Aesthetics, Politics, and Art's Autonomy: A Critical Reading of Jacques Rancière

Evental Aesthetics 3 (1):40-64 (2014)

This paper considers Jacques Rancière’s influential theory of the relation between aesthetics, politics, and art. First, it synthesizes Rancière’s theory. Second, it offers a critical perspective of Rancière’s conception of the autonomy of art in relation to his theory of politics and aesthetics. In doing so, the purpose is to work towards the development of a theoretical base in which we may follow Rancière’s theory of the relation between aesthetic experience and politics whilst avoiding compliance with his relatively fixed and structural notion of the autonomy of art as an attribute of what he calls the aesthetic regime of art. Drawing a distinction between the autonomous experience of the work of art and the ideology of the autonomy of art, this paper argues that the prior comes about both within and in opposition to the latter: the autonomy of art hinges on a relative and relational production of a singularity, not on a structural and defining separation of art from the world of habitual aesthetic experience
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