|CRITICAL MASS GALLERY
(47 minutes, videotape, black and white, 1973)
Directed by Robert Sandidge under the aegis of Walter Fisher
and the staff of Elgin State Hospital. Written by Bill Kostur.
David Morris, a professional actor, appears as "Adam".
Digital re-issue produced and distributed by Creative Core
Jack Neher, staff member of the
Mental Health Materials Center in New York City.
First Published in Volume 24, Number 9, September 1973,
HOSPITAL & COMMUNITY PSYCHIATRY.
The first video reviewed in that publication,
Critical Mass Gallery is a highly irreverent and
very pointed satire masquerading as a training tool. The
basic purpose is apparently to help the mental health
professional see things from the patient's view, but it
ultimately leaves one with the question, "What does the
present mental health delivery system have to offer?"
The videotape follows the adventures
of a job seeker who somehow is referred to a community
mental health clinic and winds up in a state hospital.
The patient is "processed" through the hospital; at one
point he is dangled upside down from a meat hook while
his anatomy is parceled out for analysis by the various
mental health specialists. Crude, yes, but the scene
makes a point.
Other examples of dehumanization
follow. Some hit, some miss, but the general approach is
innovative, witty, and sardonic, a'la Lenny Bruce. The
tape concludes with a nightmarish night club act in
which a middle-aged patient tells the story of Cain and
Abel (also his own life) while the audience roars with
laughter. Not an easy scene to watch, it nevertheless
makes a point about communications.
The tape is a useful aid for
sensitizing staff to the dehumanizing aspects of
It is certainly different
from any other training material currently available,
and people involved in training mental health workers
should at least have a look.