Body and it's performed reality
The resistant corpus, through 'performative utterances' as well as non-verbal actions at multiple experiential levels, often initiates a renewal of the cultural/political paradigms. Conversely, the body that lies prone vis-à-vis the zeitgeist, rarely affords such time-transforming acts which are revolutionary in the sense that they embody what we may call the unmasking of the present and the historical by inventing the beyond; and it is by challenging the ziet (time) with the giest (spirit) that the resistant body makes such intervention possible.
Clues to 'reproduction and contestation of the social structure', as is explicated by Judith Butler, reside not in the body but in the activities and behaviourial patterns the person or the agent inaugurates in given circumstances. The conformist body, often reflecting the urban psychogeographies such as the media and other source of mainstream structures of knowledge and information creation and dissemination, instructs and informs the course of action as it plunges into creative/cultural activities.
However, operating from within the spectrum of the two extreme state of agency, bodies are always jostling for space in the social arena. The outcome of all actions put forth by the non-resistant bodies while seeking to reach a collective goal often leads to confusing ends. Thus utterances degenerate into sound bites and psychobabbles. And as for cultural productions, due to the malnourished, halfhearted evaluatory efforts on the part of the society at large, they never attain their enlivened state, a simmering point that may be dubbed as the state of collective actualization. When the field of culture becomes the 'uncritical, complicit inside' of a political society that shuns the word politics, it perverts our goal to generate and extract meaning using the body as well as from the body and its extensions -- actions, reactions and inactions.
The individuals – composed of artists of deferent aesthetic mores, and with claims to conscious agency disregarding causal structure – rarely assist in removing the confusions that arise in such unyielding circumstances. When false claims rule, all operations in the realms of culture and politics remain circumscribed by social time and etiquette.
Dhaka's cognoscenti, tied as they are to their routines, have rarely been afflicted by the desire to fathom the depth of the problems that beset the relationship between art/culture and the critical tools employed to generate social and aesthetical signification. Evident in their unrestrained iconophilic strain of behaviour is the fact that secularism's only surviving strategy lies in the successful mirroring of the old religious, or should one say pre-modern methods it once displaced; the hagiographic icons are only replaced with the so-called secular ones. Rabindranath Tagore, whose 150th birth anniversary has been celebrated with unrivaled enthusiasm throughout Dhaka, is a case in point.
In devising programmes around the most celebrated poet of the soil, almost every other organization in the cultural arena clearly put enthusiasm over form and substance. As the intention to glorify dwarfed all other considerations, no one had the right head to spare much thoughts to reflect on the relevance of his work in today's highly finacialized, power elite-driven economy and the fractured social spaces global capital has created, there were, apparently no visible signs of interpretive and evaluatory zeal, let alone the ability to interrogate and arrive at some counterpoints which are truly in wanting in this clime. Uncannily one programme seemed to have been cloned from another as they were of similar value and verve in their celebratory mode of transmission. Most organizers literally relied on threadbare resources when Rabindranath was being remembered chiefly through recollections of anecdotes, historical data related to the poet's personal life and creative output, culled indiscriminately without much respect for critical or epistemic intent.
Also take for example the modernists whom we have recently lost, Mohammad Kibria and Aminul Islam, two avant-gardists from the 1960s abstract trajectory, nothing has appeared in print or in the virtual space that could throw adequate light on the social-historical context and the aesthetical lore, myths and biases that guided or misguided them. The most important artists to have emerged after the formation of Pakistan, they surely have left a vacuum in the very topography of the artistic landscape, but what their endevours and role as artists demand is a thorough shaking of the yet-to-be defined springboard from which they inaugurated their logic of operation. We must do so at least to initiate new ways of seeing vis-à-vis the old ways of framing the formalist mode of praxis.
Their assertion of identity by demarcating mainstream subjectivity against the marginalized alternatives, though remains ambiguous (as Dr Geoff Boucher explains in the journal Parrhesia that all such processes of demarcation is afflicted by ambiguity) is a way for us to detect the form and it significance as well as nature of inventiveness involved.
The works of modernist inclination has often been premised in a monolinear interpretation of culture/history and an individualist-universalist position that pairs with it. Those who have started out in the 1960s and those whose work unabashedly sourced from the secondary waves created from the impact of formalism with which the European art scene was fraught at that time, certainly calls for a superior effort in developing some necessary critical tools on our part. Acting in their political/aesthetical capacity they have accomplished what they could in their long careers, now it is time for us to retort by investigating how their efforts in achieving 'newness' was never informed by that which defined most avant-garde movements in Europe – subversion of power.
The kinesis that gives rise to aesthetic actions when artists involved take their cue from 'dialectical relation between constraint and agency' the subversive or resistant body emerges and art as a 'process thwarting representation' is performed. However, in the sublimating, assuaging form that is forwarded as artistic creation by most modernists with the primary goal of 'representing an object' can never be seen as 'process enacted as an immanent movement'. The 'sovereignty of choice' may not have made the 1960s generation easily surrender to the 'invisible hand' of the market, but it was the lure of the trends that actually swept them off their feet – and in the name of that counterfeit trope – 'universalism', some of us are still trying hard to find a rationale for their acts.