‘Blue Girl’ reimagines the ‘learning test’ found within Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment, immersing the audience in the continual repetition of the correct twenty-five word pairs found in the original experiment. The word pairs: ‘blue girl, nice day, fat neck, green ink, etc’ are a seemingly unimportant part of the experiment but act within Matsuda’s work as a loophole or an escape route to explore alternative realities within the world of power, control and disobedience. Subverting the rational approach of a science experiment, ‘Blue Girl’ attempts to imagine the absurd, creating new narratives within the experiment as a generative, productive but irrational approach of comprehending its grave implications.
Milgram’s experiment, a social psychology study conducted by Milgram between 1961-63, tested obedience to authority figures. A memory and punishment test was used as a false pretext to observe how a ‘volunteer’ would inflict pain on a ‘learner’. This false pretext is the starting point for the work. During the experiment every time the learner made a mistake the volunteer was instructed by the doctor (both amateur actors) to administer an electric shock. The doctor, who oversaw the ‘learning experiment’, gave the volunteer instructions to continue with the experiment even when they voiced concerns about the condition of the learner. The Obedience experiment is still widely discussed today due to its questionable ethics and the horrifying results of the experiment; it was found that 65% of the volunteers would administer a lethal shock under the instruction of someone in authority.
In the experiment ‘errors’ that the learner made in the word pair recall were punished with faux electro-shocks. Milgram, however, had scripted these errors for the learner, in order to make the volunteer operate the faux electro-shock generator. Each time the experiment was held with a new volunteer the learner made the same mistake. What was seen as an ‘error’ to the volunteer was actually a scripted lie.