Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jacques Rancière Day 1

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Jacques Rancière taught a class entitled: POLITICS OF AESTHETICS wherein we discuss the relationship between what is allowed to be seen and the dominant political regime.

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

My usual way of working is to talk for an hour and then we take questions, of course, if you have questions, ask, but perhaps it is better formulated the next session.

Today I wish to phrase some issues by implementing two images (promotional posters for Chelovek's Kino Apparatom):

Why these? A lot of what I want to say is, here an idea of cinema and art practice in general.

They say nothing about what's in the film but it does tell us about art.
  1. The spatial relations suggest something about what is going on - the copy kino (movement) relates man and apparatus in the design here. Man in general to be involved in the Soviet revolution; and also this particular man, the cinematographer, capturing the movement of Mankind.
  2. It is not an illustration of the problem - this isn't the problem of art & politics being illustrated - there is no message at all, this is produced at the end of the silent film era. The letters in the posters are visual forms in movement with the bodies. Only parts of the bodies are dancing, a fragmented body - a Modern dancer, an emphasis on the modernity with no form of constraint. Here is the mingling of the mechanical and human body fragments.
Were we to schematize:
  • man and machine, the man with the camera in shadow also looks like he is at the machine gun; the presence of skyscrapers suggest a brighter future movement up into the new life promised by the Soviet revolution.
  • The lady is not even in the film, she represents Art - this is a film with no message, visual fragments, these posters.
These present us with a new sensorium of how cinema will work, a new way of writing, how machines will operate, and the gestures of how the Soviet system will be.

There is the precision of the machine eye, a new body whose body is separated so as to be more energetic.

A new space where image and reality collapse - no difference because the new sensorium of life, these posters reveal this to us.

No more use of horizon to suggest 3-d, a world defined by movement of equality where there is no difference between low and high, between means and ends or the practice of any worker and entertainment. A world dominated by movement is a world of equality.

These posters produce the order of the sensible - the sayable, the do-able, a configuration of the capacity of beings in the world. These posters include themselves and the world that they would coordinate, both their place in the world and create the atmosphere through which they must be perceived.

What is meant by aesthetics?
  • Aesthetics doesn't define art or its theory, or the philosophy of art.
  • Aesthetics is the sensible texture, the frame through which the artist is able to practice; weaving the sensible texture and so allows us to understand how to coordinate it.
  • This is the same in politics.
My main point is this:
  • the positing of politics as practice of governing and art as the practice of object making - how do we judge these?
  • Before we ask the usual question about art's commitment to a politics, we must understand that in order for politics to exist, those that struggle for power must exist and they must represent themselves and generate a sensibility that can be understood.
  • Politics entails new ways of visibility.
  • This is also true of art: for art to exist, all practices and their objects must already exist and must be subsumed under the concept of "Art" not "the arts" of historical record.
The liberal arts were practiced by free people (the aristocracy); astronomy, geometry, etc. were practiced in Ancient Greece by those who didn't have to work.
  • To name "Art" supposes a dissolution of the distinctions between these class-based distinctions
  • The existence of "Art" is possible in a new distribution of the sensible; the new relationships between occupation and their subjects.
  • Art became possible after the collapse of the distinction form Free Men; between fine art and mechanical art, Art and Law... the distinction used to only be historical painting (High) and landscapes (Low).
The Classical world used artworks to show the illustrious nature of the royalty. At the inception of the museum (18th century), there was a revolution wherein Art was taken from the Royalty's homes and made publicly visible.
  • Aesthetics is the new regime between technical skills, modes of thinking, and modes of feeling.
  • If we think in these terms, this is a question of revolution. (emphasis added)
  • The common world that is being weaved by the artist and the common world that is being worked on in modern democratic practices -
  • these are the construction of a community through an aesthetic regime.
What I'd like to do is go backward (analyzing the possibility of these aesthetic changes) and then go forward; how is it possible to have these constructions, what is the destiny of these?

The constitution of the very idea of an aesthetic experience and the link to politics.

I'd like to look at historical moments when there were these shifts in the aesthetics and examine the logic of their paradigms.
  1. Let's look at the constitution of the aesthetic experience as an experience;
  2. second, let's look at what equality within art means and what the political potentiality of art might be. Art does the politics of its kind. These posters show us that all the different artists necessary for a film to exist exist simultaneously.
  3. My third point will be to show montage as an idea of politics; the formulation of critical art - art forms that ask us to think about and propose discussion between common people and politics
  4. My fourth point will be to reframe the contemporary moment, the so-called anti-aesthetic movement.
These posters don't want to be images, but expressions of what is (or will be).
  • They were not meant to be advertisements for the film, nor an image of "It's a movie without words"
  • These posters were the climax of the visual and the Revolution - both of which were about to collapse
  • These posters are without desire because desire suggests a distance, we should not see her as a woman (and so an object of desire), she is only energy, these posters are about movement and [the vital] energy [of the Revolutionary spirit] (my additions are bracketed)
There is a rupture with a certain state of art is what we notice in the Kant and Schiller readings. These create a universe of questions and evidences that we are still dealing with today. A new relation to Beauty, sensibility as a faculty is introduced.

Kant, Part 1, Section 2
The satisfaction which determines the judgement of taste is disinterested

They focus on the idea of the palace, not as it appears and have two negative statements:
"I do not desire it," and "this is not what should be desired," the point is that we know that there are two kinds of hierarchy: what is agreeable from the elite and from the common people.
  • There was this idea of two kinds of humanity, those of needs and those of culturedness
  • Voltaire said that this was a physical difference, they did not have the same eyes, the same ears, etc. and so the two groups could not mutually sense
Thus in Section 2 we have:
  • extrinsic judgement - it is vanity, something to gape at
  • hierarchical judgement (art practice) - does it suit the function and obey the rules of Art and architecture?
  • Kant dismisses the idea of the body being attached to the capacity to feel,
  • thus the aesthetic is disjointed from perception of the perfection of execution.
Section 16
The judgement of taste, by which an object is declared to be beautiful under the condition of a definite concept, is not pure

What is Beauty was decided when there was no concept; we must disconnect the object from a kind of knowledge in order for it to be thought of as beautiful.

Decorative art, for Kant, is beauty; but, abstraction is pure Beauty because there was no conception.

In the 18th century dance was art if it told a story; but Kant introduces a break from insisting that there must be not be judgement of an object as an object of desire or of knowledge, we must judge only its form. So, I decide as the character of anyone and everyone.

There is this new idea of a new universality which overcomes the particularities of the former universalism. This is what disinterestedness means.

Bourdieu lampoons this in his book Distinction, this disinterestedness is a mark of social distinction, only those who can afford these items can judge them.

Kant would say to Bourdieu, "okay, but it happens all the time that the common people say, 'it is beautiful,' it doesn't matter what objects they think are beautiful.
  • It's true the social order is twofold hierarchy with two kinds of humanity where the rich train to refine their pleasures;
  • but in 1790 we are proposing freedom over repression.
  • How will we organize? It can't simply be by overturning the former hierarchy - it must be a new form of relationships and ways of living."
This is what Kant is trying to achieve in his call to universalism.

Section 60
Of the method of Taste

The argument is a new society needs not only laws of restraint but also common sense.
  • It supposes a common sense, that anybody to feel for anybody and that anybody can communicate with anybody these feelings.
  • The break is with the distribution of the sensible such that anybody can feel and communicate - if we get away from knowledge and means to ends - we can participate universally.
  • The problem is, how do we overcome this tendency?
If we pursue this line of thinking, if Bourdieu is interested in the taste of the common man, then how do we understand this t-shirt that announces, "I marvel at the sunset" from Campement Urbain?

Rancière has written about Campement Urbain's project I & US here.

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