Addiction and Performance

Call for Papers: Addiction and Performance: the New Normal?

Wednesday 4th – Thursday 5th April 2012

Kingston University

Why do drugs, addicts, and addictions appear so frequently in performance? Why are substances, users and dependency employed as devices in different kinds of narratives, across eras, genres and art forms, borders and identities? How do such works use representation to trouble the problematic term ‘addiction’ and its negative associations with mental illness, criminality, and disorder? The relationships between artists, artistic movements, artistic products, media discourse and substance use raise questions which need further exploration. Building on Kingston University’s 2008 conference, Addiction and Obsession, this international and multi-disciplinary conference therefore seeks further understanding and articulation of the relationship between addiction and performance.

Addiction is a major social phenomenon, ubiquitous in culture from novels to newspapers, and relevant at every level of decision-making from the geopolitical to the individual. The number of UK gambling addicts has almost reached 500,000; there are over a million hospitalisations due to alcohol misuse every year – and the numbers are rising (Addiction Today, 21.129, 2011, p. 4). It could be argued that addiction, as a form of consumption, is a contributing factor to the crises of late-capitalism – even that it has become a paradigm. Obesity, alcoholism, drug, and gambling addiction – these are crises operating in constellation, contributing to further crises of health, mental illness, poverty and crime. 12-step recovery programmes, modelled on the self-narrativising model of Alcoholics Anonymous, have seen a recent proliferation driven by need. Work-, food-, shopping-, sex-, internet-, video game-, rage-, social network-, porn-, gambling-, love- and others: these words are now frequently suffixed with ‘addiction’ or ‘aholic’, or associated with consumptive patterns of binging and purging – and many anonymous recovery programmes have developed in response.

Addiction and Performance acknowledges the scale and plurality of this field, and invites contributions from academics, artists, and professionals for an event that will comprise keynote presentations, paper panels, workshops, roundtables, open platforms, and performances. Proposals might address, but are not limited to, areas such as

– The history and nature of the relationship between representation/s and drugs, addicts and addiction
– The possible effects of representation in terms of humanising or demonising addicts, glamourising, normalising or demystifying drugs, eliding social context or politicising addiction
– Inflections on issues of identity produced by drugs and addiction. The various uses of addiction by artists as a sign of personality, socially constructed identity or otherwise
– The places, spaces, rituals, beliefs, cultures and communities formed and perpetuated by the performative strategies of users, both in art and in life
– The efficacy of the biographical narrative in recovery. The use of storytelling in 12-step programmes. The use of Applied Theatre strategies in promoting recovery, preventing relapse, or raising awareness
– The performativity of addiction, and the addictivity of performance. Sobriety and Recovery as performative terms and/or performative ways of living
– New, non-stigmatising terms of analysis that might be harvested, imagined, or recouped from performance, or drawn from the history of stigmatisation around addicts and performers
– Re-reading representations of addiction through recent advances in science, and/or through the model of constellation. Addictions often operate in constellation, but they are often represented in politics, media and culture as a single factor. Similarly, greater neuro-scientific understanding of the brain’s reward system and its role in creating addiction has emerged. How might this change our readings of such representations or their creators?

Please send 250 word proposals to James Reynolds, Zoe Zontou and Andrea Rinke by 31 October 2011. For further information, please contact us by email.