Latency: A Feminist Space of Resistance?

May 16, 2012

Verwoert’s text “Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform” considers our capitalist economy of corporate productivity and posits a fine selection of questions which prompt self-examination and inspire often jarring personal critiques of our intimate belief systems. In todays Information Age, we are frequently driven beyond our physical/emotional/psychological means to points of exhaustion and possible break-down, in efforts to match others and our own expectations. But are we performing these acts of our own free will? Are we really in charge? Are we (even/still) happy? In searching for these answers, we meet two challenges: a) to understand the conditions of our agency in order to redefine them according to our own terms, and b) to imagine other logics of agency enabling us to defy social pressures to perform. The term “we” refers to an ‘ever-expanding’ group of ‘creative types,’ who perform as “instigators or facilitators of social exchange” (Verwoert, 2010. p14). It can be assumed that this ‘artistic practice’ within which we engage is a good place to be, that we are well-equiped for devising workable alternatives and forms of resistance. Yet with the ‘high performance culture’ always at our heels, “are the forms of agency that we commonly associate with resistance not modes of high performance themselves?” [Verwoert, 2010. p19] Are there more subtle ways of performing dissent? “What silent but effective forms of non-alignment, non-compliance, uncooperativeness, reluctance, reticence, weariness or unwillingness do we find in everyday life?” [Verwoert, 2010. p21]

This discourse evokes themes of current feminist architectural theory, also offering socio-cultural critiques and non-normative strategies. In Altering Practices: feminist politics and poetic of space, we find problematizations of current professional practice, active imaginings of alternative and utopian futures as ways to form resistance and alter these practices, and effective presentations of the incredible agency we can generate in what Jane Rendell calls “feminist spatial practices” which can be related back to Verwoert’s suggested “alternative modes of production.” [Verwoert, 2010. p35] The feminist patriarchal critique replies to some of Verwoert’s questions such as: “Who sets the urgent pace according to which all others are measuring their progress?” [Verwoert, 2010. p35]

By re-claiming and appropriating the magical words ‘I can’t,’ by unlocking and embracing it as a form of agency (without depriving ourselves of our potential to act), we can both respond to Verwoert’s invitation to interrogate our notions of ‘free-will,’ and present a critical feminist strategy. One might also claim the ‘Logic of Latency’ as a feminist space. The Beauty of Latency reacts against the ‘logic of high performance,’ it creates in-between places and periods of time, “performance is all about timing.” [Verwoert, 2010. p34] Latency is defined as: present, actualizing, refering to powers or possibilities existing but hidden or not yet actualized; the potential to manifest. In physiology, the ‘latent period’ is the interval between stimulus and reaction. This can be linked to what Rosi Braidotti has theorized as “Becomings.”

The movement within this latent space and time is exemplified with Silke Otto-Knapp’s paintings, which illustrate “a utopian state of exuberance” [Verwoert, 2010. p45] through careful studies of modern ballet. The artist reflects on how dance relates the individual to the collective through formalized body language without being organized towards an ulterior end. The translations of patterns of social life into dance and then abstracted through painting communicates ‘the idea of bodies communicating’ in both terms of ‘I Can’ and ‘I Can’t.’ In this “state of suspension between exhaustion and activity, between the ‘I Can’t’ and the ‘I Can’, the state of convalescence is the epitome of an empty moment of full awareness.” [Verwoert, 2010. p70] It is here that our protagonist/avatar/heroine takes the stage for her final dance.


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