[Marxism] New in Paperback from Verso: The Emancipated Spectator by Jacques Ranciere

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Mon Mar 12 10:53:01 MDT 2012




Published: 24 OCTOBER 2011


“An illuminating philosopher of the politics of aesthetics” – ART REVIEW


Theorists of art and film commonly depict the modern audience as passive consumers. In response, both artists and thinkers have sought to transform the viewer of art or the spectator into someone involved in the drama before them – seeking to ‘emancipate’ the spectator and make them politically active.

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 influential curator and critic, NICHOLAS BOURRIAUD, championed the notion of a more socially engaged art, where the public are encouraged to participate in an event or artwork. We have seen the influence of such ideas in such projects as ANTONY GORMLEY’S ‘One & Other’ that took place on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Now, groups like UK Uncut are taking things a step further by using participatory art in an unashamedly political context.

Rancière turns these ideas over and argues that “being a spectator is not some passive condition that we should transform into activity. It is our normal situation.” For Rancière, there is no privileged starting point in art but we should reassess the relations between seeing, doing, speaking: emancipation means blurring these boundaries.

Looking over the tradition of critical art and what the desire to insert art into life has achieved, Rancière asks, ‘has the militant critique of the consumption of images and commodities has become, ironically, a sad confirmation of its omnipotence?’



“This persuasive argument is fleshed out through close readings of art, photography, literature and video installation, and a drily amusing analysis”  - Steven Poole, GUARDIAN.

“The Emancipated Spectator is intended to improve our comprehension of art and deepen our grasp of the politics of perception….[it has an] impressive concern with the political analysis of art and the use of imagery” – TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION

“[A] spectator whose capacities to sense and think are greater than we have been prepared to believe.” – RADICAL PHILOSOPHY


Jacques Rancière is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris-VIII. His books include THE POLITICS OF AESTHETICS, ON THE SHORES OF POLITICS, SHORT VOYAGES TO THE LAND OF THE PEOPLE, THE NIGHTS OF LABOR and STAGING THE PEOPLE.


ISBN: 978 1 84467 761 0 / $16.95 / £9.99 / $21.00CAN/ Paperback / 134 pages


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