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Maska, časopis za scenske umetnosti

THE AESTHETIC REVOLUTION

Maska - Performing Arts Journal, nos. 183–184 (Summer 2017)

 

Scenes of a World


This issue of Maska is dedicated to the work of Jacques Rancière and the discussions opened up by his distinctive examination of “the sensible fabric” and “intelligible forms” that establish the world of art but also co-inform the coordinates of the world we live in. The issue is the result of a conference The Aesthetic Regime of Art: Dimensions of Rancière’s Theory, organised in Ljubljana by the Maska Institute, the Slovenian Society of Aesthetics and Azil Bookshop between 26-28 November 2015 on the occasion of the Slovene translation of Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art. Rancière himself attended the conference, which he opened with a public lecture (also included in the present issue) at the Slovene Book Fair.


Aisthesis deals with the transformations that, occurring from the end of the eighteenth century onward, have made possible the emergence of art as “a separate world,” a world determined by a particular sphere of sensible experience, a “sensorium of exception” in which the distinction between thought and the sensible, matter and form, activity and passivity are suspended. Together with the discourses that make it intelligible and the material conditions that support it, this sphere constitutes the aesthetic regime of art, in which ways of producing, experiencing and understanding artistic practices are revolutionised and united under a single and singular notion of Art.


The autonomisation of art, however, was accomplished as a process of heteronomisation. Art only appeared as a distinct field when all the pre-established criteria that defined individual art practices dissolved. The separate world of art is thus paradoxically established “by blurring the specificities that define the arts and the boundaries that separate them from the prosaic world.” The separate world of art is a world of blurred boundaries, a world to which anything can, in principle, belong.


The aesthetic regime of art thus coincides with a “democratisation of sensible experience,” which implies a certain politics of aesthetics. Art’s becoming a separate world does not entail elitist alienation or ivory tower isolation. Aesthetic distance enables a democratisation that intervenes in the distribution of the sensible, which also dictates the order that arranges bodies by attributing them a “proper” place within the community. At this point, the political dimension of aesthetics meets the aesthetic dimension of politics. This is why the scenes described in Aisthesis correspond to the scenes from the lives of nineteenth-century workers that Rancière assembled in Proletarian Nights thirty years earlier – scenes of revolutionary transformations in the sensible experience of these workers.


Art can exist as a separate world with blurred boundaries because the field of aesthesis that constitutes it also determines the coordinates of the common world we live in. This is only possible if the world is not an ontological category of totality but rather a historically determined category of experience, one constituted by fictions. The relations between the visible and the invisible, the distribution of capacities and incapacities and the categories of time and narration are fictive forms that determine the experience and intelligibility of the common world and its divisions.


The overall subject matter of Rancière’s work, beyond disciplinary divisions between aesthetic and political theory, historiography, and so on, are the forms of fiction that constitute the common world. His work is dedicated to “constructing the sphere of intelligibility” able to grasp the historic and contemporary scenes in which the “egalitarian power” that suspends divisions and democratises sensible experience can be identified. The artistic scenes in which this egalitarian power is at work, suspend divisions in the sensible, dissolve frameworks of totality and interrupt narrative sequences. Despite intervening in the same sensible order, aesthetic forms of equality cannot, however, be directly translated into political terms. As Rancière’s work shows, the aesthetic distance that provides art’s political power simultaneously prevents it from having a direct political impact.


The sensible micro-events that constitute scenes from the aesthetic regime of art are often found in partial objects: mutilated statues or statues of separate body parts, pictorial scenes in modern fiction, figures that unite non-similar elements, and so on. What kind of relation to the common world can these marginal phenomena have? Precisely because it is mutilated, the torso of Hercules can “proliferate into a multiplicity of unknown bodies,” Baudelaire’s prose poem can present a “little scene that suffices to sum up a world,” and Rodin’s sculptures of hands can, in Rilke’s words, accomplish the artist’s task of creating “a world from the smallest part of a thing.” These scenes connect to form a metonymical series of sensible events and are capable, as moments, of “engendering another line of temporality,” thereby reframing the sensible fabric of the world.


Before Rancière, Adorno also put forward the idea that the artwork is an alienated fragment in which the (un)truth of the whole is expressed. He used Leibniz’s concept of the windowless monad, slightly remodelling it: the artwork as a monad has no representational relation to the world and yet, in its isolation, a truth about the world is inscribed in it – the truth of the world’s disharmony. According to Rancière, however, the artwork is not a monad harbouring truth, but rather a window in which the sensible fabric that constitutes the world is reframed. For his reinterpretation of artistic modernity, the conceptual metaphor of the monadless window thus seems more appropriate. Rancière no longer defines the aesthetic revolution as art’s break with representation; rather, the revolution entails the abolition of restrictions imposed upon representation, of the set of principles that previously distinguished between lowly and noble subject matters, and that determined the correspondences between subject matters and the appropriate forms of their figuration – all of which presupposed a determinate social hierarchy. According to the logic of the aesthetic regime, artistic objects and practices are no longer defined by a dialectics of alienation and expression, but rather in terms of a singular reframing of the world that enables the dissolution, or reconfiguration, of divisions within the sensible. An object that is separated from the world by aesthetic distance does not turn into a monument of the world’s disharmony, but rather into a detached fragment out of which a different construction of the common world can be extracted.


The essays collected in the present issue of Maska all variously address the aforementioned: questions regarding the formation of the world of art as a world of blurred boundaries; the problem of divisions within the sensible construction of the common world; and the interventions that establish the sphere of democratised sensible experience. Rancière’s Ljubljana lecture sheds new light on several aspects of the aesthetic revolution, while the interview with him provides some additional contextualisation to his claims. Bruno Besana’s article carries out a precise analysis of Rancière’s conceptualisation of the politics of aesthetics, as based precisely on the non-relation between art and politics. Rok Benčin’s text explores the metaphorical and the metonymical connections of the egalitarian scene that reframe the world. Steven Corcoran’s essay examines the democratic logic of fiction that Rancière discerns in modern literature. Andrej Šprah reflects on the ways in which the experience of migrants, excluded from the given construction of the common world, can be presented on film. Natalija Majsova studies the implications of the cinematographic expansion of the world into outer space. Ivana Perica analyses Rancière’s work through the concept of hybridity as a fusion of separate worlds. And Lev Kreft writes on the socialist aspects of nineteenth-century popular fiction.


Rok Benčin

Translated by the author

 

Content

Maska 185–186
AUTUMN 2017

THE AESTHETIC REVOLUTION

Jacques Rancière: THE AESTHETIC REVOLUTION

Steven Corcoran: THE LOST THREAD OF STRATEGY: LORD JIM, JACQUES RANCIÈRE AND DREAMING

Rok Benčin: METAPHORICAL AND METONYMICAL EQUALITY: FROM A RHETORIC OF SOCIETY TO AN AESTHETICS OF POLITICS

Bruno Besana: FICTIONING DISAGREEMENT: THE CONSTUCTION OF SEPARATION IN THE WORK OF JACQUES RANCIÈRE

Andrej Šprah: THE REFUGEE ISSUE AT THE HEART OF POLITICAL FILM

Pia Brezavšček, Saška Rakef Perko: “YOU OUGHT NOT TO BE OBSSESED WITH THE IDEA THAT YOU HAVE TO INTERVENE ON EVERY SUBJECT AT EVERY MOMENT.”: INTERVIEW WITH JACQUES RANCIÈRE

Natalija Majsova: TAKING CINEMATIC AESTHETICS INTO OUTER SPACE: DREAMING OF SPACE AND PAPER SOLDIER 

Ivana Perica: HYBRIDITY: DISCUSSING RANCIÈRE WITH AUSTRO-MARXISM

Lev Kreft: DANDY SOCIALISM



MASKA Performing Arts Journal
Since 1920
vol. XXXI, nos. 183–184 (Summer 2017)

ISSN 1318-0509

Published by: Maska, Institute for Publishing, Production and Education | Metelkova 6, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia | Phone: +386 1 4313122 | Fax: +386 1 4313122 | E-mail: info@maska.si | www.maska.si | For the publisher: Janez Janša

Editor: Amelia Kraigher | Editors of this issue: dr. Rok Benčin, Steven Corcoran, Amelia Kraigher | Editorial Board: Nika Arhar, Pia Brezavšček, Janez Janša, dr. Nikolai Jeffs, dr. Nenad Jelesijević, dr. Andreja Kopač, dr. Bojana Kunst, Nika Leskovšek, Gašper Malej, Rok Vevar | International Advisory Board: dr. Daniela Hahn, dr. Stefan Apostolou-Hölscher, dr. Thomas Irmer, mag. Martina Ruhsam, André Schallenberg

Design and Layout: Ajdin Bašić, Iztok Kham | Slovene Language Editors: Tatjana Capuder, Amelia Kraigher, Gašper Malej | English Language Editor: Steven Corcoran | Print: Cicero | Copies: 400

Price of double issue (international): 10 € | Price of triple issue (international): 12 € |  Price of quadruple issue (international): 15 € | Annual international subscription for six (6) nos.: Individual rate for Europe 67 €, Individual rate, Rest of World 77 (distributed by Maska Ljubljana). International institutional rate: print and online subscription 195 € / 136 £ / 226 $, online only 136 € / 105 £ / 175 $ (distributed by Intellect Ltd. and Turpin Distribution, UK) | Package and postage included. | Business secretary: Polona Calderera | Subscription and distribution for individuals from Europe and Rest of World: polona.calderera@maska.si | TranAccount number: 02010-00165250861 | Maska is available in both print and electronic formats through Turpin Distribution, Pegasus Drive, Stratton Business Park, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, SG18 8TQ, UK; T: +1 860 350 0031 (North America), +44 (0) 1767 604 951, F: +44 (0)1767 601640 (Institutional EU and Rest of World orders, except Slovenia and North America); E: custserv@turpin-distribution.com, W: www.turpin-distribution.com.

Although we have tried our best to track down copyright holders of photos and other visual materials, we have not always succeeded. The authors are kindly asked to contact the editorial board.

Maska was founded in 1920 by the Ljubljana sub-committee of the Association of Theatre Players of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Udruženje gledaliških igralcev Kraljevine SHS). In 1985, the Association of Cultural Organisations of Slovenia (Zveza kulturnih organizacij Slovenije) revived this publication under the title of Maske. In 1991, its original name was restored and its co-founder – Institutum Studiorum Humanitatis – reinstated.

Chief and/or executive editors thus far: Rade Pregarc (1920–21), Peter Božič & Tone Peršak (1985–90), Maja Breznik (1991–93), Irena Štaudohar (1993–98), Janez Janša (1998–2006), Katja Praznik (2007–2009), Maja Murnik (2011) & Amelia Kraigher (2012–2017).

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The journal is supported by the Slovenian Book Agency.

Cover illustration: Teja Kleč