‘Seriously Drunk: Anders Harm and Wendy Houstoun fall “under the influence”

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    The call for contributions to the ‘Under the Influence’ edition of Performance Research (Volume 22, Issue 6, 2017) invited contributors to consider the ways that performance ‘mobilizes intoxication and altered states’ and to consider how narcotics, psychedelics and other stimulants destabilize the norms of theatricality’. Several of the articles in the publication considered alcohol as ‘an inherently performative substance’ (Drobnick 2018: 26), others explored instances of performance being adopted to help tackle substance addiction or provide therapeutic care. This article responds to the idea that alcohol can be regarded as a performative substance and interrogates this proposition in relation to two pieces of performance: Wendy Houstoun’s Happy Hour (1998) and Anders Härm’s Be Drunk, Be Very, Very Drunk (2005). Each production presents alcohol as a substance that would ordinarily be seen to undermine rather than reinforce the gravitas of knowledge shared while ‘under the influence’. Within their performances Härm and Houstoun invoke seriousness as if it would have little relevance to alcohol and being drunk. Härm’s invocation functions as a challenge to the sterility of ideas coming from ‘dead-serious art historians’ and Houstoun’s to the more pessimistic ideas customarily associated with drinking. Härm borrows from Deleuze and Guattari to develop the notion of a ‘real life’ idiot savant using alcohol to make it easier to ask questions about established ways of thinking about and understanding the world. Houstoun rejects the negative associations of the pub being a male-dominated space and rejoices in the freedom alcohol gives her to make new friends, appreciate music and withdraw from the tedium of daily life. Both demonstrate awareness that their association with alcohol might undermine their status in a ‘dead-serious’ context and yet they reject this construction of gravitas and insist that resistant and inventive forms of knowledge can be discovered while under the influence of alcoholic drink. Rather than denigrate the effects of alcohol Härm and Houstoun celebrate the freedom that can be found in drunken conviviality
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number7
    Pages (from-to)29-33
    Number of pages5
    JournalPerformance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts
    Issue number4/5
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2018


    • Wendy Houstoun
    • Anders Harm
    • Inebriation
    • Alcohol
    • Live Art
    • Performance
    • dance

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