Over the years people have created set ideas on the format of an exhibition; a one-way viewing perspective. The immersive experience that is Chronicles, put together as a collaboration between Project X Dance and the National Museum of Scotland, completely overturns this idea of simply viewing a work of art. Instead, the viewer becomes an integrated part of the exhibition and attempts to answer the questions of identity that this dance theatre performance uncovers. Featuring the young performers in dance and on the audio guide, this is an innovative reimagining, reclaiming discovery of the past through a fresh perspective.
The performers offer instructions as to how the audience should move through the gallery space as directed by their hand movements. Clothed in blank outfits of black, with white gloves, they are able to blend into the exhibits and project their ideas through to the audience. The guides speak of the untold and overlooked immigrants in Scotland and the representation in the cast shows a desire to give a voice back to these people.
As a performance, every part is integral to the overarching impact on the audience; the movement alone would not suffice and neither would just the poetry or the music. It all works in harmony to unveil the importance of our worldwide connections and of listening equally to everyone. Meaning and movement intertwine as the audience is told to explore the gallery containing artefacts from all the continents. The performers gesture from one side to the other and seem to be linking them. As the audience is led through the Early Man exhibit, pausing at the bronze, cubic statues whose robotic nature is reflected in the interpretative movements of the dancers, it is clear to see the merging of past (the sculptures), present (the dance) and future (our impacted minds and ideas). They show the relevancy and impact of identity and discovery of personal character throughout. As the performers closed eyes are opened in their dance so too are the eyes of the audience to all that surrounds them.
The bemused looks that both this tour and performance attract reveal how the audience truly becomes part of the artwork. Additionally, it speaks to how startling the newness and originality of this collaboration is. It is this quality that attracted some of the performers themselves, believing it to be a chance to go outside their comfort zone and test their own boundaries.
Chronicles is an astounding feat in the way in which it redefines the function of a museum. It should not merely collect objects of important cultural and historic value but also the stories and voices of the people connected to them and thus the identities of these people. Its message, of rediscovery and renewing awareness of the importance of diverse cultures, will leave with you as you exit the museum.
Chronicles for Futureproof
6th October 2018
National Museum of Scotland
Image: National Theatre of Scotland Press