Zoe Zontou’s work on performance and addiction raises some questions regarding my practice, her observations on addiction, art and performance have potential links to my work with new media.
Zontou’s documentary theatre centres around some complex questions, as well as some illusive moral and ethical ideas;
what is addiction?
who are addicts?
are we all addicts in some way?
Firstly, she discussed the politics of representation and how Nixon’s war on drugs has coloured our perception of addicts as junkies and wasters who do not deserve our time, let alone our help and =, therefore, they should be segregated from society. Zontou’s work resists this, in the true documentary fashion, by telling the untold story., de-mythologizing to re-mythologize. However, as always, documentary theatre is wrestling with its own morals and validity. Onto actively raised questions about the moral implications of exposure to addicts and even spoke of a few incidents where a performer may have over-expose or when the stress of performance lead to an addicts relapse.
Something the group were hesitant to question, perhaps it is insensitive to discuss, was the authenticity of the addicts stories. Maybe it is immoral for me to suggest that some of the addicts testimony may be exaggerated or fabricated. I don’t, however, believe this to be the case. I do believe, though, that it is naturally human for our memories to be polluted by the present, denying that this is happening to a group of people, even if their story is particularly horrifying, is denying that they are human. I am not suggesting that we should begin calling addicts out, far from it. I am highlighting the fact that documentary and applied theatre should remain aware that it is theatre and is created as such. We should be aware, Zontou touched on this, that peoples stories do, and should be given the freedom to, change in reflection to the present. Having had a talk from Lena Simic and seen one of her performances, my trust in the human memory is at an all time low. This is amplified by the new media bubble we, and the rest of our generation, have been brought up in. Where facts are just wikipedia articles that anyone can change.
Zontou’s discussion of the representation of addicts reminded me of some observations on class. The representation of addicts as poor, junkies, on benefits and criminal fits neatly into the conservative chav stereotype. This representation, fronted by politicians and the media, is, of course, not entirely true. There is a lot of higher class addicts but, due to their higher income, they can fund their self destructive behaviour and, indeed, pay for better and longer help during recovery.
The most applicable part of the discussion came when we talked about whether we are all addicts in some way, particularly artists. The group spoke of how euphoric they often feel during a performance, or how they seem to become numb to the world, in a high state of focus. In my own experience, myself and performers I know have always spoke of the buzz and the jealousy involved when seeing others perform, as if they are getting the fix you want. A group member also mentioned how the addicts, and performers in general, must take a feeling of power from being placed on the stage.
These points all conspire to translate into game mechanics. The euphoria of performing translates into the epic win, the focus refers to the mental state know as flow that game play actively produces and the power refers to the agency, the ability to affect your surroundings. These are all basic human needs and desires and explains how video games can be addictive. Taking it further though, it also shows how gaming and performance are linked and, on a bigger scale, it illustrates how reality is broken. People are turning to new media spaces because it satisfies basic human needs that reality can no longer provide. New media has become hyper real; it is now more real than real.