The March 07 issue of ArtForum features Ranciere (thanks to Keith for the heads up), and has the added bonus of making my bedroom floor look like the bedroom floor of a cultured type. I read ArtForum, check it, I’m cultured as shit.

Kristen Ross’s introduction describes the “emancipatory moment” – the subject of much of Ranciere’s work – as a “profound gesture of nonidentification with one’s supposed being or condition,” a “refusal to be contained by” what one is “or is supposed to be,do, or say”. (254.) R describes his project thus in an interview with Fulvia Carnevale and John Kelsey: “I have always sought to contest globalizing thought that relies on the presupposition of a historical necessity. In the 1970s I conducted research in early-nineteenth century workers’ archives because the May ’68 movement had highlighted the gap between Marxist theory and the complex history of the actual forms of workers’ emancipation. I did it to counter the return to Marxist dogmatism on the one hand and, on the other, the liquidation of the very thought of workers’ emancipation in the guise of a critique of Marxism. Later I weighed in on the questions of contemporary art, because the interpretation of twentieth-century art movements also found itself implicated in this manipulation of history. Contemporary art was taken hostage in the operation of the “end of utopias,” caught between so-called postmodern discourse, which proclaimed the “end of grand narratives,” and the reversal of modernism itself, as modernist thinkers ended up polemicizing against modernism, ultimately condemning emancipatory art’s utopias and their contribution to totalitarianism. It’s always the same process: using defined periods and great historical ruptures to impose interdictions. Against this, my work has been the same, whether dealing with labor’s past or art’s present: to break down the great divisions – science and ideology, high culture and popular culture, representation and the unrepresentable, the modern and the postmodern, etc — to contrast so-called historical necessity with a topography of possibilities, a perception of multiple alterations and displacements that make up forms of political subjectivization and artistic invention.” (257.)

R repeatedly describes his move as trying “to create a little breathing room”, for instance “with respect to the established divisions between modernity, the end of modernity, psotmodernity, and so on (…) by reestablishing an element of indeterminacy between artistic production and political subjectivization.” (257.)

R scorns art “exhibitions that capitalize on the denunciations of the “society of the spectacle” or of “consumer society” – bugbears that have already been denounced a hundred times – or those who want to make viewers “active” at all costs with the help of gadgets borrowed from advertising.” This type of art work “presuppose[s] the imbecility of the viewer while anticipating their precise effect on that viewer.” (258.) This is one trait of “a whole school of so-called critical thought and art that, despite its oppositional rhetoric , is entirely integrated within the space of consensus (…) works that pretend that to reveal to us the omnipotence of market flows, the reign of the spectacle, the pornography of power.” (264.)

R on emancipation is close to Badiou on the primacy of multiples, writing that “[t]he idea of emancipation implies that there are never places that impose their law, that there are always several spaces in a space, several ways of occupying it, and each time the trick is knowing what sort of capacities one is setting in motion, what sort of world one is constructing.” (262.) The goal is to “find ways to create other places, or other uses of places. (263.)

R also scorns those “critics of the market [who] are content to rest their own authority on the endless demonstration that everyone else is naive or a profiteer,” those who, “capitalize on the declaration of our powerlessness. The critique of the market today has become a morose reassessment that, contrary to its stated aims, serves to forestall the emancipation of minds and practices. (…) These critics of the market call for subversion only to declare it impossible and to abandon all hope for emancipation.” (263.) Marxism as polizeiwissenschaft. Against this, R posits the reexamination – and really, rejection – of “the idea that certain types of material arrangements have automatic effects in terms of subjectivization.” (264.) He also specifies that movement/stasis and politics/police do not correspond. Rather, the former pair can appear as a form of either side of the latter pair. “[T]he cathphrase of the police is “Move along! There’s nothing to see.” (…) the police order is always at once a system of circulation and a system of borders. And the practice of dissensus is always a practice that both crosses boundaries and stops traffic.” (264.)

“If there is a circulation that should be stopped at this point, it’s this circulation of stereotypes that critique stereotypes, giant stuffed animals that denounce our infantilization, media giants that denounce the media, spectacular installations that denounce the spectacle, etc. There is a whole series of forms of critical or activist art that are caught up in this police logic of the equivalence of the power of the market and the power of its denunciation.” (266.)

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