The paradox is as follows: we, as artists and viewers alike, know that art is fundamentally conservative, yet we still want to believe that it is radical and revolutionary. Within the space of this paradox there is room for a great deal to happen.
Art is conservative because the moment you call something art (or theatre, literature, etc.) it has already been contained. The things it can change, and the ways it can change our thinking, have already been limited. Art is the corner in which transgression and questioning are allowed, at times even encouraged, and making art is like being told to go stand in that corner.
The recent, romantic history of art is a history of alleged transgression. So many of today’s standard art moves began as small deviances and transgressions. And while it does seem there are now no rules left to break, more to the point is that knowing a transgression, if successful, will soon be canonized and therefore de-fanged, drains all energy from the gesture.
Politics requires efficacy. Trying to change things entails immense frustration. The tension between this lived frustration and potential for efficacy often feels absurd.
Politics as a spirit of resistance, as a desire to open up possibilities. And yet: resistance, in order to remain resistant, must always be unfinished, a work-in-progress, because if you win then you're in power and somebody else has to resist against you. (I am wondering if this paradox might ease the inherent frustration involved in any act of sustained resistance.) Something similar might be said of opening up possibilities: once they have been opened one has to move on. There is something restless, unsustainable, about such modes of political thinking.