Slacker - LeisureArts - Bricoleur

Over a decade has passed since the publication of Patrick Durkee's essay "Slackspace: The Politics of Waste" which appeared in Prosthetic Territories: Politics and Hypertechnologies Gabriel Brahm Jr. & Mark Driscoll eds. We have never seen the essay cited in print and an internet search finds scant mention of it as well. We think it's partially due to the essay being a poor fit for the volume it was published in. It is a shame to have so little discussion of a pretty remarkable work.

Durkee provides a theoretical framework for discussing slackers and the social networks they inhabit which he refers to as slackspace. He provides a political subtext (a dubious notion of "political" however) for their activities. He calls this "a politics of waste." In a passage that served as the outline of LeisureArts' own practice he writes:

"By slacking off from the obligation to produce and consume, slackers interrupt the infiltration of social space by commodity culture. Piecing together styles of living, forms of community and personal identities, out of both the material and ideological waste of the postwar United States, the slacker's practice of ostentatiously doing very little illustrates the possibilities of resistance left to a culture in which the logic of the commodity relentlessly colonizes social space."

There is an obvious parallel here to the notion of the bricoleur mentioned in an earlier post. To further the comparison of slacker as bricoleur, we find Durkee discussing the function of conspiracy theories and pop culture mythologies in slackspace:

"...slackers represent the larger society around them through a bricolage of narratives and characters that bear at best only a peripheral significance to actual events...the instrumental function of knowledge is not valued particularly highly, but their fantatsic attempts to make meaning of waste represent something more significant than simple fantasy: the attempt to produce from within slackspace a cognitive map of the world using only the waste materials at hand."

Slackers and slacking are obviously tied to notions of leisure. Durkee briefly outlines Thorstein Veblen's discussion of leisure and then moves on to the Frankfurt School and situationist critique of leisure. Essentially, leisure has been subsumed in the logic of work it no longer stands "over and above" work, but is a mirror of it. We'd like to add that the same is true of art, it is inextricably bound to the logic of production and labor. LeisureArts was founded to try to find a way to escape from that logic, to shift from artwork to artleisure.

Durkee's essay complicates our dream of escape by citing de Certeau to claim escape is not possible, "...resistance in this atmosphere in which escape is not possible...[involves] a style of inhabiting social space that deforms and obstructs the commodifying tendency of its structure. Such styles are the tactics of slack." He provides this gem of a quote from the movie Slacker:

"I may live badly, but at least I don't have to work to do it."

Durkee claims that slacking moves beyond merely avoiding work, but avoiding leisure as well. We should note that he is talking about the spectacular form of leisure described by Debord and others. This "abstention from leisure" requires a "practice of studied laziness" (which might be the quickest summary of LeisureArts ideology). Durkee offers a warning about the transient nature of this resistance and its impact on slacker social relations. The communities formed by slack are bound by slack, which is to say, "bound for rapid dissolution." All victories are temporary. The proliferation of slacker subcultures and affinity networks is nearly boundless, but Durkee warns, "although slacking off may produce endless local instances of noncommodified social relations, it cannot envision modes of association that truly challenge the economic structures that produce slackspace as their waste." Thus we see that the politics of waste are not politics in any real sense, a kind of slacker activism that doesn't really see the task through. LeisureArts is an attempt to explore the generative possibilities of "studied laziness" and to test whether "ostentatiously doing very little" can lead to new modes of resistance.