Rancière Report: How does the Outside enter the Museum?

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Rancière Report: How does the Outside enter the Museum?
From the Infinite Thought Blog
– thought the notes were helpful -rg
What does Rancière understand by aesthetics? Not a science or a philosophy of art, but a distribution of the sensible: the myriad ways of articulating action, production, perception and thought.
What does Rancière understand by art? That which frames the space/time sensorium, that indicates new ways of being together.
What does Rancière understand by politics? The opposite of the Police. A form of dissensus that polemically confirms the axiom of equality – the only universal axiom of politics: not rights or representation, but the starting point for any and all thought of emancipation. Politics is: ‘the introduction of a ‘proper-improper’ that challenges the police order’ – (The Politics of Aesthetics, Glossary)
Thus, ‘if it’s neither art nor politics it’s ethics’ (ethics = the hierarchical rule of representation, the static order of placing and apportioning).
His enemies: those who would reflect on their own artistic practice by way of the following three terms:
1. hyper-commitment to reality
2. hyper-vitalism
3. hyper-commitment to objectivity
Which is to say:
1. The idea that politics can be adequately represented in art: rolling footage from the favelas relayed in the dead air of a hip gallery.
2. The ideas behind ‘relational aesthetics’ and the ethos of the Palais de Tokyo. Rolling around with fluffy balls and being induced to behave like a child in public spaces is not a political gesture. There is a relation – that of the intricately shared concerns of politics and art – but the attempt to indulge the relation itself is not to be countenanced.
3. Politicised art there to register historical events in a quasi-scientific manner. A form of artistic ‘documentation’ that involves an aestheticisation of the object, and the concomitant apportioning of political events as atomised and closed mini-occurrences.
Coupled with an apparent post-modern scepticism (though Rancière claims that we are in fact not nearly sceptical enough), this contemporary sectioning of ‘politicised art’ is indicative of the ‘deficit of fiction’ and the stifling consensus that pervades public spaces (his alternative watchwords: the empty museum, the space-time sensorium, the potential ‘sensory equality’ of the aesthetic regime).
There is an oscillation and perpetual negotiation between two forms of political/critical art (as opposed to ‘politicised art’):
1. The aesthetic/revolutionary experience of equality: the French Revolution inaugurates the birth of the museum. In this form of collective life, there is no distinction between art, life and politics.
2. The purity of art, against adornment, against commodification (the Frankfurt School tendency).
Rather than understand these two positions as utopias, or impossible projects (the mistake of thinking that there is a fated ‘modernity’), the endless negotiations between these two forms, and the boundaries of art/non-art constitute the poles of the aesthetico-politico paradox. When Brecht has his characters discuss Nazism and cauliflowers in the same breath, we witness the emergence of ‘political art’, which exists only by virtue of the art/non-art crossover. Politics is the endless re-negotiation of the real, and of new forms of visibility.
Questions and Responses
1. Is there a meta-value in the scepticism you take towards contemporary art and artistic discourse? A new kind of norm?
– It is not a question of values, nor of normativity, but rather a making indistinct what is deemed to be transparent (that art should ‘represent’ politics, that art and activism somehow equal politics, that artists are automatically social agents).
2. But some works of art are more productive than others…
– But we can no longer match art to a set of rules. Classical art had a notion of
human nature which it attempted to ‘match’, but we know that we can always construct criteria. It is a matter of this construction.
3. You have faith in creation/inventive potential. What about the economy/capital?
– The ‘science’ of economy did not change anything. Classical Marxism argued that if you know how things work then you know how to change them. But ‘this is absurd!’. Everybody knows how things work, and reality has not been changed on the basis of this knowledge. In terms of invention, it is the specific sphere of art/politics that changes.