The Discourse of the Drinkers - The Laughing Body

"The serious aspects of class culture are official and authoritarian; they are combined with violence, prohibitions, limitations, and always contain an element of fear and of intimidation…
Laughter, on the other hand, overcomes fear, for it knows no inhibitions, no limitations.”

Mikhail Bakhtin

The film installation and book The Discourse of the Drinkers are exploring the bar as a social and political space. The project serves as an initial part of the artistic research project Non-knowledge, Laughter and the Moving Image that is examining the Moving Image and the Laughing Body’s capacity for new and alternative modes of thinking, acting and being, and their potential to overturn our habitual course and change the order of things. The three-year project began in January 2018, and is funded by the Swedish Research Council and hosted by the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm in collaboration with Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg.
The title The Discourse of the Drinkers stems from a chapter in François Rabelais’ s 16th Century comic novels on The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel, a pentalogy that also partly serves as a narrative framework for the project. Departing from Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the “Carnivalesque” and “the Grotesque Body”, expressed in his analysis of François Rabelais works, the project embraces a mode that subverts and liberates the assumptions of a dominant order, a temporary state where social hierarchies of everyday life are turned up side down. Equally interested in queer and collective bodies, the “Grotesque Body” here is a body in the act of becoming, manifested through the open mouth - that laughing, drinking, talking and singing opens up the body to the world.

The film installation, as well as the main part of the book, consists of material that was filmed in the queer bar The Club in Neukölln and the 24h open bar Rote Rose at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg in Berlin during a six-month period in 2017. Moving between documentation, fiction, observation, performance and dialogue, the project makes use of the moving image’s ability of opening up a virtual space, a place for unstable and unforeseen movements and meetings. Through montage the two bars are merged into one, creating a performative and relational space for moving and instable bodies, identities and stories. Scenes of conversation intercut with a stage performance by the trash drag ensemble the Real Housewives of Neukölln, whose collective voice acts like as a chorus for the film, commenting on the said and unsaid. The book consists of transcribed bar conversations, song lyrics and stills from the filmed material in juxtaposition with modified passages from the stories of The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel. Together with a selection of historical bar and intoxicant imagery, lyrics, texts and poetry they form a multi voiced document, a collective drinking and laughing political body.

Text by Annika Larsson for Peripeti #29/30 | 2018 |