More and more museums are using theatre and tech to highlight their physical exhibits… or the lack thereof, as at the Lost Palace experience Tim Powell created with startups and comedians at the Palace of Whitehall and told us about at WAM16.
But what about making the audience a character of the play? While Tate Exchange is all about reflecting about performance by engaging visitors, ACMI (Australian Center for Moving Image) in Melbourne launches “Ghost, Toast and the Things Unsaid”, a play in which the visitors are ghosts of the characters they see. As they watch a family story unwind, they can both listen to what the characters say… and to what they think, thanks to a smartphone and earphones hidden under a ghost costume. Those thoughts bring a new, deeper level of understanding and subtext of the play and the characters’ reactions, making visitors even more emotionally involved in the performance. But they will not get all the thoughts of the characters, only those of the characters they are looking at, thanks to a high-precision gyroscope – just like any other virtual reality device, but without any screen.
For a museum, even one dedicated to the moving image, this experience is highly unusual: it is not a movie, it is not a play or a performance that you passively watch, it is not a performance that happens once and requires everyone to listen to the artist. That is what makes that experience so interesting: ACMI goes beyond conservation and showing of already created content, it serves as a production space for a complex theatre performance that includes innovative tech. And this tech creates a soundscape that is unique for each and every one visitor, actually depending of how they move.
Just picture yourself in a mix of “Entrez dans l’Atelier” (Enter the studio), an app co-created by the Musée d’Orsay which narrates Gustave Courbet’s masterpiece behind the scenes and the reconstituted Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom courtesy of Airbnb and the Chicago Art Institute!
Launched right in time for Halloween and inspired by the interactive Sleep No More, “Ghost, Toast and the Things Unsaid” shows how museums can create unique experiences by surrounding themselves by startups. Indeed, this experience was commissioned by three partners: Google’s Creative Lab, Grumpy Sailor – a long-time partner of the Creative Lab that is experimenting with digital tech and storytelling – and Sandpit. Sandpit is a company that has been creating live events, screen media, digital content since 2012… and has been a resident of ACMI X, ACMI’s coworking space, since last July. If any museum wonders if it is worth it to keep startups close, “Ghost, Toast and the Things Unsaid” is the proof that yes, because they will make you benefit from their experience and expand your museum’s offer.