To say that you are resisting something means that you have to spend a lot of time and energy saying what that something is, in order for your resistance to make sense. Too much energy flows in the wrong direction, and you usually end up strengthening the thing you want to resist.

It seems to me that if architects really want to resist, then neither the idea nor the rhetoric of resistance has a place in it. These architects must take the initiative, beginning from a point of origin that precedes anything to be resisted, one deep within an idea of architecture itself. They can never think of themselves as resisters, or join resistance movements, or preach resistance. Rather…they must create an independent idea…Lebbeus Woods

Immediately I was reminded of something a favorite professor once said, which I dutifully wrote down and have kept posted on the bulletin board for 5 years (and here I think I’m roughly paraphrasing):

“What would it take to be working toward a world where affirmation (as opposed to questioning or critique) is possible?”

As I understood it–and to put it in Woods’ terms–she meant to posit an alternative to the default mode of “resistance,” which is to critique existing conditions, to use your work to question (or, worse, to “raise awareness of“) problematic assumptions. Certainly as an artist coming straight out of a critical studies background, this was my default mode, and I was quite seduced by the clever ways one could use satire to reflect dominant culture back to itself. But she suggested a much more terrifying alternative, which was to ignore what is wrong and simply use your energy to create something better. Or more specifically, she asked us what would make such a practice even possible, which is something I’ve been thinking about ever since.

I am just as seduced today by the clever ways one can use satire to reflect dominant culture back to itself. But I also have a nagging desire to work more positively, outwardly facing–to create something that is not an opposition or act of resistance but rather an improved alternative. I return again to the example of Ze Frank as someone working outside a traditional art practice to directly create the type of world he would like to live in. J.S.G. Boggs is another classic example: someone who has simply carved out an alternative reality for himself, in his case an alternative economy.

As someone not overly inclined to make my work social–as someone not overly inclined to be social–I wonder what form(s) a more affirmative art would take. So much of art already involves constructing alternate realities, is it just the pernicious effects of critical studies programs and overly theoretical art classrooms (I barely accept the possibility that there could be an overly theoretical art classroom) that affirmative (non-hokey) art is hard to conceptualize? Is Woods correct that a true act of resistance involves ignoring that which is and attempting to (heroically?) construct that which should be?