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Douglas Capraro Douglas Capraro

Video: Do You Need to Be High or Drunk to Make Good Art?


Director Lars Von Trier recently claimed: "No creative expression of artistic value has ever been carried out by former alcoholics and drug addicts." True or false?

3 Substance
Score


Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier recently sparked controversy, as he is wont to do, by expressing his fear that his newfound sobriety will put an end to his creative success. “No creative expression of artistic value has ever been carried out by former alcoholics and drug addicts,” he said. And though a great deal of art has been made by people under the influence, a huge number of sober artists, musicians, writers and comedians would probably disagree with the notion that recovery kills creativity.

In this video, the BBC’s Will Gompertz speaks with culture historian Mike Jay, who traces back the association between drugs and art to ancient Greece and the celebration of Dionysus, the god of wine. The Greeks believed that wine could induce visions that were ”associated with creativity and the muse.” This idea persisted. For example in the 19th century, legendary poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge stated in the introduction of Kubla Khan that he had composed the poem in the midst of an opium-induced “reverie.” Then we had the Beatles.

But Jay says getting high or drunk is only one of a “roster of techniques” that contribute to creativity, and that drugs are no more than a “prosthetic tool that creative minds can use to push them in new directions.”