The Emancipated Spectator
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The theorists of art and film commonly depict the modern audience as aesthetically and politically passive. In response, both artists and thinkers have sought to transform the spectator into an active agent and the spectacle into a communal performance.
In this follow-up to the acclaimed The Future of the Image, Rancière takes a radically different approach to this attempted emancipation. First asking exactly what we mean by political art or the politics of art, he goes on to look at what the tradition of critical art, and the desire to insert art into life, has achieved. Has the militant critique of the consumption of images and commodities become, ironically, a sad affirmation of its omnipotence?
the messages concealed in images. And now, naturally enough, recycled critical science makes us smile at the imbeciles who still think such things as concealed messages in images and a reality distinct from appearances exist. The machine can work in this way until the end of time, capitalizing on the impotence of the critique that unveils the impotence of the imbeciles. Therefore, I do not want to add another twist to the reversals that forever maintain the same machinery. Instead, I have
presentation and interpretation of the given imposing its obviousness on all. It means that every situation can be cracked open from the inside, reconfigured in a different regime of perception and signification. To reconfigure the landscape of what can be seen and what can be thought is to alter the field of the possible and the distribution of capacities and incapacities. Dissensus brings back into play both the obviousness of what can be perceived, thought and done, and the distribution of
the intolerability of the image. This displacement is what is fully revealed by the critique of the image in the name of the unrepresentable. The paradigmatic example of it was provided by the polemic over the exhibition ‘Mémoires des camps’, staged a few years ago in Paris. At the centre of the exhibition were four small photographs taken of an Auschwitz gas chamber by a member of the Sonderkommando. These photographs showed a group of naked women being pushed towards the gas chamber and the
between a temporality of the sequence and a temporality of the break. Video made this tension disappear, in favour of an infinite circularity of the metamorphoses of docile matter. The same has been true of video art as of photography. Its development contradicted the dilemma between anti-art and radically new art. The video image has likewise been able to make itself the site of a heterogenesis, a tension between various regimes of expression. A characteristic work of these years helps us to
distribution of positions. The spectator also acts, like the pupil or scholar. She observes, selects, compares, interprets. She links what she sees to a host of other things that she has seen on other stages, in other kinds of place. She composes her own poem with the elements of the poem before her. She participates in the performance by refashioning it in her own way – by drawing back, for example, from the vital energy that it is supposed to transmit in order to make it a pure image and