlight the importance of the high street and small businesses,’ encouraging residents to reflect on the nature of value and loss.

Metaphor about a community’s visibility

Kimvi’s Collective Breath is a playful exploration of Southeast Asian/East Asian visibility. Using bright, celebratory balloons, the artist will fill up typically unremarkable and unnoticed spaces, revealing them anew to passersby. ‘It’s a really brilliant metaphor,’ reflects Tran of Kimvi’s work.

Multi-sensory audio walk

Other encounters to look out for include Anna Masing’s multi-sensory audio walk through Roman Road market and Tran’s own piece Shy God Chapter, which will be performed from the ‘visible and iconic’ stairwell of the Chisenhale Dance Space.

A collective origami work

For Encounter Bow, the involvement of the community is vital. As far as Tran’s concerned, ‘The festival is not complete until the community is a part of it’. Many pieces, such as ShumGhostJohn’s Thousand Papers, ‘require the help and generosity of volunteers’ to make hundreds of mini origami sculptures. Together, these sculptures will form a larger work.

Hoping to redefine the concept of the archive, Encounter Bow explores new and unconventional ways of recording people’s lives. As Tran explains, traditional archives are often exclusionary spaces. They fail to document the narratives of those ‘who may be at risk of disappearing, whose stories may be at risk of erasure, or of being overlooked’.

Moving away from the traditional statue, Encounter Bow seeks to look again at how we commemorate people’s lives. The festival encourages participants to engage in a more spontaneous, playful kind of archive-making. ‘These moments of collective experience are really strong examples of collective archiving,’ reflects Tran. ‘We are witnessing each other, we are being part of a narrative’.

Document yourself using a pinhole camera

As a part of this, Encounter Bow will explore new ways to document and archive one’s own life and the life of one’s community. The Reframes Art Trail by Carô Gervay, Lili Ly and Hoa Le is devoted to the humble pinhole camera. This “encounter” will encourage community members ‘to take agency in their own archiving’, learning to represent themselves using film and sunlight.

From Encounter Bow, Tran wants people to realise ‘that art can be created anywhere. It’s an exchange, it’s a space of learning, it’s a space of sharing, and it can take any form.’ In the end, she says, it’s important to realise that ‘we are all artists’. 

As far as Tran is concerned, Bow’s the perfect place for a festival like this: ‘East London is brilliant, Roman Road is the most iconic market in East London. The diversity of the community and the solidarity of the people is worth celebrating.’ 

Encounter Bow: Full Program

12-6pm – Plantronica, by Jason Singh : listen to the sounds of plants using your phone and scanning codes
12-6pm – Thousand Papers, by ShumGhostJohn : community origami sculpture, collecting and sharing stories
12-6pm – Collective Breath, by Kimvi : balloon installations in unexpected urban spaces around the festival area
12-6pm – Don’t Sing in the Kitchen or You’ll Marry an Old Man, by Anna Sulan Masing : an audio walk down Roman Road Market, using your phone
4-6pm – Shy God Chapter Một by Moi Tran : durational performance based on a Vietnamese book
12-6pm (5 times) – Dance of the Bow Magpie by Quang Kien Van : a solo dance performance
12-6pm – 三星 Sanxing [Three Stars], by Eelyn Lee : continuous screening of a film in a local shop front
12:30pm and 4pm – Reframes Art Trail, by Carô Gervay, Lili Ly, Hoa Le : a walk around the area following the traces of an experiment with light and bodies. Expect to find photographs and words in different languages to guide you.
12-4pm DIY DEMOS, by Roman Road Trust and Jo Behari : DIY workshops and painting projects at the Common RoomArtwork locations will be explained in the Encounter Bow Map.

Find out more about how to get involved with Encounter Bow here.

The sponsored content was paid for by Chisenhale Dance.

If you enjoyed this piece, take a look at our portrait of Jon George: Chisenhale Arts’ founding member

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