At the Museum Of Migrations takes up as its basic narrative premise two texts: (a) the architectural and cultural spaces of a museum (see section 3, below); (b) quotations from ‘Baroque Memories, a novel by Paul Carter with excerpts of archival oral history interviews from Italian immigrants.
These narratives unfold on contiguous sites (real or virtual) to present a collage of voices, environmental sounds, fragmented remembrances and overlays of interpretations – to dramatize ways in which migrants make sense of their environment (place) not by looking backwards nostalgically to the land of their birth but by improvising new points of reference and meanings.
The spatial narrative takes place within four delineated audio-visual spaces:
Museum records a number of sequences – walk tours – showing the physical architectural properties of the museum, its geographical surroundings and relevant items of the museum’s archive or current exhibitions.
Screen is the site of the live performance – the gig. It comprises the projection of pre-recorded visual tracks on a screen; and performance of two actors reading a voice-over text with a piano player improvising a musical accompaniment to the words and visuals on the screen.
White Top or Tent is where the site-specific environmental audio piece is made. It refers to a white tent installed in the courtyard of the museum where a Sound Mixer records or plays back (possibly at various sites in the museum) hence putting together sound tracks of the unmade film.
Tableau refers to the Installation pieces: a series of minimal, emblematic, (allegories of cinema) film sets placed at specific sites in the museum where two actors and film crew record on videotape, re-enactments of Dr. D’s unmade film.
Outside. At the rear of the (Immigration) Museum, a makeshift cone shaped construction of white canvass (dislocated) out of place, as if doesn’t belong there – or about to be removed. The white tent houses portable audio equipment and Sound Mixer. He is playing back, making the sound track. Camera follows a blue lead running towards the door of the museum. It moves inside.
A cinema size screen with a row of chairs. A stage awaiting for the actors and audience to animate its space.
The exhibition hall after hours.
The reflections of light and shadows of its surroundings play on the surface of the white screen as it begins to fade to chiaroscuro – strangely, rapidly – it would seem.
Camera moves away to capture the darkening shadows on the walls and objects elsewhere in the exhibition hall… Now, it’s dark, you can’t see any more. Time for the show.
Foreign sounds. In the distance, at the other end (of the exhibition hall) there appears a beam of light – a square clearing surrounded by darkness. The camera moves closer.
A light beam lights a block of dark framed by a paler darkness of the wall paper surrounding it; slowly the still image, achieves a resolution.
A photograph (from the archives): ‘Migrants arriving in Sydney’.
The face of a man (Dr D.) asleep. He opens his eyes and smiles.
Other photographs (same theme) surrounded, framed by baroque patterns
The show has began. The stage – a moment earlier seemingly silent – is now occupied with pictures on the screen and sounds and noisy. The visuals on the screen are the photographs over the wall paper – now begin to dissolve onto the screen.
(Voice-over Text No 1)
DR.D.: He started and opened his eyes. The white façade caught the first rays of the morning and beamed them through the lace curtained window and every morning he started and opened his eyes as if he were dreaming and for a split second or so lay on his side unable to remember where he was.
Day, early morning.
Views of the museum – before hours. Photographs.
Inside the tent, Vision Mixer listening, construction noises from building site.
(where is the sound coming from?):
The film crew shooting (or about to – rehearsing) another scene.
Dr D. standing with his ear next to a door, listening, eavesdropping.
Noises inside the (invisible) room.
These and other noises – followed through. Camera looking for correspondences. (contigencies and contiguities).
Exhibition hall. Dr D in front of a hat stand with a mirror and a large black cape. He is looking at his appearance, fixing his tie, hair, eyebrows, etc..
Note. Chance here for the camera to dwell on his appearance. Costume, mask, disguises, etc. These meditations could take place here or elsewhere within the museum’s walls as the following scene indicates.
Camera moves closer to the mirror and its reflections (Dr. D. looking at his image looking at images of the museum): views of other parts of the Exhibition hall and beyond.
Inside the white tent, Sound Mixer (playing the sound recording of the tableau scene which follows below).
Note. He may turn and speak to an interviewer. There could be several of these in which the various artists in the project would speak about the work. The interviews are for the doco version and not for the Screen performance.
Camera crew shooting another scene: Dr D is carrying a statue (trailed by the camera and crew tracing the trajectory of a tracking shot).
Note: dwell here on the tracking shot to elaborate the theme of space and choreography, camera dancing with the actor/s. Trajectories and performance.
Dr D. puts the statue down on a mantelpiece. He turns to the camera and begins to tell (as if to a child) the story of the Statue maker. We don’t hear his words. He is re-enacting a scene from an old silent movie screen. Chance here for improvisations and re-takes.
Walking Tours – as if through the eyes of a visitor. (Thus, the stream of images referred in the note above continued with views of the Museum).
Again we return to the performance space, the theatre-film.
Note. The voice over in the doco version would be heard as voice over. The Screen would disappear. The voice over (some parts from the workshop) would be heard over the segments of the Museum (as if the voices were coming from some installations in the various parts of the interior of the Museum.). This sound track would be connected (linked) to the Vision Mixer in the White Top as if he were playing back –broadcasting – the voices. The White Top would be in that case the site of performance. In the doco the story is that of a video-maker/audio artist playing back mixing the sound track for a radio play. The visuals are added on by video maker.
The two actors stand next to the Screen and read the text. A piano player, (Mr. Piano) accompanies the words with improvised music. Or is it the words that follow the music?
(Voice-over Text 2)
DR.D.: He could not tell me his name. He worked in a statue-factory. Different workers specialized in different kinds of statues, from which they took their names.
DR.D.: Can you remember?
STATUEMAKER: The song? There used to be a song: Se potessi avere mille lire.
(…) (Designates elision of text.)
DR.D.: Your father?
DR.D.: Hermes carved heads on pillars; he also sculpted scallop-shells. ..
Do not mind your nostalgia, do not feel guilty. Living with your cast-off worlds I live in Paradise.