Reenacting acting

Rod Dickinson, Milgram Reenactment, 2002

In Stanley Milgram’s 1961 experiment to test obedience to authority, the experimenter orders the volunteer subject – cast in the role of teacher for the purposes of the experiment – to administer a painful electric shock to an unseen pupil when they get something wrong. In fact the experimenters and pupils were actors and the screams were pre-recorded sounds. The test determines the degree to which the subjects of the experiment were prepared to obey orders when doing so involved – or so they believed – inflicting pain on others.

In 2002, artist Rod Dickinson, working in collaboration with Graeme Edler and Steve Rushton, exactly recreated the setting used by Milgram – the Interaction Laboratory at Yale – and engaged actors to reenact the experiment as an art performance.

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