Notes on: Ranciere, J.  (2011) The Emancipated Spectator, translated by Gregory Elliott, London: Verso.

Dave Harris

Chapter one The Emancipated Spectator.

This book originated from reflections based on The Ignorant Schoolmaster [IS, summarized, 1, and also 8-11], and led to a speculation about the relationship between intellectual emancipation and the issue of the spectator, breaking with the usual discussions found even in postmodernism.  These usual notions had to be reconstructed first, in terms of a 'general model of rationality'(2), and theories relating to the political implications of spectacle.  These amount to a classic 'paradox of the spectator'—there is no theatre without a spectator, but spectators are passive and ignorant, unaware about the process of production involved.  'To be a spectator was to be separated from both the capacity to know and so the power to act'.  Two conclusions follow—the theatre is a scene of illusion and passivity, offering only spectacle and ignorance, as in Plato, and this is mediated through a particular 'optical machinery that prepares the gaze for illusion and passivity'(3).  For Plato, true communities avoided theatrical mediation, and preferred instead direct community thought and action.

This action has persisted into modern theatrical critics, some of whom have suggested a different kind of theatre instead, where barriers between performers and spectators are broken down, and the 'passive optical relationship' replaced by a more dramatic one—'Drama means action'.  The audience is to be mobilized by the bodies on stage, by performance, intelligence and energy as an active power, with only active participants.  In one version, the spectator must empathise with the characters on the stage, offered a mystery to resolve, or 'an exemplary dilemma' of the kind facing all human beings.  In another version, the distance itself 'must be abolished', where audiences are drawn into theatrical action.  Brecht and Artaud represent the alternatives in terms of developing distance for the one and foregoing distance for the other, refining the gaze or abandoning 'the very position of viewer' (5).

However, both ironically support Plato's critique, replacing the evils of theatre with community [in Plato's case 'the choreographic community', where everyone follows the community rhythm].  This division is preserved in the current distinction between the theatre and the spectacle, and the audience been transformed into the community—'"theatre" is an exemplary community form', the community is self conscious not distanced through representation, 'the body in action' (6).  The theatre is seen as a particularly potent way to do this, to make ordinary people become conscious, 'the purifying ritual in which a community is put in possession of its own energies', breaking with mimesis.

The critique of the spectacle in DeBord supports this view, with the spectacle as a matter of 'self - dispossession'.  The approach seems to be anti-Platonic, derived from Marx through Feuerbach on religion, and depending on the 'Romantic vision of truth as non-separation'.  However, Plato's notion of mimesis remains, 'contemplation of the appearance separated from its truth' (7), a contemplation of an alien version of activity.  All that happens is that Plato's prohibition of theatre is now changed into a policy of reform, but the principles, equivalences and presuppositions remain. Theatre blames itself for rendering spectators passive and therefore sees itself as the only way to reverse these effects by restoring ownership to the audience, leading to 'the virtue of true theatre' which does not mediate.  The theatre itself breaks spectators out of the passivity and makes them want to act, alienating them for Brecht, or forcing them to participate for Artaud.

This is the link with intellectual emancipation.  This is the pedagogical relationship criticized in IS.  Pedagogues must constantly recreate distance in the very activity of reducing it, constantly combating ignorance by always being 'one step ahead' (8).  Ignorance is not just a matter of lacking concepts, but ignorance of what people do not know nor how to know, and schoolmasters know how to develop knowledge.  Ignoramuses have knowledge, but it is not ordered and stratified, and it is extended at random through comparisons with what is already known: it is not a matter merely of accumulating knowledge [lots of hints of the distinctions between surface and deep approaches here].  The nature and depth of ignorance is not realized, except by schoolmasters.  For them, ignorance is the opposite of knowledge, unbridgeable except through pedagogy, a matter of 'two intelligences: one that knows what ignorance consists in and one that does not'(9).  This radical difference is the first thing that progressive teaching teaches, which implies the inability of the pupil without pedagogy—this 'is what Jacotot calls stultification'.  It follows that intellectual emancipation requires 'the verification of the equality of intelligence' in a radical form, the intelligences that all human beings possess, shown in the way in which they learn before they get to school.  This is 'comparing one thing with another, a sign with a fact, a sign with another sign' (10)—for example, teaching an illiterate by comparing a prayer she knows by heart with the words of this prayer written down.  This is no different from the way in which scientists operate—'the same intelligence is always at work', a matter of translating signs into other signs, developing through comparisons and illustrations, understanding other intelligences, and communicating one's own: a 'poetic labour of translation'.

This is what the ignorant schoolmaster does instead of preserving 'stupefying distance'.  Distance is normal to any communication, and human beings have learned to overcome it, to 'communicate through the forest of signs'.  This is the normal path to knowledge from what is already known, the art of translation, of expressing experience, translation and counter-translation.  The ignorant schoolmaster is not someone who knows nothing, but rather someone who has 'renounced the "knowledge of ignorance"' (11), and separated mastery from knowledge.  Pupils do not learn his knowledge, but learn how to see, and think of what they have seen.  There is no inequality of intelligence.  Distances are factual matters, and can be combated by 'the path traced between a form of ignorance and a form of knowledge', and this does not take the form of fixed positions or hierarchies.

Modern theatre no longer explains to audiences what the truth might be, but presuppositions remain.  New forms of theatre possibly even increase the pressure on spectators to think for themselves, after their passive attitude has been disrupted.  This is the same stance as the pedagogue, however, assuming two initial positions separated by some gulf.  However, the very fact of desiring to abolish distance also 'creates it' (12), by assuming the spectator is passive and inactive in the first place, and assuming that spectators were only there to pursue pleasure in 'images and appearances' and are not interested in the truth, or seeing speech as 'the opposite of action'. These are not logical or natural oppositions but offer an unfortunate 'distribution of the sensible, an a priori distribution of the positions and capacities and incapacities attached to these positions. They are embodied allegories of inequality'.  The value of the specific  positions can be reversed, but the opposition remains. 

There is also still a distinction between those who have these radical ideas and take a comprehensive view, and mere practitioners.  This goes back to the old notion of property owners as active citizens, while mere workers were passive ones, and these two categories remain.  Emancipation involves challenging this opposition, questioning this implicit structure, seeing that 'viewing is also an action' (13), and spectating also involves selection, comparison and interpretation—'She composes her own poem where the elements of the poem before her'. Spectating is participation.  It involves withdrawing from the intentions of the performance 'in order to make it a pure image', which can be given personal associations.  Spectators 'compose their own poem' just as much as actors and dancers or performers [if they have the cultural capital that is? Otherwise they pastiche popular culture? Of course, R is right to argue that capacities are not identical  to social categories].

[A curious example as evidence here, observations of participants in a Shiite religious drama.  The contemporary example might be spectators faces at football matches? Incidentally, try the account of wacky and pretty aggressive Danish participatory theatre in Sundbo and Darmer, ch.10].

Pedagogues insist on some notion of uniform transmission to be conveyed, so that pupils and spectators can only learn what it is they are supposed to be being taught.  Ignorant schoolmasters break with this system, splitting their energy and enthusiasm from their mastery of knowledge: the latter 'forces [the pupil] to search and verifies this research'(14).  Artists will often deny that they wish to instruct.  They claim they are producing consciousness and intensity, but this still is supposed to be conveyed only by the dramatic performance: there is a cause and effect notion here and this is itself 'based on an inegalitarian principle', that the pedagogue/artist knows best how to abolish distance.  What is not grasped is that the performance itself is also different from these pedagogic intentions, as 'an autonomous thing, between the idea of the artist and the sensation or comprehension of the spectator'. In order to pursue emancipation, there is always 'a third thing—a book or some other piece of writing— alien to both [pedagogy and pupil] and to which they can refer to verify in common what the pupil has seen, what she says about it and what she thinks of it' (15).  This third thing, and its meanings, is owned by no one.

Emancipation is not a matter of allowing individuals to reappropriate something that they have lost.  We find this in DeBord's critique of the spectacle, Feuerbach on religion and Marx's notion of alienation.  For these people, the third term only pretends to offer autonomy but it is contaminated by 'dispossession and its concealment'.  Radical theatre abolishes the distance between audience and players, or takes performances outside of theatres and offers a redistribution of places, and some interesting performances, but it is mistaken to think that this will create some new community who will penetrate alienation and the spectacle [same follows for progressive especially community pedagogy?].

Directors think that if they can abolish the immediate hierarchy between actors and spectators, a proper community will emerge, one that is quite different from the passive audiences for television and film, even though electronic images are incorporated increasingly in theatre.  This is a [behaviourist, positivist] mistake, since 'the mass of individuals watching the same television show at the same hour' can also be interactive and communitarian (16).  Conversely, the audience for the theatre is still 'only ever individuals plotting their own paths in the forest of things, acts and signs that confront or surround them'.  If there is a collective power, it is this general capacity to make sense on an individual level, to pursue a 'unique intellectual adventure that makes [the individual spectator] similar to all the rest in as much as this adventure is not like any other'[abstract and idealist in my view, and very uncritical].  We all display performances, including spectating, and these demonstrate our anonymous capacities that make 'everyone equal to everyone else', emerging through 'an unpredictable interplay of associations and dissociations' (17) [it is just assumed that these are individual, of course]. It is normal for us to be active interpreters, and 'we all learn and teach, act and know'.  We encounter 'constant starting points intersections and junctions' between things that we know, between boundaries and territories and between roles.  Every spectator is also an actor, and vice versa.

R's personal experience shows this.  He was exposed to progressive pedagogues who wanted to prepare him for struggle [Althusser], and he also encountered those who thought intellectuals lived in ivory towers and needed to be taught by workers [students went off and worked in factories -- these radical options for maoists are discussed in Reid's Introduction to Proletarian Nights].  R was not convinced by either, and preferred to undertake some history of the working class movement [!] to find out how workers and intellectuals had interrelated.  Investigating the correspondence of workers in the 1830s leads him to see how two Saint-Simonians spent their time when not at work—this included cultural activities in the evening, and fascinating walks in the countryside.  This is not just recreation but 'the leisure of aesthetes who enjoy the landscape's forms…  Of philosophers who settle into a country inn to develop metaphysical hypotheses…  Of apostles who apply themselves to communicating their faith to all the chance companions encountered' (19) [danger of talk up here, obviously].  Reading these accounts persuaded R of a fundamental equality, and of the critical stance towards their own social class activities [sad git -- didn't he know any clever proles personally beforehand then?].  There was no barrier between working and contemplation in leisure: they were spectators and visitors of their own lives.  This disrupted the distribution of the sensible, and blurred the boundaries between actors and spectators, individuals and members of the collective.  Leisure activity was not just tied to work, but was 'the reconfiguration in the here and now of the distribution of space and time, work and leisure'[cries out for Parker's stuff on the relations between work conditions and leisure activities, which included 'extension' as well as neutral and oppositional forms].  The workers were intellectuals 'as is anyone and everyone' (20), no different from the researcher who read the letters in the library, or from Marxist theorists and activists [Hammersley would be good here -- there is a difference between codifed and systematic intellectual activity and experience  etc -- mere pedagogic ideology for R or rejected on a priori political or axiomatic grounds?].

Given this blurring of boundaries, the problem emerged on how to tell the story.  R found it necessary to compare the workers story to the model in Plato's Republic [so it wasn't that Platonism had survived and been detected in later positions, more that it helps him tell the story as a kind of trope?].  The resultant account blurs the boundaries between history and philosophy, and between levels of discourse.  It was not a matter of developing a factual narrative accompanied by a philosophical explanation.  Instead, what was required was a  'work of translation', between the workers' letters and philosophical discourse.  In turn this meant developing a new idiom, even if this remained 'unintelligible to all those who requested the meaning of this story, the reality that explained it, and the lesson it contained for action.  In fact, this idiom could only be read by those who were translated on the basis of their own intellectual adventure' (21). [Unfortunately, Proletarian Nights is also elitist in the scholarly and literary commentary on worker letters and press articles -- give me EP Thompson any day]

In the domain of modern art, barriers have been lowered.  Techniques and skills swap places, leading to theatre without speech, installations, photographs as historical tableaux, sculpture as multimedia and so on.  These practices can be explained in various ways:
  •  the re-emergence of the notion of the total artwork, although this is now associated with artistic celebrities or consumerism rather than arts become life;
  • a general postmodernism, affecting all forms of life, but with similar consequences—'it often leads to a different form of stultification, which uses the blurring of boundaries and the confusion of roles to enhance the effect of the performance without questioning its principles'[so Ranciere's tastes intrude here?  Art has to have some underlying principle or serious intent?];
  • a new way to call into question cause and effects relationships and to attack the logic of stultification.  The latter wants to revitalize the theatre as community, to make it equal to the other arts, to see it as a new kind of equality 'when heterogeneous performances are translated into one another' (22), breaking the barrier between performer and spectator as above, producing intellectual adventure with emergent consequences.  This will require 'spectators who play the role of active interpreters'[avoided like the plague by normal people is my guess].

This whole argument could just be seen as so many words and empty formulae, but words still have a value in this debate that often relies on installations and spectacles or religious mysteries.  [almost a plea for systematic and coded knowledge?]. We need to know that words are merely words, and spectacles merely spectacles, so that we might be able to 'change something of the world we live in' (23).

Chapter two The Misadventures of Critical Thought

Is the classic tradition of social and cultural critique gone?  No one believes in a reality as opposed to appearances, nor in a dark side of consumer society.  However, the critical tradition is still required, although applied in a different way, to invert the usual notions of interpretation.

These usual notions are still found, for example in the idea that art reflects the state of the world, criticizes globalization, or war [examples 25-27].  One major tradition is collage and photomontage which clashes heterogeneous elements: surrealists used to think that this will expose the workings of unconscious desire underneath normal reality.  Marxist traditions used it to show how class violence underpinned apparent peaceful societies, as in the Vietnam war [Rosler's example below]

Rosler Bringing the War back home

Later efforts also intended to make spectators feel guilty at our own complicity for not wanting to grasp or act on hidden realities.  Some photomontages served to criticize middle class demonstrators in this way, by photographing them with evidence of their own consumerism [the example is the installations of Josephine Meckseper, 28, below:], or that political protest is a form of youth culture, that modern politics itself is based on the consumption of images and spectacles, and it constructs spectacles of its own.

Meckseper's Untitled

This seems to rule out any kind of critique based on contrasts with the present reality, although even the demonstrators can be shown yet another reality, including their own complicity in the spectacle—the ideas of revelation and shame are still present.  This shows the [dialectical] contradictions in critique, as the features of earlier critique become incorporated leading to further critique.  Apparently, Sloterdijk sees modernity in this way, as 'a process of antigravitation' (30).  First there is the familiar argument that the solid industrial world has been replaced by communication and virtual reality, but secondly, a source of critique and unease, 'gravity' has also been lost, or at least replaced by nostalgia for solidity, a matter of 'necessary illusion'.  The process works as a kind of reverse of Marx on Feuerbach—the current 'generalized lightening' is projected on to some 'fiction of a solid reality' as an inverted image.  This is also a way of coping with guilt and embarrassment. There are echoes of the Manifesto on the solid melting into air, and Marxist critiques can now be denounced and laughed at as ideological.

Even this analysis does not break with a critical tradition, because it still argues that we are engaged in some illusion, ignorant of the actual processes at work in the 'dematerialization of wealth' (31).  Productive processes still seem to be evolving and having irresistible effects, even though these are denied.  Political intent is different, however, no longer aimed at emancipation, but 'disconnected' (32) or positively hostile.

60's radicals can now be seen as having been recuperated.  Godard, for example criticized Vietnam protestors as '"children of Marx and Coca-Cola"', but he has now become incorporated into the system himself, 'the infamous father who testifies to the shared infamy of the children'.  Other Marxists, including Gramsci, saw the Soviet revolution as breaking with the logic of Capital which had been captured by 'bourgeois scientism'.  Rancière's generation can also be seen in this way, originally denouncing commodification and consumerism, but now offering 'the disenchanted knowledge of the reign of the commodity and the spectacle, of the equivalence between everything and everything else and between everything and its own image' [presumably he has Baudrillard in mind].  However, this still makes domination as an all powerful force even though this is not recognized.  Futility is accompanied with 'a demonstration of culpability' (33).  Leftwing denunciations of commodities are now seen as fully incorporated, even if melancholic and ironic.  Meanwhile, a new right wing critique has emerged, focusing on individuals, sometimes critically. 

For the left wing critique, we are still either fully incorporated into the belly of the beast, seen in the popularity of reality shows on TV, or the drive for self enhancement.  Spokespersons here include Boltanksi and Chiappello on the new spirit of capitalism: the revolt of 68 only energized capitalism, directed its attention to disenchantment and encouraged artistic responses, and diverted attention from social and economic critique.  A capitalist flexibility, weightless innovation, and 'appeal to individual initiative and the "projective city"' have been the result.

However, this confuses managerial discourse with the reality of contemporary capitalism.  There are still serious struggles over the notion of labour flexibility, for example, despite the attempts to make it look like human creativity.  In May '68, the demand was not so much for creative work, as for rejection of capitalism.  So the new left theory of collusion 'is not based on any analysis of historical forms of protest' (35).  Bourdieu gets blamed here again, with his notion that the workers struggle against misery and for community, while only the big or petty bourgeoisie are interested in autonomous creativity.  Instead, social emancipation is always mixed up with aesthetic emancipation, free collectivity, and 'the discovery of individuality for all'.  This would disrupt notions of class and identity, but sociology has never accepted this view, owing to its own ideological roots in the 19th century.  Sociologists saw '68 as a matter of unwanted disorder and disruption compared to the 'rightful distribution of classes, their ways of being and forms of action'.

A 'melancholic' leftism has developed, denouncing the power of capital, but also the illusions of those who think they are opposing it.  Artistic revolts get recuperated.  Change looks impossible in a liquid or immaterial world [with a reference to Bauman].  Again, Bauman's prediction that even war would become more liquid has clearly not been borne out since 2000 when he wrote the book.  There are some radical developments, like those involving 'the mass defection of the forces of the general intellect' (36) [Virno], or virtual subversion to undermine virtual capitalism [somebody called Brian Holmes].  There is also 'inverted activism', recapturing the energies of capital.  Generally though, melancholy triumphs because it  'feeds on its own impotence', and still maintains its privileged position in interpreting the system.

The new 'right wing frenzy' sees the current market and media as ravaging the individual, free to pursue their own lives only within the constraints of the free market.  Western capitalism could be seen to be representing democratic values until the collapse of the the Soviet Union. The critique takes the form of the denunciation of human rights, which has gone too far, and led to rampant consumerism, egoism, and an attack on authority, taking the form of the domination of the market.  Again, the radicals of '68 are blamed for attacking the old authority and only releasing rampant individualism.  This led to'the destruction of social and human bonds', and therefore a new totalitarianism.  Specific acts of terror such as 9/11 were even seen as a punishment for destroying the old symbolic order 'encapsulated in homosexual marriage' (39).  Market democracy is boundless and imperialist.  It led to the extermination of the Jews as a source of resistance based on the old loyalties.  French rioters were consumers who had got out of hand [shades of that with the Tottenham riots in the UK], and individualism made them vulnerable to Islamist fanatics.  The critique of consumption therefore escalated into 'the crudest themes of the clash of civilisations and the war on terror' (40).

Both left and right critiques can be seen as an inversion of original [Marxist] criticism of consumerism.  [It was Hegel who] criticized the French Revolution on the same lines, as destroying collective institutions and social bonds, as a result of excessive Enlightenment, and protestant individualism. Marxism also drew from this argument, however, in the critique of human rights and bourgeois revolution posing as democracy and destroying the social fabric.  In this way, right wing critics were able to incorporate Marxist critique.

Social and cultural critique continues, but in an inverted form.  It returns to the notion of modernity as excessive individualism, and therefore reproduces the tensions between modernity and social emancipation.  That tension has been solved by abandoning the notion of emancipation!  It is worth returning to the notions of emancipation as 'emergence from a state of minority' (42).  The state of minority meant an orderly community, however, where everyone was in their place, doing what was appropriate to their class, as in Plato.  This is the '" police distribution of the sensible"' (42), where capacities are neatly related to social forms.  Originally, emancipation meant breaking this link, disrupting the categories, fashioning new kinds of working bodies, not tied to specific occupation, and with universal capacities.

This notion of emancipation was attacked by among others the young Marx.  Alienation had developed in a shattered society, dominated by  wealth and power that had been abstracted and concentrated.  It followed that emancipation meant a reappropriation of what had been lost.  That in turn required adequate knowledge of the processes of separation.  Any attempts to emancipate in the old sense could be seen as illusory and ignorant of what had gone on.  Emancipation now lay on the other side of the social revolution.  Emancipation depended on the promise of science, although science never finished with definitive results—'the science of the total process whose effect is endlessly to generate its own ignorance' (44), endlessly unmasking new forms of illusion and subjection.  It lead to work like Mythologies and Society of the Spectacle, aimed at endlessly deciphering the deception of images.  But the same time, there was, among intellectuals [including Barthes in the new semiology],  an 'assertion that there was no longer any room for distinguishing between image and reality'.  Illusion was seen as inevitable as a consequence of the functioning of capitalism.  In Society of the the Spectacle, the point is not to see images as concealing reality, but to see the generation of spectacle as the goal of social activity, with social wealth as a separate reality.  Victims are like the prisoners in Plato's cave, taking image for reality, and remaining ignorant about the generation of wealth and inequality.

However, it is the science used to denounce the spectacle that also becomes impotent, with even the notion of truth and critique becoming recuperated.  This led to postmodernism.  Modernist critique followed the transition into a postmodern nihilism, which offers the same readings.  Critical science drew from a belief that a secret remained at the heart of social reproduction, but nihilism makes this irrelevant [maybe, 45].  This was always a danger with critical science, and it lies behind the disconnection with emancipation discussed above.

Further critical moves can not involve any more inversions, but require a whole new reexamination of concepts and their links with social emancipation.  In particular it is important to criticize a central feature in the critique 'the poor cretin of an individual consumer',  only manipulated by consumerism.  This figure was strengthened by anti individualistic trends, including those in 19th century physiology, where the simplicity and unity of the soul was challenged, and in psychology, where brains were seen as offering '"a polyp of images"'(46).  This quantitative turn coincided with a new quantitative conception involving 'the multiplicity of those individuals without qualities', seen as the new and worrying subject of democracy.  A panic arose, about overstimulation of brains, excessive knowledge distributed to people who could not use it, excessive nervous energy and unknown appetites, the dangers of providing any one with 'materials liable to contribute to the reconfiguration of her life world'(47).  Unpredictable encounters did lead to demands for emancipation in the original sense, and elites were right to worry about 'popular experimentation with new forms of life: Emma Bovary and the International Workingmen's Association'.  Anxiety lead to paternal solicitude, and dissatisfaction with ordered society was seen as 'an inability to judge situations'.

Such assumptions were built into the new social sciences, and fitted well the anxieties about the production of commodities and illusions.  The notion of incapacity was also reproduced.  Social critique has long been aimed at 'treating the incapable'.  It was in the interests of social scientist to reproduce these incapacities, and to extend them.  At first, people could not distinguish image from reality, and now they have been educated to do so, and the 'imbeciles' now cling to this old notion of in distinction between image and reality, unlike sophisticated intellectuals.  This can be extended unendingly, 'capitalizing on the impotence of the critique that unveils the impotence of the imbeciles' (48).

Instead of the endless reversals and inversions, we need a new approach, one which separates emancipatory logic and capacity from the notion of recuperation.  We need different presuppositions and assumptions, even if these are unreasonable, both to defenders of the system and to critics.  We should assume a general capacity, with no hidden secret mechanisms to reproduce social order or transform a reality into image, and no 'lost community to be restored'.  What we are left with is 'simply scenes of dissensus' which are everywhere.  Dissensus involves a new organization of the sensible, with no hidden reality or single truthful regime agreed by all.  'Every situation can be cracked open from the inside' and reconfigured.  Thus will emerge new possibilities and capacities.  Dissensus challenges what seems obvious, and brings into being political subjects.  Emancipation really involves not collective understanding of the processes of subject shown, but 'the collectivization of capacities invested in scenes of dissensus'(49), energising the capacity of 'anyone whatsoever'.  These seem unreasonable, but we should do more to investigate the power of subjectivation rather than endlessly critique fetishes or demonstrate the omnipotence of capitalism. [so we have moved from Marx's critique to Foucaldian or discursive critique -- another intellectualizing trend, of course, easily bolted on to the old processes described above -- gap between image and reality leads to no difference between image and reality leads to new model of discourse to explain both image and reality, with intellectuals in the vanguard arguing their interests are really everyone's interests].

Chapter three Aesthetic Separation, Aesthetic Community

[heavy going!]

We can offer three 'propositions about community and separation'(51).  The first [and second—they are not clearly distinguished] proposition is expressed in a poem by Mallarmé, where the hero decides not to visit his lady after all, in order to preserve her mystery and some higher sense of being together by being apart [prat] .  It might be that only poets with 'refined sensations' are capable of such feelings, although we can also see the same argument displayed in paintings by Seurat [bathers etc] , and other collisions between high art and popular leisure.  The proposition takes on particular force because of contemporary urban diversity which alters every day of relations.  A group of modern French artists photographs people in the riotous areas of Paris, and depicts solitude, 'solitary contemplation or meditation' (53), an aesthetic place, a separation that accompanies ordinary life.  Inhabitants chose a sentence to be printed on a T shirt and they were then photographed.  The sentences depict a wish to be alone, or a wish to develop a particular utterance [examples 53, 54].  These also tell us something about the modern social crisis, how even underdogs in poor suburbs can wish to be separate and isolated, the reverse of the usual formulation about how individualism has destroyed social bonds.

The third proposition is derived from Deleuze and Guattari What Is Philosophy?, on how art attempts to separate percepts from perceptions, and affects from affections, sensations from opinions.  It is sensation that links individuals and communities through artwork as 'a new sensory fabric' which can act as a new form of expression of the community.  The sensory fabric is responsible for the empirical sensations, and it is the same as what R means by 'a certain distribution of the sensible' (56).  Individual artworks can involve an intertwining of sensations, just as a collective can.  In Deleuze and Guattari, the process involves the generation of a 'vibration' from the artwork which is transmitted to the community.  Artwork and social life itself involves 'seizing and rending: suffering, resistance, cries'.  Artworks can be seen as a monument expressing the vibration, but also taking on the identity of a person.  Nevertheless, it is the impersonal transmission that relates to the community.  Is this just an analogy between the actualization of colours and sounds in art, and the 'health' of the community?  Is it that art somehow expresses some goal of weaving the community together?  Even an absent community?  The artwork still occupies an intermediary status between the drive to community in harmony, and specific human divisions and harmonies.  If the artistic voice of the people exists, it is 'the voice of a people to come', an 'impossible' new community, both representing people divided by protest and collective harmony 'in tune with the very breath of nature, be it of a chaotic or "chaosmatic" nature'(57).

Together, these comments defined the aesthetic community in general, not a specific community of aesthetes, a 'sensus communis'.  These exist at three levels

  • a combination of sense data or, forms words and spaces, involving a combination of different senses, the use of metaphor, for example, or a political statement like the inhabitants who printed sentences on their T shirts.  This level offers 'a "dissensual figure"' (58), where two specific sensoria appear [roughly, one actual and one turning on particular artistic combinations of sound and absence, 'two sensory worlds' in conflict].
  • Philosophers supply the second level [by describing or discussing the tension?  As in Deleuze and Guattari?].  Artists are happy to simply conflict two regimes of sense, and to relate this dissenting artistic community [I think 'assemblage' would be a better word to use here] to the human community.
  • The new sense of community is supposed to be built by relating artistic data and an artistic assemblage with its contradictory relations to some 'democratic community', not found in actual social engagements or crowds, but possessing an abstract capacity to develop in the future.  The sentences on T shirts again indicate both the new basis for social relations and 'a new awareness of the capacity of anyone and everyone'(59) aimed at the future.  [Philosophical] discussion brings out this potential.  This new [human] community both arises from the vibrations of artistic practice, and serves as a potential development or 'expectation' of the artistic monument.  Art has to be both apart from existing communities and aimed at being together in some anticipated future [maybe, 59].  Art also offers a tension between acting as a means to produce an effect and becoming the reality of that effect itself.  The aesthetic community [in the first sense?] 'is a community structured by disconnection'.

Understanding these connections and disconnections is central to the politics of aesthetics.  Modernist views seen art as autonomous [from the present community], and it is this autonomy that connects it with a future community.  Postmodernism argues that any being apart is 'an aristocratic illusion', and this can turn artwork 'into a radical heterogeneity', representing the real human condition suppressed by the modernist dream of community. 

However, there is another sense of aesthetic disconnection—'the aesthetic break'(60).  This is normally seen as a break with representation or 'the mimetic regime'.  However, representation means something different, 'a regime of concordance between sense and sense'[not art and reality].  In classic theatre, for example the stage let spectators see the characteristics of human beings in fictional form, and this was supposed to change their minds, to teach them something.  'Intellectual recognition and appropriate emotion' assumed the regime of concordance.  Performance offered unambiguous signs, following the grammar of nature itself.  This was called mimesis, a concordance that permits artistic activity [actually, poiesis].  The concordance and activity together constituted aesthetics for the Greeks—mimesis is what allows correspondence 'between poiesis and aisthesis'(61).  The underlying natural language of signs combined the action of the play and the effects on the spectators, and their subsequent behaviour, so the separation of the stage was still part of the continuity between the signs, the community, and human nature itself.

Much politics of art still involves this model, as when we believe that critical artwork makes us critical of the spectacle or of injustice.  However, Rousseau had long criticized this view, pointing out that plays actually offered ambiguous messages, with different characters to identify with.  Theatre was in no place to expose hypocrisy, since it is fundamentally hypocritical itself.  Later work, in Schiller, denied the continuity of human nature and representation, since thoughts no longer appears as clear signs on bodies, and nor did performances of bodies have predictable effects on other bodies.  Aesthetics came to mean something different, based on this 'rupture of the harmony that enabled correspondence' (62).

This rupture led to two responses.

  • One was to replace mimetic mediation with 'the immediate ethical performance of a collective', without separation between performers and spectators, as in the Greek civic festivals, and the choros, Plato's critique of the theatre and so on.  This option was taken up by Rousseau and led to the modern critique of representation, and new experiments to reintroduce choros, and invite audiences to take part in a general fusion of the senses [example on 63]. 
  • Hypertheatre like this was easily recuperated as a spectacle, leading to the critique of the spectacle, expecting that art will offer a more than a spectacle,  some notion of an active society.

However, there is another option—'aesthetic efficacy itself', which emerges from the 'very rupturing of any determinate link between cause and effect'.  This is what Kant meant by the beautiful as being an object of universal delight but with no concept.  This was sometimes taken to be equating beauty with harmony, as opposed to the sublime, which is the real break with representation, but it was already a radical departure from representation by arguing that no concept could grasp the beautiful, and therefore no poetic concept is in harmony with the aesthetic.  Art entails concepts, but not the beautiful, disconnecting artistic fabrication and the enjoyment of the product.

An example of a classic statue makes the point, taken as a masterpiece, but rejected by modernists as nostalgic or romantic, offering a dubious utopian community as a work of art which could easily be turned into a total society.  Rancière wants to revive the paradox of seeing a statue of a crippled man is the embodiment of classical beauty, especially as it was allegedly a statue of Hercules, but obviously Hercules after his labour and strength:

belvedere torso 

Somehow, this depiction express the notion that Hercules was meditating on his past actions, and is an expression of liberty, although none of this is directly depicted except in the particular curves and waves of the stone.  In other words, it does not follow a representational logic.  It offers a sense of displacement.  Although the body is mutilated, the claim is that the art is perfect. This is taken up in modern dance which did not express capacities in any functional sense.  The same might be said about Greek poetry, in Homer, for example, whose songs express a time and people before they could articulate fully concepts in language.  All this refers to what Kant meant by the beautiful.

There might be a link with the body without organs in Deleuze, something that speaks to the future, offers potential including the potential of political liberty, but Deleuze is still committed to the notion that is the sublime that offers the real break with representation, ignoring earlier examples of dissensual art and beauty.  Dissensus of this kind is specific to aesthetic work and beauty.  It superimposes one form or body into another one, an actual sculpture or Greek poem into an ideal one.  Modern choreography does the same subtracting actual qualities from bodies, even movement itself, in order to 'release the potentialities of new, as yet unseen bodies' (67).  Mallarmé also infers the mute language in dance, others have taken Wagnerian characters and made them into geometric modules and shadows.

This is 'the art of the mise-en-scène'(67) which expresses this logic, transforming presence, subtracting and disconnecting from actual context and representational mediation.  We're not talking about modernist truth nor Deleuzian pure sensations, but rather 'a fictional ontology, or play of "aesthetic ideas"'(67), a possible new set of relations.  In this way, actual works can be seen as substitutes for underlying [virtual] works that express better the law of the medium or the sensation.

Film can be seen in this way as 'the pure writing of motion' (68).  Godard really sees the potential of film by using another medium, video, to break with 'filmic identity' and 'cinematographic montage', and introduce discontinuity, and more mobile forms of superimposition, new relations to sound and music.  The Histories of Cinema show how actual cinematic works relate to a fictional cinema that oversteps them and is best depicted in another medium.

Just as the work itself is an assemblage of different sensations [still called, confusingly, a "community of sense"], so is the human community that is supposed to result from it.  Though the artist claims to address the community of the future, the product must look really like something that has disappeared already and is separated.  Mimetic efficacy and hypertheatre made different claims to relate to community, but things like the statue of Hercules do not speak, do nothing, and offer no 'model for imitation' (69).  There is no social ritual to give it meaning.  In the museum—'which refers not only to a specific building but also to a form of apportioning the common space and a specific mode of visibility'—exhibits are disconnected, and the gaze of the spectator is indifferent.  Works are torn from context, and from their originating relations to communities.  There is a tension between aesthetic appreciation and aesthetic education, and the 'happy dream of a community united and civilized by the contemplation of eternal beauty'.

The creation of the museum, with its accompanying construction of aesthetic experience, involves a separation of art from its functions and destinations in a separated 'aesthetic sensorium' (70).  The original social context context offered an orderly relation between social order and capacity, as argued above, so that 'forms of domination were a matter of sensory inequality'.  The Platonic myth of the metals is an example.  Artisans did not have to believe in these myths, 'it was enough that they sensed it and that they used their arms, their eyes and their minds as if it were true', although a correspondence between the myth and the reality of their condition helped.  We are back to the notion of emancipation as an aesthetic matter, disrupting this original sensed reality.  An example of this happening arose in a French revolutionary paper 1848, where a joiner was laying a floor, and imagined that it was his home and garden, that he could enjoy it even better than the actual owners [this ludicrously idealist example is used a lot, in other work.  It seems to imply that any imaginative exchange of places is the same as the real exchange of places.  It seems to offer support for the Fiske view of popular media after all, where Madonna fans genuinely do create a grounded aesthetic from her absurd videos.  Rancière wants to talk this up by talking about 'the appropriation of the place of work and exploitation as the site of the free gaze.  It does not involve an illusion but is a matter of shaping a new body and a new sensorium for one's self'].  Labouring arms were no longer diverted from aesthetic gaze: there was a 'new configuration of the sensible'. 

The publishers of this piece in a revolutionary newspaper saw all the political implication in developing the voice of the workers as something separate from the conventions of the worker's body.  The relation between capacities and incapacities join together in an ethos that was being challenged.  That same joiner also read romantic literature rather than political material [Rose's study of the reading habits of the English working class make this point too] .  Such literature does not inform workers about their condition, but rather 'triggers new passions' further breaking the conventional relation.  The writers concerned did not particularly want to encourage these passions among labourers, so the break with convention was something emergent.

This is how aesthetic experience produces political effects, through disruptions of conventions about connections between bodies and capacities.  It does not just offer rhetoric or persuasion, and nor does it construct community.  It offers new connections and disconnections that disrupt.  'It is a multiplicity of folds and gaps in the fabric of common experience' that produces new cartographies and political constructions.  It works because the original conventional link between cause and effect has been disrupted.  Aesthetic experience dis-identifies, and produces 'a community of dis-identified persons' (73).  This is unpredictable and incalculable, beyond artistic strategy.  New forms of individuation, as 'Deleuzian haecceities', emerge, breaking with political subjection.  Reading romantic literature helps people join this dis-identified community despite the intentions of the authors. Revolutionary joiners, and current protesters in the suburbs, are looking for words to express their own projects, and find them among unwilling writers. Those writers and other artists have tried to break this emergent link, by claiming that their work is impersonal and infinite.  Deleuze and Guattari can be included here, seeing artistic practice as representing some neutral [? ontology?] effect, denying any immediate political effects. 

Much critical art faces the same tension.  The aim is to establish a straightforward relation between political goals and artistic means, to make people aware so that they mobilize.  This is often done by making art strange and heterogeneous, to break with convention, but there is still a cause/effect relationship, with artistic strangeness as the cause.  Brecht [Arturo Ui] and Martha Rosler's montages are examples.  But othernon-radical effects are possible from this strangeness, and even understanding the world as strange and contradictory does not necessarily lead to political action.  Instead, we have a shift to different configurations of sense, different capacities and incapacities, 'processes of dissociation' (75).  'Such breaks can happen anywhere and at any time.  But they cannot be calculated'.

Critical art depends for its effect on existing critical sensibilities and political forms, and when these go, critical procedures are exposed.  They still persist though, and have become standard forms, as in now-widespread parody or pastiche.  Critical art is still valued in galleries and museums on the assumption that it helps us understand the power of the commodity or power itself.  However, 'nobody is unaware of these things' (76), so critical art itself becomes 'undecidable' [less linked to action,unsure of its status], even reflective and self critical.

The critical model depended on the production of awareness and the growth of a new community, and it failed.  One conclusion was that critical work should directly present another form of community directly among artists themselves [in Cuban examples of arts in the community, where people's homes are turned into art objects and this is videoed and so on—examples 77].  Large mosaics of the photographs of people become art, so that physical unity anticipates social unity.  Curators are eager to point out that this is a metaphor, but this again assumes an eventual community brought together by art.

Instead, art can be seen as representing the tension between the apart and the together, questioning the ways in which community is produced, or is present as a potential [more examples 78 F.  A video is made of an example of community art, which 'artifies' {my word,sorry} actual houses, and favourable comments are contrasted with shots of unreformed slums and indifferent passers-by.  Another video focuses on the lives of slum dwellers, to examine the 'possibilities of life and art' in interesting objects and in the efforts of the inhabitants to tell their own story: there is no attempt to raise the political awareness of the viewer, nor to dissolve the difference between life and art, but it does show the aesthetic capacities of the characters.] 

These are classic examples of 'what we can expect from the cinema or popular art of the 20th century' (81).  Of course there are also conservative forms of cinema, which do not display equality in sensible terms, but persist with social categories.  Commercial multiplexes 'supply each sociologically determinate audience [with]  a type of art designed and formatted to suit it' (81) [sounds like Adorno on the culture industry].  Experimental films are classified as suitable only for film festivals and a film buff elite.  People who make radical films are well aware of this, that they will scarcely be shown, but they persist, with 'inner division'.  In general, cinema can never directly represent the conventional sensible world; it must always be split and thus offer the chance to display artistic experiments, new figures, new experiences.  This exteriority gives it its political effects and helps overcome the 'formatted distribution of thoughts and sensations to formatted audiences' (82).  Perceptions can be reworked, new passages opened, but there must always be 'the aesthetic cut that separates outcomes from intentions'.

Chapter four The Intolerable Image

We normally think of an intolerable image is one that causes of pain or indignation.  Politically, the issue is whether we should display these images, of anorexics or atrocities.  Critical artists might say that it is necessary to expose the reality behind the appearances [as above], but other issues arise [also as above]: is the reality displayed in realistic images a problem, in that it is subject to the same conventions to display reality, and thus risks becoming 'a single spectacle' (84)?  There is no simple intolerable reality to be contrasted with images

Photographs of war combined with domestic life have been discussed above, and there has been a transition to the sort of collage that sees political protest as a kind of youth fashion, deeply implicated in consumerism.  This reveals the tension in political photography between intention and outcome.  Why should shocking contrasts lead to political action?  'The stock reaction to such images is to close one's eyes or avert one's gaze' (85)[as also opposed to seeking out new configurations of the sensible] .  The political effect works as intended only with spectators who already understand and sympathise with the critique, and feel guilty about their own complicity in viewing such images.  Shocking contrasts presuppose this complicity.  DeBord's film of his book shows the spectacle as the inversion of life, embodied in any image alike, showing how all our existence has been transformed into a series of spectacles and images.  Strictly, any image therefore can be intolerable and aimed at political effects.  The only way to break the system was to counterpose some sort of activity to the passivity of viewing the spectacle.

DeBord also indicates the radical potential of any image, even clips from Hollywood westerns or war films, which not only condemn American imperialism, but offer us a chance to ' adopt the heroism of the battle for our own purposes' (87), to attack the empire of the spectacle.  Any image can be turned upside down, including the images of the young female bodies: they can be seen as the denunciation of the images of women, but they also 'appear as active images, images of bodies involved in active relations of amorous desire'.  So images of action are particularly important, in order to break with merely being a spectator.  Action answers evil passive images and guilt.

Of course this is paradoxical and requires spectators to look at these active images, and there is still a tone of condemnation, accusing spectators of never acting.  Only knowledgeable critics know why this is so, expressed in 'the authority of the sovereign voice that stigmatizes the false existence which it knows is to be condemned to wallow in' (88).  Images are often accompanied by this authoritative voice to remind us why they are intolerable.  [An example is given of four photographs taken in Auschwitz, 88-90, accompanied by a long essay in the installation, describing further the reality they depict.  The controversy broke out subsequently, where some critics accused the images of being too real, too involving, preventing any critical distance.  Other critics suggested that the images alone did not represent reality, but literally a snapshot of it: the reality of the whole process of extermination was unrepresentable.  However, the four photographs did not claim to represent the totality of the process.  They could be read as offering 'attestation' rather than proof, but why should testimony be a more virtuous form of knowledge?  The same problems affected the textual commentary: that is also an inadequate representation of the suffering and horror, also unable to grasp the totality.]

It is common to think that images show the totality, whereas accompanying speech or text is insufficient.  This requires us to see images as merely duplicates, which can be criticized as being inadequate depictions of reality themselves; images can reassure us, we can look at photographs whereas we could not tolerate the reality.  Some philosophers would criticize photographers for wanting to record events in the first place, wanting to witness: 'The true witness is one who does not want to witness' (91), and it is common for witnesses to claim a privilege on the grounds that they have been obliged somehow to speak.

The film Shoah displays these characteristics.  It is based on testimony.  Sometimes witnesses are urged to continue their testimony even if it is painful, claiming some authority because the witness does not want to speak, that he has some experience of a genuinely horrible event which cannot be represented.  This inability to speak carries more weight than the content of the speech.  The director is heard on screen urging a witness to speak, and when he does so he represents the symbolic order who must be obeyed.  Speech is more authentic than image, it is more authentic because it is almost impossible, and it is speech in response to some authoritative demand in the name of some higher order.  It is these qualities that means speech can critique images.

There are still paradoxes.  The very silence that guarantees authenticity must itself be made visible, in the emotions on the face of the speaker.  The suffering face is a further level of evidence.  This again requires some interpretation of tearfulness, with intolerability not be confused with mere sensitivity.  Involuntary testimony is more authentic.  This feeds back to the distinction between images that are intended and ones that are not [as in the 'taken by surprise shot' or the apparent neutrality of the documentary camera]. Of course, apparent lack of intention can be misleading, and actually intended by the filmmaker.

We now come to see how complex representation is.  It is not just producing a visible form, but offering some equivalent which can also be speech.  All representations involve 'a complex set of relations between the visible and the invisible, the visible and speech, the said and the unsaid'(93).  There is always a chain of images which can have effects.  Voices are never neutral complements to visible images, but themselves construct images and transform one event into another, trying to form perceptions.  There are therefore images in language as well as in visual images --  'figures of rhetoric and poetics' in both,  and a whole 'process of figuration that is a process of condensation and displacement'[yes mate, and you need semiotics to go much further with this!].  There are relations of similarity and the similarity [metaphor and metonym as well].

Perhaps the whole system of figuration is itself intolerable because it creates spectacle, and critical films come to look like 'episodes of a romantic fiction'(94).  We need to analyze images instead of just accusing them of a spectacular function: we must not just identify them with 'idolatry, ignorance or passivity' (95).  Some new artwork raises some possibilities [examples 95 -100].  A particular installation consist of black boxes containing an image of a murdered Tutsi, and the text describes the concealed content in each box.  It looks as if the proof of the words can be found in the images, but the words themselves are visual elements: this subverts the usual official connections between text and images.  The installation also challenges the usual view that we are anaesthetised by a flood of images of horror—in fact, the media carefully select out such images and censor them, mostly showing us experts and others who have commenting on the images.  We do see lots of nameless bodies who cannot speak for themselves, reinforcing the conventional view that we need experts to explain what it is we are seeing.

The installation challenges this view because it personalizes with the name and history those who were massacred.  Words are needed to do this instead of photographs which could anonymize and banalize.  This is the reverse of the conventional view.  The words are themselves acknowledged to be images or figures, and they take on a political function in reversing the usual position, where words generalize rather than individualise.  In this sort of political reversal, 'the political figure par excellence is metonymy which gives the effects for the cause or the part for the whole' (97) [I'm not sure I understand this.  Is this saying that conventional politics uses metonyms, or radical politics?]. 

In another example, the eyes of a woman are photographed [on the cover of the book], and this is a metonym— two eyes to represent the massacred millions—but also a substitution of effect [in the gaze] for cause [the suffering]. There is no claim here that these eyes are unusually perceptive, but they do show that the murderers have failed to suppress the expression of a victim.  The individual depictions help us put in context, or disrupt, the usual account of multiple murders.  An accompanying text gives the specific history of the woman whose eyes we see.

What we have here is a discussion of the politics of constructing victims in a particular 'distribution of the visible' (99).  All images are located in such systems, and these affect the sort of attention that images attracts.  Another example [this time of unintended attention] concerns a notorious photograph taken of a starving girl being pursued by a vulture.  This photograph won a Pulitzer prize, and was clearly intended to break with the usual passive reception of photographs, but it also attracted a great deal of 'indignation', blaming the photographer for taking the picture as opposed to helping the child.  Apparently, the photographer killed himself as a result.

Another example offers a different system of visibility in an installation based on this event, showing how this intolerable picture of a child was located 'in a wider [opposing] history of intolerance'.  The photographer himself was the victim of this intolerance, and the installation made spectators watch a video describing his life and his active struggles against apartheid, as well as his reaction to the public campaign of condemnation.  Only then does the original photograph appear, which puts it in perspective rather than isolating it [and letting it be attached to this wider system of intolerance?].

In a film about the Cambodian genocide, the extermination machine is depicted rather than the victims, using the archives.  Some survivors were filmed as witnesses, and so were some former guards.  The guards were filmed reacting to different sorts of archival material, including minutes of interrogations, and photographs of torture of prisoners.  This showed the effects of the extermination machine on the people who were involved.  Gestures and intonations returned.  One provided an 'hallucinatory' detailed reliving of events (101).  The reconstruction is itself an intolerable spectacle, but the film tries to 'redistribute the intolerable' between the various representations it deploys, such as reports of photographs as well as reconstructions.  It makes the former torturers learn how to do it again, which reduces them 'to the position of school pupils educated by their former victims' [you hope!].  Past and present are mixed to show how people feel about events.  The overall treatment is 'a matter of dispositif of visibility' (102), with all the elements combined in a system that creates reality, even 'a certain common sense'.

The term common sense indicates that there can be communities of data, where visibility is shared, almost different constructions of reality [SIC] or forms of common sense.  The films and other examples studied show how these communities are created, by establishing relations between words and visible forms, places and times.  In this sense, they are all fictions, and it is no longer an issue of whether reality can or should be represented in fiction.  It is more a matter of looking at who is being addressed, 'what kind of gaze and consideration are created by this fiction'.

We end with political implications.  The path traced above shows a line from depicting intolerable spectacles in order to prompt political action, but this link was always 'sheer presupposition' (103).  It required a group of spectators who were able to interpret these images and develop political movements.  The whole system was undermined, and images were seen as powerful anaesthetics, taking away the understanding and the capacity to act, as in the critique of the spectacle.  Any image could be suspected of being political, and a general skepticism was the result.  Instead of pursuing this disappointing line, we need to think instead of our new role for artistic images: they do not 'supply weapons for battles', but offer new configurations of what can be seen, said and thought, 'a new landscape of the possible'.

The final example shows a photograph where a pile of stones appears in the distance in a landscape.  The whole set of photographs helps us see additional meaning, however, in that this pile of stones is an Israeli roadblock in Palestine.  The photographer uses the small roadblocks, shot from a bird's eye view to make them fit into the landscape, to show the scars left on a territory.  The intended effect is not indignation, but rather 'curiosity, the desire to see closer up' (104), to generate a new form of attention.  This disrupts the normal perceptions and dispositions, and encourages 'the different politics of the sensible—of politics based on the variation of distance, the resistance of the visible and the uncertainty of effects' (105).  This sort of image changes gazes and alters landscapes, breaks with anticipations.

Chapter five The Pensive Image

[the main theme here is how images are polysemic, and how artists have tried either to extend or impose an authoritative meaning.  Main people criticised here are Barthes and Benjamin.  The themes about emancipated spectators are there as well, but there is the usual slippage betweenthe highly informed theoretically sophisticated critic and the 'normal' spectator. Workers in 1830s or 1970s France might experience some 'pensiveness' but surely could nopt analyze it as Ramcière does as intertwined regimes of representation or whatever. More likely is the conventional reading or the averted gaze noted above?]

The term 'pensive' normally applies to individuals who are thinking in a kind of passive way.  Images can be pensive as well with 'unthought thought', or unintended thought and effects (107).  Active and passive does not quite cover this indeterminacy.  It is like the tension between the image as a duplicate and the image as an artistic operation, there is a 'zone of indeterminacy between these two types of image', and the different aspects are articulated in different ways.  Photography brings out this articulation best.

Baudelaire saw photography as a threat to painting and art, while Benjamin saw mechanical reproduction as democratically disruptive, breaking with the 'cult of the unique'.  Separating out the image meant that it could be rearticulated with political problems.  Photographs can also serve as evidence for historical events, although that required them to be supplied with captions.  Modern practice in museums treat photographs as if they were paintings [examples 109 including a portrait of a slender Polish girl on the beach].  Photographs like this often contain distance and mystery, rather like portraits of characters from the past.  However, theorists were arguing that photography and art were actually opposed, and that photographs had a particular power for provoking thought while avoiding easy conceptualisation.

Barthes in Camera Lucida divided the affects of photographs using the terms punctum and studium [roughly, personal unpredictable effects versus more informative and informed, normal reading].  This implied that photographs merely transported particular qualities of things to viewing subjects, irrespective of the intention of the photographer, neglecting technical processes except chemical ones, and seeing an optical relationship as a tactile one.  Viewers should 'repudiate all knowledge' conveyed by the image in order to experience its transporting effects.  The optical qualities of the photograph are almost irrelevant, the gaze dominates.

It is not easy in practice to distinguish punctum and studium, however.  Barthes tries to disattend to the content of a photograph of two 'abnormal' children, for example, and its political message, and draws attention to the unusual proportions of the work and the barely perceptible artistic details, which are 'detachable'[classic elite taste, exactly like an elite appreciation of the photograph of an old woman's hands in Bourdieu's example]The interest in details is apparently informed by 'the Lacanian notion of the part object'.  For him, the collar of the small boy looks like a 'Danton'collar—Danton was executed, and a reminder of death hits him as a punctum.  However, ironically, this always depends on knowledge not contained in the image itself.

In another example, we see a young man in handcuffs, and we can read it conventionally as a portrait of a handsome youth, but then the punctum hits us—he is about to be executed, since we can identify him as a would-be assassin who was indeed executed.  Again Barthes links historical knowledge and the texture of the photograph, as a 'short circuit'(112).  Barthes understands the photograph as an example of the imago, the classic effigy of the dead.  He also alludes to an ancient controversy about what statues were for—as images of ancestors or gods, or just a beautiful object.  Since this controversy is no longer current, remembering it acts as a punctum—another short circuit between the past images of death and the present. 

It is possible to see the photograph differently, as the result of forms of indeterminacy.  First the young man is seated in a classical form of portraiture, but we do not know whether this is accidental or intentional.  We do not know if the details of the background, which includes 'wedges and marks' have been included or highlighted deliberately.  Secondly, it's not easy to date this photograph—the dress is contemporary, although the event took place in the past (1865).  Thirdly, we cannot work out 'the attitude of the character', his motives or his feelings. 

This 'tangle' makes the image pensive, and it is a complex relation between the subject, the photographer and the spectator, 'the intended and the unintended, the known and the unknown, the expressed and unexpressed, the present and the past' (115).  It is not a matter of just two readings coinciding. The image offers us signs of an identity, an arrangement of bodies in space, and some effects of mechanical imprint, each of which may be intended or unintended.  Although this photograph may not claim to be art, it can help us see how artistic photographs work, as equally indeterminate [and then we return to the photograph of the Polish girl on the beach,  noting that we can read it is an issue of identity following the collapse of communism, immediate presence, intentional or unintentional expressions, and a mystery about what explains the stance].  There are some similarities with things we know, as in studium, but there is also 'archi-similarity' (116) 'an immediate presence and affect of the body'.  The image also shows 'a dis-appropriate similarity', because we are invited to see this girl as an ordinary being not a unique one, not particularly offering an identity.

These effects might be specific to portraits, which Benjamin suggests still have a religious value.  Photographs without human beings tend to develop an 'expository value' instead.  This is still a problematic distinction, however.  A photograph of a wooden kitchen wall in Alabama [page 118] was produced as part of an investigation into the living conditions of poor farmers in the 1930s, and has since been seen as autonomous art.  But the tension between 'art and social reportage' is present in the image itself.  It does represent the interiors of poor houses, but it also displays some artistic features—the wooden boards look like 'quasi abstract decor' described in other art photographs; the simple arrangement of the kitchen towards on the wall evokes 'the ideology of modernist architects and designers…  [opposing]…  the horror of bourgeois sideboards' (117); there is an 'aesthetic of the asymmetrical'.  It's not clear whether the camera has just recorded these aspects, whether they were deliberately arranged that way by the inhabitants, or whether they have been consciously framed and highlighted by the photographer.

The actual photographer is well known (Walker Evans), and he has explicitly developed ideas on photography and the arts, derived from Flaubert, for example that 'the artist must be invisible in his work, just as God is in nature'(118).  Art is deliberately rendered as impersonal.  The artist deletes from the objects, to produce 'a certain indifference', rendering ambiguous social identification.  The banal in particular is made into impersonal art, rather than being seen as an expression of the situation or a character. 

Another example features the paintings of beggars in the street by Murillo, which was discussed by Hegel.  Hegel's reading connected the idleness of the beggars, and the virtue of painting impersonally, without caring, expressing 'a [God-like] freedom from concern about external things'(119) [only a philosopher could see beggary as an aesthetic!].  This already assumes that artists and gods themselves are indifferent, and so is 'supreme beauty', and this depends on an earlier tradition, including Winckelman on the Belvedere torso [see above], seeing activity and thought expressed in immobile motion of the muscles of the abdomen, like the waves of the sea.  There is a serenity in these images.

What happens with these examples is the emergence of a new relation between 'thought, art, action and image'(120).  Representation is left behind, and images no longer simply express.  The composition of the image used to be a matter of delivering a story, exemplifying action.  Actions were depicted in facial expressions and body postures, although there was some work depicting 'poetic' figures 'that substitute one expression for another' to add dimensions to the power of the image.  Depicting actual humans or animals helps this process, so eagles depicted majesty and so on.  The combination of the literal and the figural 'specifically defines classical mimesis' (121).

Then dis-appropriate similarities appeared as a sign of a break with this regime.  There are two accounts of artistic modernity.  In the first, art becomes autonomous, artistic ideas take on material forms, without going through mediating images.  In the second, 'the tragic model of the " sublime"', there is no obvious relation between idea and materiality.  There is also a third approach, involving not breaking with immediate representation in images, but developing a new 'emancipation from the unifying logic of action'[sounds rather like Deleuze on breaking with the sensori-motor system in cinema?].  Classically, figures offered a normal 'sensible present'and also a way of alluding to expressions.  In modernity, the figure doesn't just express something else—it's not that motions of waves or abdominal muscles directly expressed thoughts via analogy.  Now, opposites are connected—dynamic muscle and 'the endless passive repetition of the motion' (122).

Pensiveness is not just punctum or aura, nor ignorance of the author's intentions, nor the difficulties in interpreting images themselves.  Instead, it is a matter of the conjunction of 'two regimes of expression, without homogenizing them'.  Barthes in S/Z discusses pensiveness in the mind of the characters, but this also makes us question the status of the text.  We are left in a state of pensiveness after the narrative has finished, suggesting we move on to pursue 'an indeterminate expressive logic' after having followed the logic of the narrative.  In this sense, classical texts have meanings in reserve, 'plenitude' (123).  Pensiveness breaks with the logic of the action and extends it, but also makes us rethink it.  The same goes with painting: its function is inverted, not just as a supplement to action, but as a way of questioning it.

Flaubert offers another example, where paintings punctuate the action and trigger events, as a narrative.  They do not literally represent or follow an analogy with the actions of the characters, however, but serve as an impersonal elements, or Deleuzian 'heterogenesis' (123) [an assemblage between the visual and the literary].  This provides us with another narrative, which conflicts with the logic of the normal one, as a mere 'chain of micro events…  which is randomly dispersed without beginning or end' (124), an intertwining of logics, 'the presence of one art in another'.

Walker Evans picks up this technique, intertwining two arts, reporting but also offering an excess.  This latent excess is what makes the image pensive.  [Another example follows, which consists of series of photographs of roads, with a conventional narrative but also depicting 'a trail of abstract lines or spirals'(125), and there was a film  made of these photographs resulting in 'unique combinations of exchange, fusion and distance'.  It is not silence that makes an image pensive, but rather a latent and different different kind of figurativeness.

This tension between different kinds of expression can even be found in unpromising examples like video images.  Artists originally imagined video would offer a better way to express their thoughts, without the intervention of the film apparatuses.  They thought that spectators would also be released from passivity.  Others regretted the 'loss of cinematographic pensiveness'(126), with its breaks, frames, divisions between on and off screen and so on, all of which produced an 'affective economy'.  Video by contrast offered 'an infinite circularity of the metamorphoses of docile matter'.  However, video should be better read as heterogeneous, a form in tension, like photography.  An example is a video by Vasulka 'Art of Memory'.  The artist thought he was just manipulating images, and yet he generated pensiveness, from the emergence of 'several differentiations'(127).  There were two types of images, both presenting landscapes and characters as if they had been photographed or painted, deliberately non realistic (with electronic colours for example) but nevertheless 'the analogue of a real landscape'.  Various other things like 'soft sculptures' also appear, although these are electronic artefacts.  They can undergo changes, turning into screens for example or mushroom clouds, mountain paths, making up 'a theatre of memory', turning what is represented into something representative, documents into monuments. The video does not reduce everything to a mere metamorphic image, however.  Two regimes of image are still presented, such as grey archival, and colored Western landscapes.  These resist the temptation to over-control.  Classic imagery of war and horrors are located in electronic shapes, and this sidesteps all the debates about how and whether these events should be depicted realistically.  However, the events themselves stop this from being mere clever art, and the images are autonomous, 'overcharged with reality', outside art.  However, the spectator alone can judge the effects of these relationships, and decide on what is reality.

Godard's Histories of Cinema provides another example of video.  There is no attempt to construct a sequence based on memory, however, but to allow our images to slide into one another.  The images he chooses express [metonymically] attitudes or gestures, and these can trigger another story, and be combined with the others in a 'fraternity of metaphors' (129) [Godard's phrase].  Images condense multiplicities from their own time, and can be combined with others—images of civil life in France in 1940 are combined with the impact of Nazi Germany depicted by a clip from M.  Newsreel footage is combined with films that were already predicting what was to come [apparently, this is further analysed in Rancière's piece in Film Fables, 2006, and The Future of the Image, 2007].  So Godard develops a radical notion of the figure, controlled both by narratives and metaphor, depicted in different ways by different arts and media.  In this way, 'one art serves to constitute the imaginary of another' (130).  Cinema's radical impulse is restored after it focused exclusively on stories rather than metaphors.  Video montage enables Godard to assemble these metaphors and thus 'he constructs the cinema that has never existed'

This shows us what pensiveness in the image might be, and how it resists immediate intentions of artists and spectators.  It is not the image itself, but rather a collection of 'several image functions' (131) which coexist on the same surface.  These distances are important, explaining why 'art escapes itself'.  Kant had already noticed one form of distance, between artistic form, controlled by intentions, and aesthetic form, which is 'perceived without a concept and declines any idea of intentional purpose'.  In his terms, these are the 'aesthetic ideas' produced by art.  Rancière wants to preserve this idea in the concept of the figure as representing intertwined regimes of expression, and, these days, several arts and several media.  Images have not been domesticated by electronics, any more than they were by photography.  Artists always like to play with the possibilities and blend effects, to create new figures, and the new technology offers 'unprecedented possibilities.  The image is not about to stop being pensive' (132).

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