“An interactive approach to history” – Gido Broers
Sarah Bay-Cheng, who is an excellent speaker, explained in her seminar “Everybody’s Historiography: When Museums Play Digital Games” how museums nowadays use digital and interactive elements in their exhibitions to make the visitor more than just a passive voyeur who perceives a representation of a certain historical event ‘as it is’. Instead, the visitor is turned into a historiographer and a co-creator of history himself. For instance, in the ‘Decision Points Theater’, a part of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, the visitors are invited to “revisit four key decisions of the Bush presidency” by clicking on screens, vote and watch the results of this ‘alternative’ decision (Bay-Cheng 2016, 520). Through this kind of interactive games – as Bay-Cheng mentioned, there are many more examples of museums that use a similar participatory strategy – the visitor is required to take up a reflective attitude and starts rethinking what he knows about a specific historical event. In that way, it shows that history is not a fixed thing. It is dependent on the context from which it is being perceived and therefore many different perspectives and interpretations of the same event are possible.
This notion of re-interpretation of a fixed, historical event reminded me of a performance that I encountered recently: Archive by choreographer Arkadi Zaides. On a screen we see video images of aggression and violence; these are the images that have been filmed by Palestinian people, who were asked by an Israeli human rights organization, called B’Tselem, to film the violence that was enacted to them by Israelis. While these images are shown, Zaides, an Israeli himself, mimics certain movements of the screen. After a while, he does not merely mimic the movements but starts to create a movement repertoire based on the previous movements. During this, he sometimes stops and replays the video with a remote control. In this performance, as I would claim, Zaides embodies different perspectives on the same situation and by doing so he also invites the audience to reflect on their own perspective on the Israel – Palestine conflict. He shows that there is no such thing as a fixed ‘archive’ of images of a situation (in this case the Israel – Palestine conflict) with a fixed idea of who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. Therefore, this performance is a good example of how a spectator can be invited to take up a reflective attitude and rethinks what he thought he know about a certain (historical) conflict.
- Bay-Cheng, Sarah. “Digital Historiography and Performance.” Theatre Journal 68.4 (2016): 507-527.