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 European Graduate School, 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.
Kinoeye as a practical activity: it's the peak of the Communist aesthetic and it's the new sensorium with the idea of art as art beyond...
We have a text today by Brecht (1939) "On the Experimental Theatre" that bids farewell to the idea of aesthetic utopia. Critical art as a mediation that is able to change reality by prompting decisions. Political art as mediation in a struggle for Communism.
Brecht reads this as an initial division, entertainment and instruction. This is a decision, Brecht seems to forget that those that made agitprop wanted to dismiss, by making theatre another activity in the world. Meyerhold wrote a lot about this - no distinction between work and entertainment.
Blending two forms of activity - media as performance, an activity with its ends in itself; at the same time this is a blended with theatre as working activity that must be rationalized like any other industrial activity. Meyerhold makes similar parascientific investigations as Eisenstein. All theatrical activity has to be identified and defined with in a multiplicity of competences.
Brecht seems to ignore all of this.
Meyerhold realized a radical Constructivism, and Reinhardt transformed natural, would-be showplaces into stages: he performed Everyman and Faust in public places. Open-air theatres saw productions of A Midsummer Nights' Dream in the midst of a forest, and in the Soviet Union an attempt was made to repeat the storming of the Winter Palace with the use of the battleship Aurora. The barriers between stage and spectator were demolished. At Reinhardt's productions of Danton's Death in the Grosses Schauspielhaus actors sat in the auditorium, and in Moscow Ochlopkov seated spectators on the stage. (3)These were matters of abolishing the conceit that an actor is on stage and there is an auditorium but the spectator should be a passive recipient - theatre as a site of agitation. People no longer gathering to observe a spectacle but to take part in the spectacle :
At times the theatre did well in endowing social movements (the emancipation of women, perhaps, the administration of justice, hygiene, even, in fact, the movement for the emancipation of the proletariat) with definite impulses. Still it cannot be secreted that the insights which the theatre permitted into the social situation were not particularly profound. It was more or less, as the objections pointed out, a mere symptom of the superficial character of society. The intrinsic social legalities were not made perceptible. Consequently the experiments in the province of the drama led to an almost complete destruction of plot and the image of man in the theatre. The theatre by placing itself in the service of social reform suffered the loss of many of its artistic efficacies. Not unjustly, though often with rather dubious arguments, do we lament the prostitution of artistic taste and the blunting of the stylistic sense. In fact, there prevails over our theatre today as a consequence of the many diverse kinds of experiments, a virtual Babylonian confusion of styles. On one and the same stage, in one and the same play, actors perform with utterly dissimilar techniques, and naturalistic acting is done within fanciful scenic designs. (5)Brecht resists the the aesthetic of montage and its break with the idea of aesthetic unity. The assemblage of montage was to shatter the idea of unity and instead produce specific shots and shocks. Farewell to the idea of the aesthetic revolution. Brecht sees that there has been this transformation in the methods of sensory perception but these don't add-up to an aesthetic revolution where ends and means fuse; they are simply techniques and these don't transform the performance. Thus he says the Revolution never existed.
What happened to the international avant-gardes?