To celebrate the 150th anniversary of The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum, contemporary artist Duncan Marquiss has been invited to delve into the city’s extraordinary collection of objects and artworks to create a new large-scale video installation that will light up the exterior of the museum building on Saturday November 25. The project is called Drawn to Light. Alongside Marquiss, the electro-pop musician Jonnie Common will give a special live performance. He will perform his own composition on the museum steps, similarly inspired by the spaces, sounds and stories of the McManus.

FOR the last few months I’ve been visiting Dundee regularly in preparation for Drawn to Light, a commission to celebrate 150 years of The McManus museum. It’s the first time I’ve been asked to work on an exterior projection. I’ve made many video works for exhibitions before, and recently worked on documentary films, but the scale and context of this project is new territory for me.

It’s interesting because the building is an unusual choice for a projection surface. It’s Gothic Victorian and dates back to 1867. Often projection-mapping plays with architectural features by animating them or flattening out surfaces. But there is also the scope to re-clad the building if you like, to alter or pattern its skin with light.

Wandering around the displays and stores at The McManus I was struck by the diversity of the museum’s collection (there are more than 150,000 objects spanning 400 million years). I want the commission to demonstrate that variety, and the points of connection between objects. My artistic practice is often concerned with overlaps between the biological and the cultural realms. I’m interested in the fuzzy boundaries between categories, so the chance to film natural history specimens alongside historical artefacts was exciting.

I was also interested in speculating about The McManus as a collective memory bank. A “museum-mind” that emerges when all these disparate objects and memories are connected. I’m often intrigued by how we find patterns in chaotic territory. Maybe museums are a grand example of this trait.

To select objects for filming I took random walks through the museum’s collection database, using loose associations and analogies to leap between items. I wanted to find objects that might not often go on public display – some unlikely choices from the museum’s subconscious.

I’ve filmed lots of dissimilar objects – from sherds of medieval pottery to iridescent bird plumage and computer circuitry, often shooting items close-up using a macro lens. This zoomed-in perspective can estrange familiar forms or produce abstract patterns. I’m currently assembling all this material together into video collages for the projection.

By projecting shifting images of The McManus’ collection onto the building itself, the museum can display its internal contents, presenting its “thoughts” and “memories” upon its exterior for onlookers to interpret.

November 25, The McManus Art Gallery & Museum, Dundee, 7pm to 8.30pm, free.