The title for this exhibition comes from a Casualties Union (CU) training script for displaying the different emotions associated with disaster; in this case ‘shock’. The CU is a voluntary organisation that has existed since the Second World War, pioneering the use of acting casualties to provide added ‘realism’ to civil defence and rescue training exercises. For over 60 years, they have developed unique methodologies enabling actors to simulate ‘authentically’ both the emotional shock of disaster and physical trauma. Through working with the Casualties Union West Midlands region to produce exercises which test and expand their methodology, the exhibition addresses the reach of theatre into everyday life and the dependence of acting in preparations that constitute applied policy on civil defence.
Commissioned by and exhibited at Lanchester Gallery Projects, Coventry, 20 Jan – 06 Feb, 2011, Supported by Small Arts Grants, Coventry Council.
Exercise one: ‘A Study in Laser Wounds’
The Atlas of Injury, the CU publication that guides its members how to act, fake and stage the signs and symptoms of injuries with medical accuracy has expanded over the course of the past 60 years in response to technological developments both in warfare and everyday life.
Laser weapons have hit battlefield strength for the first time and although currently used to counter missiles and projectiles, laser technology is on course to develop anti-personnel weapon systems in the years to come. Based on non-classified papers on laser bio-effects such as ‘Explosive Onset of Continuous Wave Laser Tissue Ablation’ (1990), we challenged the CU to expand the Atlas of Injury to include the effects of laser weapons on human tissue.
The photographs document three speculative laser wounds starting with the current Advance Tactical Laser, at hundred kilowatts strength with a ten centimetre diameter at the target; moving up to higher power and smaller beam diameters which might be available in the future.
Exercise two: Trapped Under Piano in Real Time, Video, duration 03:03:35
This experiment in endurance acting challenges a qualified member of the CU to realistically portray the physical and psychological symptoms of their prescribed injuries for as long as possible; exploring the need of acting casualties to sustain an ‘authentic’ performance throughout the entirety of training exercises. The 03:03:35 hour film Contrasts the often ‘hyper-real’, fast paced, edited portrayal of disaster that we are accustomed to through television and film.
The disaster scene is re-created from a training exercise detailed in the book ‘The Struggle for Peace’ by Eric Claxton, founder of the Casualties Union.
Exercise Three: Heart Attack in Repetition, Video duration 00:37:37
Heart Attack in Repetition challenged a CU member to repeatedly deliver one of their ‘signature’ injury simulations for the duration of forty minutes. This performance is based on the role the CU play in training competitions for first aid and rescue organisations such as the Red Cross where CU members have to deliver the symptoms of their assigned injury again and again.