Posts Tagged ‘Jacques Ranciere’

Performance Art

January 8, 2016

For the Associated Press, Wilson Ring and Jill Colvin report on presidential wannabe Donald Trump’s latest campaign promotion in Burlington. Vermont (Protesters interrupt Trump Vermont rally despite screening, 1-8-16). The national media has focused on location and the number of folks who lined up (“Thousands of people stood in line for hours waiting to get into the Burlington event after the campaign distributed 20,000 free tickets to the Flynn Center for the Performing Art, which has just 1,400 seats.”). No one seemed to focus on the actual name of the space, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, nor the last part of the name, Performing Arts. D. Trump has been labeled a huckster, a P.T. Barnum, a Wild Bill Cody for his use of the stage, social media, and traditional media. Recently, many sources are analyzing campaign expenditure on advertising, noting that traditional TV ads are still king, with most of the other “lesser” candidates on the slate spending heavily to try to stay relevant. Trump has only begun to advertise within this framework. It appears that Donnie Trump is truly ahead of the pack, not only in terms of the polls, but in understanding the aesthetic of today’s culture. Jacques Ranciere may have theorized about the politics of aesthetics (the traditional take on culture as pertaining to art – architecture, dance, visual arts, music, etc.) as well as the aesthetics of politics (how politics is done) but Donnie Trump actually employs it. He may be one of the first to understand, through utilization, the effectiveness and viability of performance art. Within politics, this is a staple of South American democracies. In the US, it has been neglected primarily through regulation of the constitutional right to assembly (designated protest sites removed from the source of contention and debate). Mr. Trump has utilized the power of performance art to run a campaign without reliance on advertising. With the Burlington event we have his campaign manipulating the populace in order to produce the art (20,000 tickets for a 1,400 seat venue. Apparently Donnie has no regard for fire code). The ticket holders show up, forming a line, creating a news event. Like with open carry gun laws, it is impossible to tell which of the ticket holders in line are the good guys, and which are the bad (for or against the Trump candidacy). As with the performance art of the visual arts, no advertising expenditure created a spectacle, a sensation, an event or happening, whichever you prefer. In crass art terms – he got the message out. Performance art has a long, involved and rich history in American art dating back to Allan Kaprow’s Happenings in NYC (amongst others). Now it has finally entered the lexicon of America’s political aesthetic. Unfortunately, for most of the American public, it is a novelty that doesn’t have a name.

Who Will Pay Your Debt?

September 27, 2012

Ai Weiwei returned to the news today. He lost his “tax evasion appeal”. His latest act of resistance is to refuse to pay the extra $1 mil plus over which he had appealed. Everyone will be watching to see how much voice he will have now that the issue has been transformed into a dispute over debt. Yesterday also saw an article on MoneyWatch by David Weidner entitled How Obama failed to rein in Wall Street (AP 9/26/12). Suffice to say it insightfully details how any response to the criminality which led to the near catastrophe of 08-09 is a non-event. The Obama administration not only is loaded with Wall Street insiders, but legislation like Dodd Frank or the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are designed to fail. Walls Street owes no debt to any nationality (truly non-partisan!). And then today, the presidential candidate with the largest campaign coffer has released a 2 minute ad touting “economic patriotism” (for a drowning populace already inundated by back to back 30 second political ads). I guess the outcome of Citizens United is becoming increasingly transparent. Not wanting to be the number 2 economy means we will just have to outdo the Chinese in our economic fervor. Either way, political governance has become capitalized.  What you pay will determine your political engagement. Economic sanctions will be used to suppress. Economic largesse will determine outcome. Being in or out of debt produces the contemporary “sense” of Ranciere’s dissensus politic. Demanding to be included essentially means going in debt. Who Will Pay Your Debt?


March 4, 2012

“The whole of my winters, as well as most of my summers, I had free and clear for study. I have thoroughly tried school-keeping, and found that my expenses were in proportion, or rather out of proportion, to my income, for I was obliged to dress and train, not to say think and believe, accordingly, and I lost my time into the bargain. As I did not teach for the good of my fellow-men, but simply for a livelihood, this was a failure.”   Walden and Resistance to Civil Government    Henry D. Thoreau, edited by William Rossi 1992 pg. 47

            “In this case, that constraint had taken the form of the command Jacotot had given. And it resulted in an important consequence, no longer for the student but for the master. The students had learned without a master explicator, but not, for all that, without a master. They didn’t know how before, and now they knew how. Therefore, Jacotot had taught them something. And yet he had communicated nothing to them of his science. So it wasn’t the master’s science that the student learned. His mastery lay in the command that had enclosed the students in a closed circle from which they alone could break out. By leaving his intelligence out of the picture, he had allowed their intelligence to grapple with that of the book. Thus, the two functions that link the practice of the master explicator, that of the savant and that of the master had been dissociated.  The two faculties in play during the act of learning, namely intelligence and will, had therefore also been separated, liberated from each other. A pure relationship of will to will had been established between master and student: a relationship wherein the master’s domination resulted in an entirely liberated relationship between the intelligence of the student and that of the book –the intelligence of the book that was also the thing in common, the egalitarian intellectual link between master and student. This device allowed the jumbled categories of the pedagogical act to be sorted out, and explicative stultification to be precisely defined. There is stultification whenever one intelligence is subordinated to another. A person –and a child in particular –may need a master when his own will is not strong enough to set him on track and keep him there. But that subjection is purely one of will over will. It becomes stultification when it links an intelligence to another intelligence. In the act of teaching and learning there are two wills and two intelligences. We will call their coincidence stultification. In the experimental situation Jacotot created, the student was linked to a will, Jacotot’s, and to an intelligence, the book’s –the two entirely distinct. We will call the known and maintained difference of the two relations –the act of an intelligence obeying only itself even while the will obeys another will –emancipation.”  The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation   Jacques Ranciere 1991 pg. 12-13


“We’ve been home schooling for a year and a half now, and, believe me, I’m no expert. I do not have a handle on all the methods, philosophies and curriculum choices out there, but what I have discovered is that I need to know why we are home schooling… I present to you five important reasons the Sagar family is home schooling…

Reason No. 2: Home schooling allows our children to develop a worldview based on truth…. Education, worldview and character are wrapped up together. The Bible says to teach your children “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Reason No. 3: Home schooling gives us as parents greater control over what our kids learn, and when.”  We Wouldn’t Trade Home Schooling For Anything   Rebekah Sagar Guest Columnist Editorial Newark Advocate March 4, 2012



Woody Guthrie’s Music

February 6, 2012

A past news article headline declaring something like “Upcoming Woody Guthrie Museum will focus on the artistic and not the political” seems to have attached itself permanently to my brain. It concerned the projected museum addition in Tulsa Oklahoma. The headline is in perfect accord with Ranciere’s distribution of sense. At the same time it leaves one flabbergasted that what originally was an organic unity has been conveniently dissected. One is left scratching one’s head thinking would this be the same Woody Guthrie if he had written product jingo’s for radio ads, Broadway musicals, or academic music in some conservatory?

Serendipity finds the recent Critical Inquiry (Winter 2012) featuring Aesthetics and Politics: an Interview with Jacques Ranciere by Gavin Arnall, Laura Gandolfi, and Enea Zaramella (from 2009). In this article the conversation ranges not only over the distribution of sense and the aesthetic regime but also the nature and place of the museum. Regime orientation is defined by artistic practice (“Surrealist practices clearly belong to that tradition that is part of the actual tradition of modernism,” pg. 290). A museum concerns itself with these practices. No such establishment recuses itself from the contemporary and its ways. As Ranciere points out, the contemporary can and does include not only the aesthetic regime, but aspects of the mimetic as well as the ethical. It would come as no surprise to find elements of these within a museum’s practice, but a predominance of the aesthetic regime would probably prevail. “On the other hand, the aesthetic regime is based on a specific form of equality that is much more inclusive (everything can enter the realm of art), but has no specific connection with political equality.” (pg. 296). That, in a nutshell, explains the justification of the Guthrie Museum headline.

It is very unsatisfying, this equality of the museum where the presentation of difference comes across like an LL Bean catalog; everything fitting together (with a smile) and appearing to be there “naturally”. The discomfort doesn’t become apparent until one considers something like inequality itself- economic, educational, or social (of a racial, ethnic or religious bent). One immediately recognizes that given the inclusiveness and equalizing character of the aesthetic regime, and the “no specific connection with political equality”, it becomes difficult to understand how, if at all, inequality could be considered within a museum, let alone presented. It appears to be a subject which by definition, is not possible.  As Ranciere sums it up: “There is an egalitarian presupposition at the basis of the aesthetic regime. On the one hand, that presupposition supports the capacity to see aesthetically in general, the possibility to perceive and appreciate objects and performances as artistic. On the other hand there is an aesthetic utopia that has thrived on that presupposition, the program of a community of equals, where equality would be achieved in sensible life, in everyday life. In that case, the presupposition has been transformed into a telos. The enactment of equality always entails the risk of that transformation. (pg. 296)

Imagine an observation/presentation of how news articles inadvertently highlight the various aesthetic make up of subject matter. A man shoveling snow as opposed to a man using a snow blower highlight certain distinctions or inequalities (if you don’t believe me re: the inequality, the backs of the two gentlemen will convince you). Nowhere is this aesthetic more apparent than in news features of crimes, crime reporting. The composition or make up of the crime scene, the victim’s home or neighborhood brings the severe aesthetic disparity into sharp focus. Like the snow moving difference, in crime scene reporting one will find meticulous homogeneity of design/function components in some well to do crime scenes (think Tiger Woods being rescued from his crashed luxury SUV through the use of one of his top of the line golf clubs), a hodge podge of genuine and imitation components (ala Saddam Hussein’s Las Vegas-esque palaces), and deteriorating “make do” with sheets or towels for window covering and ad hoc purely functional 2×4 or plumbing pipe hand rails, concrete block steps, etc. In short, the aesthetic make up of the “crime scene” speaks inequality much more than any contextual reference. Yet, shown within a visual art gallery setting, the inequality becomes watered down, possibly becoming elided, eventually disappearing altogether when the spectator leaves the room. Those engaged in the current discourse regarding inequality and inequity would do well in considering the shortcomings of the visual arts in voicing such matters. Visual art cannot escape its heritage of wealthy patron portraiture, fine residencies in idyllic landscapes, and sumptuous settings of food.  Within the current regime of art, inequality, like the life of Woody Guthrie, requires dissection for inclusion in the distribution of sense.

Home Is Where The Heart Is They Tell Me

September 18, 2011

            Disruptive innovation theory – “Disruption is a positive force. It is the process by which an innovation transforms a market whose services or products are complicated and expensive into one where simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability characterize the industry.” (Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton M. Christensen, pg. 11)

            Occasionally, over the years, a dream recurs and puzzles my analysis. The format is similar, generally involving going, being in transit, either as in moving from one location to another or reviewing some situation (from where it once involved me to where it is evolving). In all of these there is an overriding sense of familiarity and certainty with what is involved – the environment, terrain or object of the dream. There is likewise some impediment, rearrangement or complication that familiarity (and certainty) would deem prevents a conclusion (the neighborhood has evolved, the road has been rerouted, or ownership has shifted). The sense of it has proved evasive because there is so much certainty and familiarity of all the elements involved. It is not so much a sense of frustration, as nothing is attempted to be achieved, retrieved or ascertained within the dream. Rather, it is more about a long term, slow moving kind of anxiety; an anxiety that is accumulated rather than precipitated.

            This is the dream of old age, the reliance on the familiar not in the everyday mundane sense but rather in the psychological sense, that the familiar is how we relate to our expectations, anticipations, values, etc. These were all established, determined, originated yesterday. When we are young, the expectations, anticipations, and values are coexistent and coextensive with the (contemporary) time of their fulfillment. As we age, the expectations, anticipations, values, etc. are more familiar to us than the changing contemporary where their fulfillment can only be met. Not that the fulfillment can’t be met, only the fulfillment must likewise follow changing anticipations, expectations, values, etc. When these subjective abstractions do not undergo change (do not become un-familiar), then what is being desired to be fulfilled (the expectations, anticipations, values, etc.) remain only those with which we are familiar. Hence the dream of not being able to connect with what one is so certain of, so familiar with. Cliché may be that one can never go home, but both home and expectations, anticipations, and the value of home change.

            In an analogous manner, Ranciere’s account of what makes for the expectations, anticipation, valuation of a work of art within the contemporary was formulated yesterday. That formulation did not evolve. Rather, it is continuously clarified and ascertained. In short, as the years sneak by it becomes more and more familiar and certain. The art of the contemporary, which so seamlessly accommodated the theory at its inception, today finds impediments, rerouting and impossibility. Evolving innovations in “new” technology de facto produce an art avant garde. This group’s familiarity and certainty with regard to what “creates” innovative art immediately dates them, makes them old. To be “at home” with the avant garde is to be at heart continuously in a state of uncertainty and unfamiliarity. Such is the consequences of “new” within art. How this differs from Yuriko Saito’s Everyday Aesthetics!

Ascetic Aesthetic Utopia

September 11, 2011

            The previous post (Yart Sale) considered a “trifecta of art credibility”, the stuff of art (the actual thing itself), the theory of art, and integration into actual community. It suggested why today it is next to impossible to achieve. The speculation was centered primarily on the ever changing definition and nature of community. It is highly possible to indicate the art object or event though many are chameleon like in their intent to be mistaken for everyday reality. Even more so is it to define the theory or critique which usually appears as text. But actual community is taken to be slippery, eluding the grasp. Hereabouts in Ohio, an environment of blue green toxic algae has stained summer fun at many local lakes and beaches this year, even on Lake Erie. A recent headline/article reported that local leaders/officials blame it for the decrease in tourism related commercial activity. No mention is made of the crappy economic environment inhibiting people’s ability to spend discretionary income on summer outings. In like manner, focusing on the ephemeral nature of community when considering the trifecta of art credibility misses the greater role theory plays within this wager.

            Many times in previous posts we have considered the enormous impact of the thought of Jacques Ranciere on contemporary art and art/cultural theory. Ranciere relies on a rearrangement of the art historical perspective, introducing regimes of art, how art making/perception were organized over the passage of time. These don’t rely so much on evolution, tracing one regime growing out of another, but more on the direction and emphasis of a civilization’s culture. With Ranciere it would be the European culture. The recent regime, that of Art, the aesthetic regime, originated less than 250 years ago and runs concurrent with the upheavals of democracy and social organizations of equality (rather than hierarchy). Ranciere stimulates this direction by arguing for the aesthetic experience, the establishment of the art experience (sensually as well as theoretically) separate from other experiences with the rise of the romantic period of the 19th century (Why Madame Bovary must die). The aesthetic became legitimate on its own terms as individual experience/event whereas previously it supplemented a religious, ethical or political (monarchic) priority. Now the aesthetic is the priority. Various historic “headlines” evidence the feasibility of this approach – Art for art’s sake, Abstract art critiques of the 1950’s and 60’s that insisted the work had to justify itself, Danto’s art after the end of art, etc.

            With Ranciere’s aesthetic regime and the shifting of art to Art, a worm slips in unnoticed; one that is slipperier than the current definitions of community. It is presumed that Art and the aesthetic experience is akin to the experience of sky diving or wilderness camping. Involvement with the activity is exclusive by definition of the activity. If I jump out of a plane or plunge into the woods without the need for accommodation reservations, the experience produced will be one of free falling or sleeping in whatever weather/terrain is found. However, the worm begs to differ. This is not the current condition of the art (or Art) experience. The aesthetic regime described by Ranciere is not. Whether it ever was is a totally other consideration.

            Today, the art experience (or Art) is simultaneous with many experiences. It does not occur exclusively, nor is it sought out exclusively. Previous posts of this blog have considered the current definition of art as a social activity involving circulation and exchange (indeed reflective of late term capitalism). It has been questioned whether it is at all possible without the dialogic of others, in experience, interpretation or execution. Today’s undergrads have never experienced educational opportunities without video, audio or other artistic resources occurring simultaneously.  Name me an art (Art) experience that is exclusive as such. Movies? Folks get Netflix and enjoy them at home with all the interactions/distractions that provides. The opera? Now simulcast at your local cinema or available on DVD or as a download. Art gallery, with attendant coffee shop/children’s interactive area? Sculpture in public places shared by buskers, hot dog and T shirt vendors? No, art (Art) is experienced in conjunction with, is preferred alongside other experiences simultaneously. To isolate the art experience, to be motivated in art production by the inspiration that “someone will appreciate this particular endeavor” is to not live within our culture. Academy award winning films are experienced in the back seat of distinguished designer SUV’s by kids with iPod buds stuck in their ears downing Schweddy Balls ice cream being chauffeured by mothers texting about the latest episode of Hollywood Hausfraus on their Droids while gulping gourmet cappuccino on the way to soccer practice.

            The difficulty with achieving the trifecta of art credibility lies not with actual community but rather with the theory/critique. Current theory/critique self justifies by withdrawing art to a like exclusivity as itself. To speak/write of art as an activity or experience separate from that of other elements of culture is to promote an ascetic aesthetic utopia.

What Do You See?

July 27, 2011

            “Several outcomes seem possible from this swirling situation: a new authoritarianism, a perpetual crisis, or, just possibly, a time in which my claim to the right to look is met by your willingness to be seen. And I reciprocate.” This is the last line of an intense and well researched essay entitled The Right to Look by Nicholas Mirzoeff in the Spring 2011 Critical Inquiry (pg. 496). Impressive, huh?

            Mirzoeff’s essay presupposes some familiarity regarding Visual Culture, the making and power of images, visualization and the sense it permits (or produces). If you “sense” Jacques Ranciere permeating this endeavor, your intuition serves you well. Mirzoeff’s claim to a “right to look” springs from the demand of the police to have a “look see”. Nicholas interpolates this mundane indignity on a grand scale by likening counter insurgency endeavors as consensus controls. True, visual culture or visualization has us believing that counterinsurgency is a worldwide phenomena, unified by the need to make globalism a safe expression of an open market. This making of an image of the white hats never sleeping and always being alert to the “possibility” of terror is reinforced by the everyday theater of commercial air travel.  The real counter insurgency “look see” centers more around drone and satellite surveillance. Mirzoeff links this activity of the consensus with Ranciere’s “move along now, there is nothing to see.” In short, along with the political image making of counter insurgency itself comes the demand that we not look (since that has already been done for us).  Mirzoeff’s interest is more in the micro dimension of this Rancierean interpretation, that of the everyday. As he writes: “The right to look is not about merely seeing. It begins at the personal level with the look into someone else’s eyes to express friendship, solidarity, or love. That look must be mutual, each inventing the other, or it fails. As such, it is unrepresentable. The right to look claims autonomy, not individualism or voyeurism, but the claim to a political subjectivity and collectivity: “the right to look. The invention of the other.”” (pg. 473) “It is the claim to a subjectivity that has the autonomy to arrange the relations of the visible and sayable. The right to look confronts the police who say to us “move on, there is nothing to see here.” Only there is; we know it, and so do they. The opposite of the right to look is not censorship, then, but visuality, that authority to tell us to move on and that exclusive claim to be able to look. Visuality…is in fact an early nineteenth-century term, meaning the visualization of history. This practice must be imaginary, rather than perceptual, because what is being visualized is too substantial for any one person to see and is created from information, images, and ideas.” (pg. 474) In Latour/Weibel’s Making Things Public there is an essay detailing the vast (and continuously growing) “world” of classified information, described as a culture. It not only incorporates military and state activities but also scientific knowledge (nuclear, biological, etc.), mathematics, commercial, etc. Not only is the right to look contentious in the everyday, but also within the consensus itself there is a hierarchy of lookers.

            Two headlines in the past week’s continuing news: “Casino execs’ pay a secret: State regulators devising license applications agreed that salaries of top casino officials won’t be public” and “Mystery prisoner has Utah jail authorities stumped”. The first is self explanatory and was the action of the duly elected representatives of the citizens of Ohio. I guess the citizens chose to abdicate their “right to look”.  The second concerns a man arrested on a misdemeanor charge of being on a municipal parking lot when the police told him to “move along now”. He had been held in jail for over three weeks because he refused to identify himself, and the police were frustrated in their various attempts to determine his identity (the ruse of a free phone call to a relative/acquaintance, fingerprints, etc.). Turns out his name is Phillip T. Beavers from New Mexico and he now faces three misdemeanor charges: interfering with an investigation, failure to provide information to a police officer and the original criminal trespass. The consensus is serious about its right to look!

            The Enlightenment has been linked to various disparate conceptualizations such as Modernism/progress, Imperialism, and Plato’s “The Good”. In a past posting from 2/11/2011 (What, No Politics?) I point out the gap in Ranciere’s thinking when it comes to refusal, such as that of Mr. Beavers. Likewise, incompletion creates an insufferable gap, an intolerable lack (which produces an obsessive response) when Enlightenment based conceptualization concerns itself with what is held back, refused, or not totally revealed (as touched on in a 10/3/10 posting The Conceptual And The Incomplete). Mirzoeff’s final line (as well as the first paragraphs of his essay) has a righteousness about itself, a virtuousness or goodness. One almost wants to jump up and say “Amen!” Yet to do so would be to slip into the Platonic approach of the Enlightenment. It would obfuscate the obvious “right to not be seen” exercised by so many living creatures, humans included. It opens the door to “all things must be seen, nothing is to be withheld, we are all adults here” which the WikiLeaks episode clamored for. This is childish in itself (as noted by so many early posts dealing with our preference for story, lies and fabrication in narrative). Physiologically, the human visual field inherently has a blind spot which, as Mirzoeff also notes, is filled in by imagination, making vision appear to be seamless. So to insist on a “right to look” is also to understand that in looking, one will not see everything that is there; whether because it has been withheld, refused, camouflaged, or is hiding in full and open sight like Whitey Bulger. In this case I think Ranciere is more accurate in locating “a political subjectivity and collectivity” through making seen (making visible) rather than looking. This likewise does not involve any “right” but rather a doing, a making, which looking also is (As expressed in Latour/Weibel’s Making Things Public). It all brings to mind the old philosophy saw of the veteran sailor and the new recruit at sea, perched on deck fulfilling their watch duty assignment. “What do you see?” asked the old salt. “I see nothing” answered the first year sailor. “You see a lot.” replied the old one.


March 23, 2011

            This week I submitted an entry to a Manifest Gallery show. This week also found me reading the excellent (and very critical) reply to the Yve-Alain Bois, Hal Foster, David Joselit Recessional Aesthetics questionnaire by Jakob Schillinger that appeared in the recent October 135 (pages 104-110). The Manifest Gallery entry form was conveniently online, with the usual: highlighted questions MUST be filled in or the machine spits the form back at you and emotionlessly informs that it can’t be accepted incomplete. You know: Who are you? What are you? Where do you live? How can you be reached (other than at the already given residence)? etc. Then there was “Status (select one): Student__ , Professional__ , Professor/Instructor__ , Novice__”. The nice thing about online forms is that you get time to think since some of these questions can be hard and can leave one completely dazed (like age, for instance). This happened to be one of those questions. I kept looking for the “All of the above__” and “None of the above__” selections, but there weren’t any; no professional student, no novice professor/instructor, no professional novice, nor professional student professor/instructor, etc. The thought of Schillinger’s reply appeared (the mind has got to go somewhere when it takes flight!). In a recent posting (Recognition Within Art, March 13, 2011) I suggest that in terms of Ranciere’s insights on aesthetics and politics and the equality of creativity (which cannot be taught and we all exercise until we are required to learn), recognition acts as the police aspect of consensus. This “Status” requirement certainly was a verification of not only the police function of recognition (for recognition is essentially the arbiter of what is novice and what is pro, what is student and what is professor, etc.) but also of the Ranciere Ignorant Schoolmaster equality of intelligence/creativity analogy (since there is likewise an assumed bifurcation in creativity between that of the novice and that of professor/instructor, etc.). But this “Status” requirement for entry form submission likewise verifies Schillinger’s position in that Manifest Gallery itself, within their own self-description of who is eligible to enter, states there is no distinction, all are eligible to enter (“is open to everyone. Professionals as well as students are encouraged to enter.”). So why is the distinction a requisite of entry? As Jakob says: “It seems we rely on these institutions, and we tend to trust the established criteria they reproduce and perpetuate. Why would someone who is doing interesting work not have an exhibition record, not have registered in the differentiated web of institutional structures? But wasn’t this the point? Didn’t we start from the very conclusion that these very structures are largely conditioned by the forms of the commodity, the spectacle, and entertainment? That they exert a “pressure to conform to [such] expectations,” which any artist (or writer, curator, etc.) who wants to succeed within them has to conform to?” (Pg. 109).

            Once there was a time when people were asked what their race was, whether they were married or single, etc. Feminism raised “consciousness” with regard to the structure of language and its use, and gave hope that change is possible. As Schillinger phrases it (Pg. 107) “X [X Initiative] is exemplary for a mode of operating whose success depends on the kind of discourse that conceals the fact that, unless we actively change things, things stay the same.”

            One doesn’t know whether it is technology which determines culture or culture that determines technology. This is an ambiguous question which if it was required to be answered on an online form would leave the one answering in a state of catatonic stupor. We all know that technology isn’t without categories, and that data in is data out. We also know that it is culture that supplies this very data. It brings to mind the history of American music in the 20th century as a verification of Ranciere’s dissensus within art. So much that “unknown”, unrecognized musicians were producing was considered as “not even music”.  But folks couldn’t get enough of it. I wonder how these musicians would be categorized in terms of “Status”- Student? Professional? Professor/instructor? Or Novice?

Recognition Within Art

March 13, 2011

            For some time now I have been bandying around certain co incidentals, never quite able to clearly understand the correlation. Jacques Ranciere’s juxtaposition of aesthetics and politics hinges primarily on dissensus. Dissensus is used both in comprehending politics as well as aesthetics (“And, in particular, the sensible pertaining to art and that pertaining to the beautiful only ever conjoin in the mode of ‘the dissensual’, since art cannot but know and to will, while the beautiful can only be thought of as that which does not result from knowledge or will.” The Use of Distinctions pg. 211 Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics). The political is understood in terms of the demos, and the role played therein by equality (“From the moment that the word equality is inscribed in the texts of laws and on the pediments of buildings; from the moment that a state institutes procedures of equality under a common law or an equal counting of votes, there is an effectiveness of politics, even if that effectiveness is subordinated to a police principle of distribution of identities, places and functions.” The Use of Distinctions pg. 207). Ranciere originates/ elaborates his understanding of equality with The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. This interpretation of the equality of intelligence forms the basis of communication between the demos, equality and politics. This description may bleed over into the art/aesthetic interpretation (“since art cannot but know and to will”) but that tack comes across as rather incomplete (and unsatisfying). With aesthetics, Ranciere’s tack is to reconfigures western art history in order to distinguish what he terms Art (in the singular and with a capital). He dwells extensively on the aesthetic regime of art (part of this reconfiguration) which makes Art possible (comprehensible). Equality of intelligence contributes to the comprehension of the workings of democracy and politics (within a democracy) but it does little to help grasp the workings of Art within the aesthetic regime (Why Emma Bovary Had To Be Killed). Indeed, the “equality” found in the aesthetics has more to do with representation, what can be said, and how. The agency aspect of intelligence, its subjectivity, and by extension the equality, is rather marginal to the account given of the aesthetic regime and Art. The analogous relationship seems to come unraveled here. We can’t seem to trace it back to a wonderful narrative like The Ignorant Schoolmaster. Or can we?

            Ranciere recognizes the classical distinction made between technique and creativity with regard to art (collectively and without a capital). With technique, equality cannot be posited since hierarchy is fundamental to definition (greater or lesser proficiency). But with creativity something else is at play (literally play). For Jacotot, that the mother tongue was learned by all without “a master explicator” was reason enough for an equality of intelligence. In like manner creativity is manifest early on by all. What is not present, the lack of which gives rise to the western distinction of Art Stars and those who abhor any association with art, is the one who recognizes (to paraphrase, a master recognizer). Like the Jacototean interpretation of intelligence, creativity cannot be taught and does not rely on an other (who appropriately dispenses creative capacity). It can be developed (Gasp!) but not necessarily through the required presence of a “master” (of creativity). With this interpretation, there is an equality of creativity. Recognition underwrites and insures the reproduction of academically educated art and artists. At its inception during the Renaissance, the academy primarily focused its attention on the development of technical skill (greater or lesser proficiency). Within the aesthetic regime, and Art (with its ontology of everything-can-be-anything, and the uniqueness, isolation and “separateness” of the art experience), a slippage has occurred with regard the required necessity of the schools in fostering the technical and their new role as adjudicators of creativity. Small wonder that so many abhor association with Art; that there is so much dissension to the policing of what is deemed Art and what is not.

            This subject is certainly worth revisiting again.

Something That Is And Is Not

February 18, 2011

            Describe, don’t explain.

            The 100 year anniversary of the birth of the great communicator. Ya gotta love the public employees’ union member protesting the union busting bill at the statehouse in Columbus Ohio who said to the reporter: “I’m a Reagan man and this bill is out to destroy the hardworking folks he stood for.” Duh? (For those of you whose long term memory either is not or has degenerated, Ronny promulgated the active undoing of all Roosevelt era programs, policies and institutions, including unions) But I digress. Some folks around today “knew” Ron first hand, like Nancy and his kids as well as business and political cronies, etc. Their narrative representations of the former US of A’s president have an “eyewitness” testimonial appeal that assumes preference and privilege. This is quickly being usurped by the myriad of “documentary” representations on film and video (still and moving, chemical and digital).  Legally, these are ascending in priority to that of the eyewitness account in terms of verification or validation of actual events. Even culturally there is a preference for the machine representation of an individual’s life as opposed to the individual themselves (or their spokesperson) as evidenced by Wojdiczko’s Alien Staff. But Reagan is not, and his representation very much is.

            Some have called for the great communicator to be placed alongside the four other presidents on Mt. Rushmore. At his presidential library there is a “life-size” bronze of him. So now we have Reagan the man, Reagan as represented by videos and film, and Reagan in 3D (I suppose we could have a Disneyworld kind of grotesque hybrid, an “animated” 3D Reagan; an American version of Lenin at the Kremlin. Again I digress). But Reagan is not. So lets try someone who is, a Reagan adorateur, like Joe The Plumber.

            OK, so in our little imaginary hypothetical, we have Joe (waving the little red Reagan book), Joe on video (waving his little red book, shown in real time), and Joe in 3D (life-size bronze, bearing book in hand, er, make that a cold cast bronze). Joe himself is indescribable (even to himself!). The description of Joe, the man, on video is very representable. And the “account” of Joe given in 3D, is describable but unrepresentable.

            Given the preference for the description of Joe on video (over that of the actual Joe, or the account in 3D) we’ll start there. The description on video is “representable” in that what determines the account can be “represented” through a scientific/technological narrative. It can be represented in terms of optics, electronic memory systems, or even electrons, etc. The degree of elaboration regarding this narrative representation (of the description arrived at through the process of video) varies and depends on the importance and primacy of the subject matter. Life/ death issues like accounts of nuclear generated events or medical imaging will receive a much more sophisticated and in depth representation than what goes on with a photo of Fluffy in the snow.  It is curious to note that when considering a representation of the technologically reproductive imaging process (rather than the product), it is haunted by the hierarchical exigencies of Ranciere’s representational regime of art.

            With the 3D account (of the person, Joe), we can describe the process readily enough. But we can’t represent it. A scientific/technical representation narrating what takes place determinant of this particular arrangement of 3D form as opposed to a different arrangement is just not. Sure, we can wave our hands in the air and make noises about mimesis, talent, and artistic enterprise, but by the standards of the preferred medium of description (Benjamin’s reproductive technologies, i.e. video) it is unrepresentable. OK, so we’ve all read Ranciere’s reference of Schiller’s account of the Juno Ludovisi how many times? But a description of the process that rendered that account possible (the what and wherefore of the statue’s making) is totally unrepresentable (by today’s rigorous technological criteria). What is involved with the creation of a 3D account of Joe The Plumber (red book in hand) is quite describable, but totally unrepresentable. It involves something that is and is not. How the piece is made is very describable (in terms of physical materials and mechanical operations). What accounts for the process of its coming into being (from nothing) is not representable, at least not through today’s preferred technologically representational narrative. Is it any wonder that so much 3D ART (in the singular and with a capital) is about the unrepresentable?