Critcal Mass Notes  
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 Inc.
REVIEWED by 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 institutions.

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.    

 

 
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