Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Final Countdown

I know that very little has appeared on the blog during 2014. That's largely due--at least in my case--to the fact that I've been writing Egalitarian Moments: From Descartes to Rancière (here). At this point, the book is almost done. I'm currently writing up the conclusion, which summarizes the contents and then proceeds to compare my reading of Rancière to the politics of aesthetics elaborated in his book Aisthesis. These concluding remarks will in part respond to Peter Gratton's review of the book for Society and Space. He notes a vitalist undercurrent in this work. More specifically, Peter shows that the politics of the aesthetic regime of art, as it is framed in Aisthesis, aims to uncover the singular moments of life unburdened by reified representative structures:
In these pages, Rancière privileges the clown, the prisoner awaiting execution, the de-gendered dancer, and so on, all in the name of an inactivity that is but another name for the pure vital force of living, while calling for an indifference to differences that for the author would only be hierarchical and power driven. Indeed they are and have been, but isolating non-hierarchical moments in some sort of eidos of pure inactivity in these descriptions becomes a phenomenological epoché that has to bracket so much away from given contexts, and thus only reinforces what a pretense the “ignorance” and invisibility of the writer were in the first place.
Unlike Peter, however, I don't think this is the culmination of Rancière's work (I also have some qualms with Peter's characterization of Ranicière's account of mimetic norms in the representative regime of the arts, but that discussion has to wait for Chapter 3 of my book). While the book is doubtlessly important, I don't think its vitalist resonances are foregrounded by his other major works on aesthetics (Aesthetics and Its Discontents, The Emancipated Spectator, etc.), which focus on how new forms of social practices become visible and intelligible. I argue that there isn't one politics of aesthetics, but that it takes multiple forms. Thus Rancière's Aisthesis elaborates one possible account of the politics of aesthetics. In my book, I defend a different theoretical approach, emphasizing Rancière's account as a micropolitics of aesthetics that works in the interstices of egalitarian politics and policing. It's also an account of art that is non-teleological (à la Benjamin) and non-monumental (as in Badiou and Schelling).

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