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i drank the kool-aid


Anna Kustera Gallery
520 West 21st Street, 212-989-0082
December 15, 2006 - January 20, 2007
Reception: Friday, December 15, 6 - 8 PM
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Using the combination of a popular colloquialism with a command phrase used in a groundbreaking social psychological experiment as a means of inspiration, Bruce Hackney and Anna Kustera have assembled a group of artists that riff on the ideologies of conformity, group dynamics, community and adherence to or break with authority.

"Drinking the Kool-Aid" perversely references The Jonestown Massacre of 1978- the tragic result of 913 persons' devotional adherence to one man's crazed edict. Panned and sifted into the pop culture's lexicon, it has come to indicate an individual's blind following of what the "group" desires or the absolute acquiescence to an ideology or system of beliefs.

“The experiment requires that you continue” was a command used by the “experimenter” in an ingeniously simple scientific study conducted by Dr. Stanley Milgram at Yale University in the early 1960’s. Dr. Milgram set up a laboratory complete with a non-working ‘shock generator’ and solicited volunteers from the New Haven community to participate in a ‘study of memory and learning’. Spanning the socio-economic spectrum, Milgram’s subjects turned up at the lab and were designated “teacher” and “learner.” The learner was conducted into a room, seated in a kind of miniature electric chair with his arms strapped and an electrode attached to his wrist. He was told to read lists of simple word pairs and that he will be tested on his ability to remember the second word of a pair and whenever he makes an error, he will receive electric shocks of increasing intensity. The real focus of the experiment however was the teacher who is seated before an impressive `shock generator’ which consists of thirty switches each clearly labeled with a voltage ranging from 14 to 450 volts. The learner, or victim, was actually an actor who received no shock at all.

Dr. Milgram’s experiment exposed the relative ease by which an individual will carry out the wishes of an authority figure sublimating their own moral, ethical and individual beliefs. Simply put, the shock generator stands as a symbol of the lengths to which 60% to 85% of any given sample of humans will go to carry out orders. The irony of the phrase “the experiment requires that you continue” is that the “teacher” is not being asked to comply to any particular individual’s requests, rather they are being asked to follow the orders of a non-entity: the experiment itself.

Artists, by their nature, observe and interpret human behavior from both within and outside society. The works in this show are varied examples of the costs and benefits of conformity – the use and abuse of peer pressure both within mainstream and counter cultures, exploration of group dynamics, as well as the relinquishing of personal responsibility in the presence of an authority figure.


Fia Backström Lynne Chan Wayne Gonzales Carter Kustera Mike Pare Alix Pearlstein Mike Smith and Joshua White Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek

Curated by Bruce Hackney & Anna Kustera

Performance by Lynne Chan at 7pm Music by Mike O’Neil
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