Review: a heifer would be needed for the sacrifice, Picatrix-AI
2.0Overall Score

a heifer would be needed for the sacrifice is part of the online festival Take Me Somewhere in Glasgow. Created by avant-garde modular group Picatrix-AI and performed by Soojin Chang, it delves into the discussion around colonialism and interspecies symbiosis. 

a heifer would be needed for the sacrifice is entirely BSL interpreted by Bea Webster and requires the viewer to watch, read or listen to an extract of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World by Zakiyyah Iman Jackson before experiencing the performance. The writing discusses topics such as the idea of gender identity, enslavement in colonial history, and the meaning of host and submission in Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild. We are asked to watch the play through an anti-imperialist lens and understand that shared meaning lies beyond speech.

Although the set-up of the performance suggests a deep, artistical dive into the colonial experience and the result of it, the actual piece leaves much to hope for. An alien-looking body – who seems like they have just stepped out of the Sixth Sense – speaks a deformed, chant-like text into a microphone. Talking about the fertility of their species and the need to reproduce, the ethereal, alienating singsong goes on for quite a bit until the protagonist leaves the microphone to dance over towards a table. It is prepped with tools needed for the interspecies IVF to come: a microscope, a speculum, eerie looking liquids, and of course pipettes and syringes. The ten-minute long IVF/abortion is filmed from above with a handheld camera and can only be described as disturbing and grim. Relief offers the imagery following the medical procedure which shows our protagonist petting a puppy that positioned in the middle of a ritualistic circle. And that is it.

Worth noting is the impeccable costume-, set- and sound design (J.E. Battah) which highlight the alienating, outer-worldly experience the performance delivers. The blue-tinted set and mysterious shadows set the tone for the morbid display.

a heifer would be needed for the sacrifice undoubtedly falls into the category of ingenious and disturbing art. It does, however, raise the question, whether all art is theatre, or all theatre is art – and when are we trying too hard to create something meaningful. Besides being a bizarre, grim representation of some sort of ethereal ritual, it does not provide me anything of value. The questions with which the performance was introduced – although perhaps brushed over visually – were forced to take a backseat to Soojin Chang’s confronting way of performance making. Not all theatre needs to be meaningful or relevant but a heifer would be needed for the sacrifice is set up to be exactly that and fails to fulfil that expectation as an online performance (or perhaps it just takes an otherworldly brain to put meaning to multispecies surrogacy).

a heifer is needed for the sacrifice played as part of Take Me Somewhere Festival on 28 May 2021. For more information visit Take Me Somewhere online.