25 November 2009
By Susan Bennett
Susan Bennett sees Resistance at the Contemporary Urban Centre, Liverpool. On now, until December 5, 2009.
The Contemporary Urban Centre is a splendid venue at the bottom end of Greenland Street in Liverpool but it’s not easy to find, even for a local. There is a series of inexplicable spiked metal fences around three of its sides. This means you are powerless to either exit or enter the area easily - which subliminally prepares you for the production.
It is little known outside the disabled community that Hitler organised something called Aktion–T4, a programme of mass murder which targeted disabled people and became the blueprint for the Final Solution to wipe out Jews, gay people, gypsies and other social groups.
Liz Crow, in film and voice-overs projected on two screens and a wall canvas, brings to life the stark fear on the faces of disabled people at selection time. We see relief, then survivor’s guilt at not being chosen that day and the agonies of being herded forcibly onto a blacked-out bus, destination unknown but final.
While those left behind lie eight to a dormitory whispering and wondering about what happened to their friends, you see a drinks party held by the good doctor in charge of the establishment.
They are celebrating their noble duty to give nature a helping hand following their 1,000th dispatch, Benedict. He is mocked as being as useless in life as he was useful in death – he had plenty of gold fillings.
Shocking is too inadequate a word; brutal comes somewhere nearer. But before we put up our mental shutters, we’re rescued by a white line drawn in the leaves. It's the signal to move to another part of the exhibition and a chance to draw breath.
I was hungry, but it felt indecent to eat. I was gashed, humbled, wondered where I would have come in the order of selection.
I was angry at the thought of someone deciding I had to die because I didn’t fit, confused about what I should do about it, worried I’d be capable of something similar, wondering if I was so intolerant, and unwittingly promoting the cult of normal by doing nothing to challenge it.
If great art is defined as stopping people in their tracks and making them think, this production is up there with the best.
Contemporary Urban Centre
41 – 51 Greenland Street
Liverpool L1 0BS UK
Box Office: +44 (0)151 708 3529
Tel: +44 (0)151 708 3510
Fax: +44 (0)151 708 3697