Primitive Science, You Have Been Watching

Review in Issue 9-4 | Winter 1997

Following Imperfect Librarian, this was a very disappointing piece of work. In their previous show Primitive Science had achieved a sense of wholeness, especially in the visual aspect. Their new show seemed ill thought-out, unethical and theatrically lazy.

Based on Jeremy Bentham’s 18th century proposal for a penal system of isolation and observation (the Panopticon), the staging created no connection with the chilling sterility of Bentham’s idea. Thus the philosopher’s words became bookends at either end of a core of patterns of movement which were enacted first one way then repeated in reverse. Bentham’s words were presented as a lecture delivered live and via tape simultaneously. But the two modes were regrettably out of synch. If this was not deliberate, then it was certainly the product of technical sloppiness. If it was deliberate, then it became not a distancing or estranging device but a joke that quickly paled. Like so much in this piece there seemed no discernible intention behind the staging or dramatic elements. The patterns of movement had no physical vocabulary and the space was not transformed by them. These were empty images which carried no visual resonance.

Given the powerful implications of Bentham’s text there were surprisingly no connections made with the politics of imprisonment, the realities of isolation and observation that are part of imprisonment. There was no sense of a reflection from our current cultural and spiritual condition on his proposals. Thus an ethical essay was neutralised into empty aesthetics.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue

This article in the magazine

Issue 9-4
p. 22