Chronos’ Bank of Memories was conceptualized to take place in an urban environment. We consider a city as a place of exchange and transfer; for us, urban rituals are standardizations of interaction between strangers who exchange property or place with each other. Furthermore, the city is filled with man-made patterns and ordered predictability – queues, routes, opening hours, forms, and offices. In this context, we think of everything from medical care to traffic as ritualistic behavior in a microsociological sense. When engaging in rituals, we figure that we have learnt and know the same schema – a replicating meme,1 if you like, culturally conveying behavior in a way that is analogous to genetic transmission. In rituals, we follow a joint pattern through turn-taking, parallel action, or direct contact, and thereby, mutual trust can grow.



The ritual of sale in the memory bank

In this opera, role-playing visitors have been addressed as clients by singing characters and they have behaved as such in relation to both the setting and the accompaniment. We work from the idea that established rituals can be used as template rituals for artistic distortion. In operatic art, distorting factors can be poetical, musical, or theatrical; indeed, even the human body in itself is a distorting factor. What we call “template rituals” can be applied as a grid for interaction in order to make unprepared visitors interact in complex and immersive events with no other preparation than their previous experience of common cultural conventions. An underpinning ritual can help a participant to track a familiar code of conduct even if the framing is strange or weird.

In Chronos’ Bank of Memories, we have used the ritual of sale as a template ritual for artistic events. It is no longer carried out in a real place, in real time, or with real risk, but in fictional play where everything can be reset and simply go back to normal after the play has finished. By making things operatic, we have tested out how a usual social pattern can be made more surreal by ways of fantasy decor, music, and lyrics. Our conclusion after the production of this operatic concept is that a multi-sensory composition based on such a ritualistic structure demands an almost mechanistic breaking down of turn-based elements of interaction. Further explorations of how other microsocial rituals can possibly be rendered operatically, or by other artistic means, are forthcoming.

Mattias Petersson, Qarin Wikström, Anna Thunström, and David Hornwall during the rehearsals of Chronos’ Bank of Memories in Halmstad, 2022. Photo by Hedvig Jalhed.

References on this page:

Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, 2016.