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Jacques Rancière “The Politics of Aesthetics”

Rancière, Jacques 2011. The Politics of Aesthetics. London; New York: Continuum.

I call the distribution of the sensible the system of self-evident facts of sense  perception  that  simultaneously  discloses  the  existence  of something in common and the delimitations that define the respective parts and positions within it. A distribution of the sensible therefore establishes at one and the same time something common that is shared and exclusive parts. (12)

If the reader is fond of analogy, aesthetics can be understood in a Kantian sense – re-examined perhaps by Foucault – as the system of a priori forms determining what presents itself to sense experience. It is a delimitation of [14] spaces and times, of the visible and the invisible, of speech and noise, that simultaneously determines the place and the stakes of politics as a form of experience. (13)

It is on the basis of this primary aesthetics that it is possible to raise the question of‘aesthetic practices’ as I understand them, that is forms of visibility that disclose artistic practices, the place they occupy, what they ‘do’ or ‘make’  from the standpoint of what is common to the community. Artistic practices are ‘ways of doing and making’  that intervene in the general distribution of ways of doing and making as well as in the relationships they maintain to modes of being and forms of visibility. (13)

The arts  only ever lend to projects of domination or emancipation what they are able to lend to them, that is to say, quite simply, what they have in common with them: bodily positions and movements, functions of speech, the parcelling out of the visible and the invisible. (19)

There is first of all what I propose to call an ethical regime of images. In this regime,  art’ is not identified as such but is subsumed under the question of images. As a specific type of entity, images are the object of a twofold question: the question of their origin (and consequently their truth content) and the question of their end or purpose, the uses they are put to and the effects they result in. (20)

In this regime, it is a matter of knowing in what way images’ mode of being affects the ethos, the mode of being of individuals and communities. This question prevents art’ from individualizing itself as such. (21)

The poetic – or representative – regime of the arts breaks away from the ethical regime of images. It identifies the substance of art – or rather of the arts – in the couple poieis mimesis. The mimetic principle is not at its core a normative principle stating that art must make copies resembling their models. It is first of all a pragmatic principle that isolates, within the general domain of the arts (ways of doing and making), certain particular forms of art that produce specific entities [29] called imitations. (21)

I call this regime poetic in the sense that it identifies the arts – what the Classical Age would later call the ‘fine arts’ – within a classification of ways of doing and making, and it consequently defines proper ways of doing and making as well as means of assessing imitations. I call it representative insofar as it is the notion of representation or mimesis that organizes these ways of doing, making, seeing, and judging. (22)

A regime of visibility is at once what renders the arts autonomous and also what links this autonomy to a general order of occupations and ways of doing and making. (22)

The aesthetic regime of the arts stands in contrast with the representative regime. I call this regime aesthetic because the identification of art no longer occurs via a division within ways of doing and making, but it is based on distinguishing a sensible mode of being specific to artistic products. The word aesthetics does not refer to a theory of sensibility, taste, and pleasure for art amateurs. It strictly refers to the specific mode of being of whatever falls within the domain of art, to the mode of being of the objects of art. (22)

The aesthetic regime [33] of the arts is the regime that strictly identifies art in the singular and frees it from any specific  rule,  from any hierarchy of the arts, subject matter, and genres. Yet it does so by destroying the mimetic barrier that distinguished ways of doing and making affiliated with art from other ways of doing and making, a barrier that separated its rules from the order of social occupations. The aesthetic regime asserts the absolute singularity of art and, at the same time, destroys any pragmatic criterion for isolating this singularity. It simultaneously establishes the autonomy of art and the identity of its forms with the forms that life uses to shape itself. (23)

Didier Fassin “Another Politics of Life is Possible”

Fassin, Didier 2009. Another Politics of Life is Possible. Theory, Culture & Society 26(5): 44-60.

[…] I propose the following four statements: (1) ‘Governmentality’ corresponds to the rationalization of the ‘art of governing’ (2004a: 96) rather than the real practice of government: ‘politics’ as such is nothing more than the ‘game of these different ways of governing’ and the ‘debate they arouse’ (2004b: 317). (2) ‘Biopower’ is not so much a power over life as its opposition to the sover-eign right of death initially implied, but a power over human conduct: ‘the government of the living’ mainly refers to the normalization of individuals through political technologies (2004a). (3) ‘Biopolitics’ is not a politics of life as the etymology would suggest but a politics of population understood as a community of living beings: ‘life’ remains largely elusive while ‘popu-lation’ represents more and more clearly the true object of biopolitics (2004b). (4) As a consequence of the first three points, questions of life – and death – stay out of the picture in Michel Foucault’s theory of power and subject: life – and death – are matters too serious to be left to politics – and even to philosophy – one could say, to paraphrase Clemenceau’s famous sentence about war and generals. (45-46)

[…] his biopolitics is not a politics of life (Fassin, 2006). Neither life as bios nor life as  zoe was his main concern, but rather the way in which impersonal ‘living beings’ were turned into populations and individuals, how governmentality and subjectification shaped our modern vision of the world and of humanity. (47)

But it is only one possible exploration of the anthropology of life. Alter-native paths would refer to life as the course of events which occurs from birth to death, which can be shortened by political or structural violence, which can be prolonged by health and social policies, which gives place to cultural interpretations and moral decisions, which may be told or written – life which is lived through a body (not only through cells) and as a society (not only as species). I propose to name it ‘life as such’. Obviously it is related through many ramifications to ‘life itself’ if we use this expression to designate the biological existence of the living and its political extension as populations. (48)

I will thus propose four statements responding in some way to the four conclusions drawn earlier from his work: (1) Politics is not just a ‘game of arts of governing’ but is about ‘the issues at stake in the practices of govern-ment’ (in French: politics involves ‘enjeux’ even more than ‘jeux’): in other words, the matter of governing matters for governmentality. (2) Contemporary societies are characterized less by the emergence of biopower than by the imposition of biolegitimacy (it is the power of life as such rather than the ‘power over life’ as Foucault writes): what some have defined as ‘bio -logical citizenship’ enters this eformulation of the problematics. (3) Etymo-logically apprehended biopolitics is not merely a politics of population but is about life and more specifically about inequalities in life which we could call bio-inequalities (curiously ‘inequality’ is a word that never appears in Foucault’s writings): it is about not only normalizing people’s lives, but also deciding the sort of life people may or may not live. (4) Finally, as a result of the first three statements, to comprehend the politics of life implies a return to two concepts Foucault avoided, but which Gilles Deleuze (1962: 1) – with whom he broke at the end of his life – gave as the ultimate project of Nietzsche’s philosophy: ‘meaning and value’. This is probably the only way to be faithful to a great thinker: to enter his thought in order to criti-cize it. (48-49)

A Kenyan man who had stayed in France and Germany for many years in an illegal situation, living under the permanent threat of being expelled, finally received his documents when he was discovered to be suffering from AIDS: ‘It is the disease which kills me that has become my reason for living now’, he once told me. The concept of biological citizenship allows us to think this sort of situation in a more accurate way than would do the concept of ‘bare life’ proposed by Giorgio Agamben (1997). It links the matter of the living (biological, whether as an irradiated or infected body) and the meaning of politics (citizenship, in terms of social as well as civil rights, since the migrants not only get access to medical protection but also obtain the freedom of movement, for instance). (51)

Talking of biolegitimacy rather than biopower is thus to emphasize the construction of the meaning and values of life instead of the exercise of forces and strategies to control it. Considering politics beyond governmen-tality is similarly to insist on the issues involved in the way human beings are treated and their lives are evaluated more than on the technologies at work in these processes. To use the Foucauldian metaphor, it is moving from the ‘rules of the game’ to its stakes. (52)

What ‘to reject into death’ means is not entirely clear in Foucault’s writings. When he relates it to the ‘disqualification of death which marks the recent wane of the rituals that accompanied it’, he seems to be merely borrowing from Philippe Ariès’ thesis developed during the same period (1977). But there might be more to it. If ‘now it is over life that power establishes its domination’, one may think that ‘death is power’s limit, the moment that escapes it, and becomes the most secret aspect of existence’. The implication is that there is no politics of life that does not have a politics of death for a horizon. But this horizon remains invisible, occluded. (52-53)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty “Silm ja vaim”

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 2013. Silm ja vaim. Tartu: Ilmamaa.

Teadus manipuleerib asjadega ja keeldub nende seas elamast. (15)

Väites, et maailm ongi nominaalse definitsiooni järgi meie operatsioonide objekt X, absolutiseeritakse teadlase tunnetussituatsioon, just nagu polekski kõik see, mis maailmas kunagi oli või on, eales olnud olemas millekski muuks kui vaid laboratooriumisse viimiseks. „Operatsiooniline“ mõtlemine kujuneb nõnda teatavaks absoluutseks tehislikkuseks [artificialism absolu]. (16)

Minu liikumine ei ole vaimu otsus ega absoluutne, tingimatu tegevus, mis subjektiivsuse-pelgupaiga põhjast annaks käsu mingiks kohamuutuseks, mis saab siis imepärasel viisil täide viidud. Mu liikumine on nägemise loomulik järg, selle küpsemine. Ma ütlen midagi asja kohta, et seda on liigutatud, kuid mu ihu liigutab ennast ise, mu liikumine rullub ise lahti. Liikumine tunneb ennast, ta pole enda suhtes pime, ta kiirgub ise’st välja … (20)

Inimihu on olemas siis, kui nägija ja nähtava vahel, puudutaja ja puudutatava vahel, ühe silma ja teise silma vahel, ühe käe ja teise käe vahel tekim omamoodi ristamine, kui süttib aistija-aistitava säde, kui alguse saab see tuli, mis lõõmab lakkamatult seni, kuni mõni ihu juhtumus teeb lõpu sellele, mille loomiseks ei piisa eales pelgalt ühest juhtumusest … (21-22)

Imaginaarne on aktuaalsele palju lähemal ja samas sellest kaugemal. Ta on lähemal, kuna ta on aktuaalse elu diagramm minu ihus, ta on aktuaalse säsi või lihalik pahupool, mis on esmakordselt pilkude ette seatud […] Aktuaalsest palju kaugemal on imaginaarne seepärast, et pilt on analoog ainult ihu järgi; seepärast, et pilt ei paku vaimule võimalust asjade konstitutiivseid suhteid uuesti läbi mõelda, vaid annab pilgule seespoolse nägemise jälgi, et pilk nendega paari heidaks; pilt annab nägemisele selle, mis nägemist seetpoolt vaibana kasutab – nimelt millegi reaalse imaginaarse tekstuuri. (23)

Maal […] annab nähtava eksistentsi sellele, mida võhiklik nägemine peab nähtamatuks. (25)

Iga tehnika on „ihu tehnika“. See kujutab ja võimendab meie liha metafüüsilist struktuuri. (28)

Olemus ja eksistents, imaginaarne ja reaalne, nähtav ja nähtamatu … Maalikunst ajab kõik meie kategooriad segamini, laotades valla oma unenäolise maailma koos kõigi sinna kuuluvate lihalike olemuste, tummade tähenduste ja mõjujõuliste sarnasustega. (30)

Nõnda jaguneb nägemine kaheks. Esiteks on olemas nägemine, millele ma reflektiivselt mõtlen ja millest ma ei saagi mõelda teisiti kui mõtlemisest; see on Vaimu sisevaatlus, otsustus, märkide lugemine. Teiseks on olemas nägemine, millel on oma koht, ning see nägemine on ainult nime poolest mõtlemine või institueeritud mõtlemine; see on kängitsetud ihusse – omaenda ihusse, millest me saame aimu ainult seda rakendades ning mis paneb ruumi ja mõtlemise vahel kehtima hinge ja ihu koosluse autonoomse korra. Nõnda pole nägemise mõistatus kõrvaldatud, vaid ainult paigutatud „nägemisest mõtlemise“ juurest ümber aktuaalsesse nägemisse. (40-41)

Meie elundid ei ole kaugeltki mitte instrumendid, vaid vastupidi, instrumendid on meile lisatud elundid. (43)

Enam pole asi selles, et kõneda ruumist ja valgusest, vaid selles, kuidas panna kõnelema ruum ja valgus, mis on olemas [sont là]. (44)

Mis puutub teoste ajalukku – vähemalt kui on tegemist suurteostega –, siis mõte, mis neile tagantjärele antakse, lähtub neist endist. Teos ise avas välja, kus ta kunagi hiljem nähtavale ilmub, tema ise on see, millega toimub metamorfoos, ta ise muutub sündmustejadaks. (45)

Maalikunstniku nägemine pole enam polk välisküljele, pelgalt „füüsilis-optiline“ suhe maailmaga. Maailm pole enam tema ees representatsiooni kaudu. Pigem sünnib kunstnik ise asjades, seeläbi et nähtav konstitueerub ja naaseb iseenda juurde, ning lõpuks suhestub pilt mistahes empiirilise asjaga ainult sel tingimusel, et ta on esmalt „autofiguratiivne“; ta on millegi vaatepilt üksnes siis, kui ta on „eimiski vaatepilt“, kui ta lõhestab „asjade nahka“, et näidata, kuidas asjad saavad asjadeks ja maailm maailmaks. (49)

Rodin ütles midagi väga sügavat: „Kunstnik on aus ja foto valelik, sest tegelikkuses ei peatu aeg kunagi.“ (55)

Nägemine ei ole teatud mõtlemismoodus ega kohalolu iseendale. See on vahend, mis on antud mulle selleks, et saaksin iseendast ära olla, et saaksin olle seestpoolt tunnistajaks Olemise pragunemisele, alles mille lõpul ma iseendasse sulgun. (55)

Selles ringis pole ainsatki katkestust, võimatu on öelda, kus lõpeb loodus ja algab inimene või väljendus. Niisiis on tumm Olemine see, mis tuleb sedamööda ilmutama oma mõtet. Just seepärast ongi figuratiivsuse ja mitte-figuratiivsuse dilemma valesti püstitatud: on ühtviisi õige ja vasturääkivuseta, et ükski viinamari pole iial olnud see, mis ta on isegi kõige figuratiivsemal maalil, ning et mitte ükski maal, isegi mitte abstraktne, ei saa vältida Olemist, ja Caravaggio viinamari ongi viinamari ise. Nägemine ongi selline olemasoleva eelnevus selle suhtes, mida nähakse ja näidatakse, ning nähtava ja näidatava eelnevus olemasoleva suhtes. Ja maalikunsti ontoloogilise vormeli tarvis peaaegu polegi tarvis muuta maalikunstniku enda sõni. Klee kirjutas kolmekümne seitsme aastasena sõnad, mis hiljem raiuti tema hauakivile: „Ma olen mõistetamatu immanentsuses …“ (58-59)