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PERFORMANCE REVIEW 1984 in 2016: Big Brother is Watching THE BROAD STAGE, SANTA MONICA Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center January 8-February 6, 2016 Words Jacki Apple | Image Manuel Harlan

In case you have any doubts, Big Brother is here. Big Brother is there. Big Brother is everywhere. And so are Newspeak, Doublethink, and the Thought Police in politics, academia, media, and daily life whether or not you acknowledge it. The slogans “Ignorance is Strength” and “War is Peace” are confirmed in the hyperbolic chatter of self-styled citizen pundits, as well as the official ones, streaming daily from our ever-present screens. And to take my media quotes beyond George Orwell’s classic tome on totalitarianism and the erasure of history and memory, “the Truth is NOT Out There”, and “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” When 1984 was first published in 1949 in the early days of the Cold War, Orwell was critiquing Stalin’s Soviet Union and the perversion and betrayal of Marx’s egalitarian socialist dream. But 1984 was also a prophetic warning that has reached far beyond President Eisenhower’s cautionary advice to beware of the power and influence of the Military-Industrial Complex, deep into our 21st century silicon world. Orwell understood the ways in which language controls thought, and what happens when “propaganda” in all its mediated forms infiltrates and permeates every aspect of our lives. He may not have lived to see the digital age but he certainly envisioned the 21st century of “smart” technology and ubiquitous surveillance through which we are watched, tracked, profiled, and monitored 24/7. This condition that we as a society have collaborated in so willingly, is justified in the name of consumerism, security, convenience, and celebrity. Seduced by social media, and “cool” new products and apps, we are complicit in our own surveillance. But who is asking, as Orwell did, what the consequences will be? And who is listening? Fortunately a few theater artists who see the contemporary relevance of Orwell’s work have brought it back into the spotlight with a chilling sense of urgency. The latest production is the U.K.’s Headlong Theater’s brilliant adaptation directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan. This staging cuts to the heart of the totalitarian surveillance state in which all perceptions of reality are unreliable, as is the authority of the text. When language itself is degraded, all links between past and present are 98

Fabrik - Issue 31  

This issue coincides with Fabrik’s Photo Independent Art Fair, and the Month of Photography LA. The photography theme crops up in our covera...