bnr#90 =>

Street Drinkers Database


Investment Opportunity, yoha 2010

Project proposal 2014

YoHa, has been adopting methods that could loosely be referred to as practice led enquiry, the notion that doing art, enquires into a subject through reflective observation and action that is directed to repopulating the subject of it's gaze in the public domain. For this project we wish to work with FACT to find rough sleepers, street drinkers and others to produce a database from their perspective and situate it's knowledge/power with the context of governmental forms of logics. As yet we do not have a clear plan of how this information would be made usable by the people we create it with, nor do we know how this data might inform/interact with governmental forms of power. This is normal for art as enquiry and will resolve as the project progresses.

Street Drinkers Database

The project will be informed by enquiring into how governmental structuring of information into knowledge through the rationality of data affects the context in which mental healthiness is thought about. This process that creates the other of people with mental health issues also positions authorities so they can make the lack of rationality in street drinkers and others governable, have contingency over it, remote control it to some degree. Knowledge accrued and sorted into datasets from the personal records of of people with mental health issues, A&E departments and the police has a complex relationship to the powers that manage it and the individuals that are it's subject. Some knowledge is extracted by what are called verifiable methods which are then abstracted into quantified information to be presented at municipal planning meetings or in the domain of health. The glue that holds rationality, mental ill health, governance and the performance of power together is the aggregation of such information. These forms of databases occupy the space between knowledge and the performance of power that affects the groups we wish to work with. They are readily deployed to create a form of remote control or a governance over discursive perceptions of madness and in this case street drinkers. At the same time they help construct mental ill health as a regulative subject helping to construct the views of their users. To interrogate the way these logics operate, how they make forms of madness visible we are going to work with individuals and groups of alcoholics living on the streets of Liverpool to make a street drinkers database.

We wish to create a set of situated knowledge (a database) that gives the power of aggregating information to dependant street drinkers and others as indicated. The kinds of information we will collect will be determined by the dependant street drinkers themselves, and may include, where is violent, incidents of aggression, sites of cheap alcohol, good and bad doctors, social workers, were to get a hot meal and medication, were to sleep and were to not etc. The project will structure information into knowledge through the informal process of accompanying dependant street drinkers as they observe and act in the city. Informal methods of knowledge production usually fall outside of the decision-making process yet yield great impact on those living with mental health. One part of our enquiry is to see if we can use the situated knowledge of our chosen group to make visible other forms of power.

Whilst working with the dependant street drinkers , we will also set up an enquiry/ comparison/mapping of the situated knowledge to other forms of official logics that are used to manage street drinkers and madness,

Once the project is under-way and we have studied how knowledge is produced by the groups we are working with as well as Government sector agencies, we will then work out how we might construct a physical diagram to explore the subject in the gallery and a series of public events.


Many people with alcohol dependency also exhibit an array of mental health conditions. The problems this group experience are concrete and influence health, social bonds and degrade the quality of life of the alcoholic and those that surround them. This proposal is sympathetic to the experience of mental health patients and the many problems that occupy them and the services that support them. The frame of mental health and the discourses that surround it have a long history. These regulatory structures help create the subject of madness (see below) and it is this structuring as well as the lives of street drinkers we wish to probematise through profiling the situated knowledge of street drinkers and creating a database with them and from their point of view.

If we think about government as a series of tactics, strategies, techniques, programmes and aspirations of those authorities who wish to control, influence or improve what we think of and do as a population, then how do databases inform various modes of thinking, decision-making and acting? Databases are usually written from the point of view of discursive thought constructing amplified truths that act on the subject and the views of the users. In this way health promotion used by government produces modern subjects: it defines empirically what it is to be healthy and it ‘supervises’ the proper routes to health through a discipline through displinary statements like “Eat healthy, 5 a day”.

The problem with this form of scientific knowledge translated into appropriate behaviours for individuals to follow is that it requires a self-reflective, self-regulating individual with the correct concern for themselves, someone who believes in and can associate with the discursive truth on offer. This disciplinary scenario leaves the non-reflective, non-self-regulating without concern for themselves falling outside the logics of such a directive. People who do not see their best interest reflected in this mode of public address are not without knowledge or action but rather they have other concerns that may be more important (or have other kinds of intelligence that they tap into). This is the form of situated knowledge we wish to work with to create our database.

Rationality, Madness, Alcohol.

One of the major themes in Michael Foucault book Madness and Civilisation written in 1962 is that societies current notion of madness has been formed by the centrality of reason in contemporary thought. European men from the Enlightenment, having discovered reason, thought that they could become perfectible through it's self reflexive power. This core property of the enlightenment allowed reasons pundits to structure and coordinate information into a power over nature and a humanity they had constructed. If reason could perfect this group of individuals, it could also perfect society and potentially be used to bring any object under the rubric of it's rationality. Those that were beyond reason, the poor, the maladjusted, the upstart black or homosexual who let their passions leak out were mad and needed to be confined, enslaved, less they pollute the image/promise of this perfectible humanity. Rationality and it's logics would exhibit madness as it's other to show the space between this humanity and animal passions. This would lead those within mental health to becoming the other, to exist as a psychosis of humanism, crippled and impoverished by it's lack of rationality. A justification of a self centred humanism trying to cure the other, to make its self feel more civilised. By the late nineteenth century rationality would begin to seep into the mechanics of population control, the logics of social management with public health being one among them. Alcohol in this context can be seen as a release from this form of rationality relieving the individual of their logics. Creating a state in which reason is relaxed allowing our tamed animal nature freedom within intoxication.