Thursday, October 24, 2013

Here, too, the 'politics' of art paradoxically consists in setting aside all economic and social 'explanations' of the existence and destruction of the shanty town to identify a more specifically political element: the confrontation between the power and the impotence of a body, between a life and its possibilities. This way of addressing the 'truly political', however, does not manage to sidestep the incalculable tension between political dissensuality and aesthetic indifference. It cannot sidestep the fact that a film remains a film and a spectator remains a spectator. Film, video art, photography and installation art rework the frame of our perceptions and the dynamism of our affects. As such, they may open up new passages for political subjectivation, but they cannot avoid the aesthetic cut that separates consequences from intentions and prevents their from being any direct passage to an 'other side' of words and images.
His focus on aesthetics as an invention of the last 200 hundred years is absurd. Aesthetics is the reification of poetic form, as modern Politics is the reification of the millennia of political life (as if "political life" were not a redundancy.)  As theories both are products of separation of the perceptual and the intellectual that marks the modern age. The western aesthetic conception of art replaces the moral conception of art: of art as the manifestation of the order or an aspect of the world, according to whatever culture. The original conception lives in in the conception of artists themselves:
And the ethical demand made of the artist is, as always, to produce “good” works, and only the dilettante and the producer of kitsch (whom we meet here for the first time) focus their work on beauty.
The fact that we now see the history of art as the history of the manifestations of culture does not mean that its function changes.  The more you make art, or politics, from how you want to be seen, the more it shows you as you are. And your grandchildren will laugh at you for it, if they're not ashamed for your crimes. Ranciere argues from the intended meanings of words, from original authorial intent. He's a philologist and philosopher of the Church, or in its absence of high purpose.  I wouldn't trust him reading the US Constitution any more than I trust Scalia. He argues from ideas as if ideas change the world. Ideas are no more or less than a response to a change in function of words and forms. Once an "idea" appears, you know damn well the forms it represents have been around for awhile. Ideas are codifications not discoveries. Philosophers did not invent democracy any more than they invented monarchy but they do tend idealize one and to deaden the other.

One and the same civilization produces simultaneously two such different things as a poem by T. S. Eliot and a Tin Pan Alley song, or a painting by Braque and a Saturday Evening Post cover. All four are on the order of culture, and ostensibly, parts of the same culture and products of the same society. Here, however, their connection seems to end. A poem by Eliot and a poem by Eddie Guest—what perspective of culture is large enough to enable us to situate them in an enlightening relation to each other? Does the fact that a disparity such as this within the frame of a single cultural tradition, which is and has been taken for granted—does this fact indicate that the disparity is a part of the natural order of things? Or is it something entirely new, and particular to our age?
It requires some effort of analysis to understand why one person, among many who do a thing with accomplished skill, should be greater than the others; nor is it always easy to distinguish superiority from great popularity, when the two go together. I am thinking of Marie Lloyd, who has died only a short time before the writing of this letter. Although I have always admired her genius I do not think that I always appreciated its uniqueness; I certainly did not realize that her death would strike me as the most important event which I have had to chronicle in these pages. Marie Lloyd was the greatest music-hall artist in England: she was also the most popular. And popularity in her case was not merely evidence of her accomplishment; it was something more than success. It is evidence of the extent to which she represented and expressed that part of the English nation which has perhaps the greatest vitality and interest.
And Ranciere prefers Vertov to Eisenstein; no wonder the art world loves him. But Eisenstein's politics are in his preference for narrative.  He's a better artist in spite of his role as propagandist not because of it.

Democratic responsibility divides self from self. The proper art of democracy is theater. Ranciere takes us back to Plato, when we want Euripides and Aristophanes. Democracy is the culture of language in use, and he's giving us lessons on democracy as grammar.  We'll always need cops but cops need to be citizens first, with a sense of irony about their role, something Ranciere lacks. Being an anti-philosopher isn't enough. He's defined himself as what he opposes, so it will always overshadow him, like daddy. He's a guilt-ridden pied-noir and guilt is never the best driver of rational thought.

Politics is arguing with your roommate about who does the dishes, and expands out from there. Art is your haircut and the color of your shirt, and expands out from there. Art as "Art" is the expansion, the increasing formalization, description and concomitant ironization of preference. It's the documentation, description, analysis, and celebration of drunkenness made for an audience of the sober, for the purpose of making them not seem to witness drunkenness, in its simulation, but feel it.  It's hard to pull off if you're drunk. It's the manifestation of Gursky's nihilism and the manifestation of the calm of the Buddha, formed in stone. It's not an idea and it's not the invention of the fucking 18th century.

That after reading Ten Theses on Politics, and a couple of reviews of his books. I'll read more and amend it or apologize if necessary.  So far even when he's right he's wrong

I'm not going to write a mash note to Russell Brand. It's not worth it, and it's not the point.

Everything we know through the study of history and anthropology shows language and culture moving from the ground up.  Philosophy, as aristocratic prescription, works in the other direction, through  an analogical relation with an imagined authority. The association of language and mathematics, of language as grammar, not writing/speech (use) is authoritarian. [This is all repeats.] Ranciere's focus on philology and the words and ideas of the old masters is an old trope, and his masters are priests not storytellers, or rather they're storytellers with a claim to a higher calling. And the philosophy of irony is no more irony than the philosophy of biology is biology.  Irony like democracy is defined in its practice. An anti-authoritarian is no better at escaping his past than an anti-philosopher. If Brand (and Zizek) are both fools, there's hope that fools will mature.  Pedants almost by definition don't

Mayor Bloomberg had little sympathy yesterday for New Yorkers who find the new $20 admission to the Museum of Modern Art a bit steep. "Some things people can afford, some things people can't,"
Mayor Bloomberg grants Metropolitan Museum of Art right to charge mandatory entrance fee.  New York City's outgoing mayor has entered the museum's legal dispute and granted it the right to impose a mandatory entrance fee of $25 or more.

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