The experiment requires that you visit Kustera Tilton Gallery and tell Gothamist what you think of the I Drank the Kool-Aid (The Experiment Requires That You Continue) exhibit. In this psychology-meets-art show, artists reflect on the impact authority figures and mob mentality have on the creative world. “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.”
An understanding of the origins for the title of the exhibit is key to appreciating the works. “I Drank the Kool-Aid” is what 913 people did in blind devotion to cult leader Jim Jones in what is known as the Jonestown Massacre. “The Experiment Requires That You Continue” is what Dr. Stanley Milgram told volunteers when they grew concerned that the 14–450 volts of electricity they were shocking people with was too painful; and sure enough, 65% of the volunteers administered the highest voltage. (Fortunately, the victims were just acting.) Both phrases point towards the ease with which people go against their better judgment at the request of incontrovertible figures.
The sparsely laid out gallery feels as sterile as a research lab, as if curators Bruce Hackney and Anna Kustera are conducting an experiment of their own on how visitors will respond to the interactive works. Will you put the headphones on to listen to one of the various films playing? Will you mouth the words bouncing across the karaoke machine? Certainly you’ve encountered people like the teknohippies in the photograph who by trying so hard not to conform to the typical yupster-boy style, an adjacent photograph, become a cliché themselves.