Aesthetics and Politics Revisited: An Interview with Jacques Rancière

Critical Inquiry 38 (2):289-297 (2012)

Abstract
In this interview, Jacques Rancière describes the character of the aesthetic regime and the relationship between politics and aesthetics in his work, along with the role of artistic practices, technological innovations, and the institution of the museum in the redistribution of the sensible and the similarities and differences between his theories and Walter Benjamin’s work on modernity. Rancière argues that the aesthetic regime entails both a rupture with what came before it and the possibility of recycling and reinterpreting works of the past, what Benjamin described as the surrealist practice of evoking the outmoded. While emphasizing the political and military preconditions to the aesthetic regime over technological or economic considerations, Rancière also warns against drawing strict parallels between aesthetic regimes and political presuppositions of equality or inequality. Furthermore, Rancière refuses to privilege Marcel Duchamp’s readymades in the aesthetic regime’s redistribution of the sensible, pointing, instead, to Emile Zola’s Le ventre de Paris and the creation of the modern institution of the museum as key moments that broke with preexisting distributions of the sensible. Rancière also distinguishes his discussion of novelistic realism and narration from Benjamin’s characterization of modernity as the decline in the ability to narrate experience, critiquing Benjamin’s nostalgia for the past while recognizing as fruitful his linking of new possibilities in aesthetic experience to the creation of new technologies
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DOI 10.1086/662743
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