At the intersection of social practice art and queer failure discourse, performativity pulses with possibility. This article tracks this strong performative force that undergirds theorizations of queer failure, social success, and performance. The author examines Julie Tolentino’s community engagement project, The Magical Order (2014), which brings these divergent discourses together. Her collaboration with Larkin Street Youth Services, which serves homeless youth in San Francisco, explored weaker modes of engagement that bring to the fore the sense of force embedded in performativity. Tolentino and her collaborators renegotiate the strong performative impulse by punking, yielding, and flailing. Punking not only reworks genealogies of performance for social practice but also emphasizes mere survival over successful thriving. Yielding renegotiates how the precariat relate to institutions beyond antagonism, as they succumb to institutional forces without losing a sense of self. Flailing nuances failure as the former tracks the unbecoming and temporary nature of punk survival and institutional yielding. These verbs collectively offer a lexicon that directs us to the limits of both social practice and queer aesthetic discourses, highlighting the need to place these two conversations together in order to rework theorizations of performativity and examine the queer possibility of less.
Hentyle Yapp; To Punk, Yield, and Flail: Julie Tolentino’s Etiolations and the Strong Performative Impulse. GLQ 1 January 2018; 24 (1): 113–138. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-4254522
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