Aestheticizing addiction to generate change

Sloan, Cathy (2017) Aestheticizing addiction to generate change. Performance Research, 22 (6). pp. 68-72. ISSN 1352-8165

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As a director and Applied Theatre-maker who creates performances with, for and by people in recovery from addiction, I have staged scenes of intoxication, rituals of drug use and various representations of ‘active addiction.’ Such work involves aestheticizing stories of addiction, including the highs and the lows of the ‘graft-score-use’ cycle. The performances involve emotive affects such as shock and shame which, given the largely biographic content co-created with performance collaborators, raises sticky dilemmas about aesthetic strategies and ethics.

Focusing on my staging of Too High Too Far Too Soon, a solo performance of Simon Mason's like-named biography, I reflect on the complexities of aestheticizing moments of drug use intended to have an impact upon the audience whilst also negotiating an ethical approach to authenticity. I argue, using aspects of affect theory as a theoretical framework, that aestheticizing moments of lived experience of drug addiction, whilst sometimes uncomfortable to watch, can be a generative experience for both the performer and audience. Through affective inter-relation in the making and performing of a theatrical performance, new potentialities may emerge, particularly for the performer, but also perhaps the audience, to reconsider their way-of-being in the world.

I outline how such an aesthetic involves embracing chaos and indeterminancy and negotiating risk in both the devising and performance processes. It also entails a mutual reciprocity and reflexivity enhanced by a shared understanding of practices of recovery through which director and performer might be in affective attunement with each other. Ultimately, the affective experience of the performance generates sensations that could provoke new thought, action or interaction that in turn opens the potential for change, be that simply a moving forward in one's understanding of addiction.

Item Type: Article
Identifier: 10.1080/13528165.2017.1412650
Subjects: Performing arts
Psychology > Substance abuse/misuse
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Cathy Sloan
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2021 11:41
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2024 16:08

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