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Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art

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Aisthesis is Jacques Ranciere's long-awaited, definitive statement on aesthetics, art and modernity. The book comprises a string of dramatic and evocative locales, each embodying specific artistic tendencies and together spanning the modern era--from Dresden in 1764 to New York in 1941. Along the way, we view the Belvedere Torso with Winckelmann, accompany Hegel to the mus Aisthesis is Jacques Ranciere's long-awaited, definitive statement on aesthetics, art and modernity. The book comprises a string of dramatic and evocative locales, each embodying specific artistic tendencies and together spanning the modern era--from Dresden in 1764 to New York in 1941. Along the way, we view the Belvedere Torso with Winckelmann, accompany Hegel to the museum and Mallarme to the Folies-Bergere, attend a lecture by Emerson, and visit exhibitions in Paris and New York, factories in Berlin, and film sets in Moscow and Hollywood. Ranciere uses these sites and events--some famous, others forgotten--to ask what becomes art and what comes of it. He shows how a regime of artistic perception and interpretation was constituted and transformed by erasing the distinctions between the different arts along with the borders separating them from ordinary experience. This incisive study provides a history of artistic modernity far removed from conventional understandings of modernism.


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Aisthesis is Jacques Ranciere's long-awaited, definitive statement on aesthetics, art and modernity. The book comprises a string of dramatic and evocative locales, each embodying specific artistic tendencies and together spanning the modern era--from Dresden in 1764 to New York in 1941. Along the way, we view the Belvedere Torso with Winckelmann, accompany Hegel to the mus Aisthesis is Jacques Ranciere's long-awaited, definitive statement on aesthetics, art and modernity. The book comprises a string of dramatic and evocative locales, each embodying specific artistic tendencies and together spanning the modern era--from Dresden in 1764 to New York in 1941. Along the way, we view the Belvedere Torso with Winckelmann, accompany Hegel to the museum and Mallarme to the Folies-Bergere, attend a lecture by Emerson, and visit exhibitions in Paris and New York, factories in Berlin, and film sets in Moscow and Hollywood. Ranciere uses these sites and events--some famous, others forgotten--to ask what becomes art and what comes of it. He shows how a regime of artistic perception and interpretation was constituted and transformed by erasing the distinctions between the different arts along with the borders separating them from ordinary experience. This incisive study provides a history of artistic modernity far removed from conventional understandings of modernism.

30 review for Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    I'm not deeply read on aesthetic philosophy. Arguably, one shouldn't have to be. Art is forbidden to none; theory on it, on the other hand, can be rather arcane. Ranciere's statement on aesthetics and modern art is refreshingly not so. Rather than trying to locate the political in the artistic, Aisthesis posits that art itself is political when it stresses the freedom of the artist from the conventions of the form, whether those conventions are of subject matter in painting (Bartolome Esteban Mu I'm not deeply read on aesthetic philosophy. Arguably, one shouldn't have to be. Art is forbidden to none; theory on it, on the other hand, can be rather arcane. Ranciere's statement on aesthetics and modern art is refreshingly not so. Rather than trying to locate the political in the artistic, Aisthesis posits that art itself is political when it stresses the freedom of the artist from the conventions of the form, whether those conventions are of subject matter in painting (Bartolome Esteban Murillo), of "story" in dance (Loie Fuller), or of sentiment in film (Charlie Chaplin). Ranciere moves deftly and effortlessly among his examples. The writing is sometimes high-flown but often exhilarating. Particularly interesting in the later chapters is the notion that newer forms like photography are inherently revolutionary in that they change the relation between artist and art. Aisthesis is a thought-provoking work that approaches its subect in novel and surprising ways.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Peters

    Ranciere's greatest work yet. While the prelude presents the most explicit theoretical formulation of Ranciere's genealogical approach to understanding art, the real merit of the book lies in its concrete analysis of seemingly disparate artistic events. Ranciere adeptly links these outwardly unrelated "scenes" via one of his key historical concepts, the aesthetic identification of art. I particularly enjoyed the sections on Mallarme, Emerson, Chaplin, Vertov, and the final section - upon who I s Ranciere's greatest work yet. While the prelude presents the most explicit theoretical formulation of Ranciere's genealogical approach to understanding art, the real merit of the book lies in its concrete analysis of seemingly disparate artistic events. Ranciere adeptly links these outwardly unrelated "scenes" via one of his key historical concepts, the aesthetic identification of art. I particularly enjoyed the sections on Mallarme, Emerson, Chaplin, Vertov, and the final section - upon who I shall not tell.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Meeuwis

    Back in grad school, it was pretty much understood that Ranciere--like Zoolander's Hansel--was so hot right now. I don't want to produce here the standard whining about how trendy theorists are all basically mutilating the virgin goddess literature; however, I think it's also quite reasonable to say that intellectual fashions exist, and that part of what made Ranciere "in" at that moment--and maybe still?--is the mildly tautological fact that he was fashionable. The book's prose style made it, I Back in grad school, it was pretty much understood that Ranciere--like Zoolander's Hansel--was so hot right now. I don't want to produce here the standard whining about how trendy theorists are all basically mutilating the virgin goddess literature; however, I think it's also quite reasonable to say that intellectual fashions exist, and that part of what made Ranciere "in" at that moment--and maybe still?--is the mildly tautological fact that he was fashionable. The book's prose style made it, I think, needlessly difficult to read. I would point specifically to the deluge of undefined abstractions ("in which the exact materiality of the performance is conflated with spectacular ideality accepted as such") that make assigning agency, or judging what the book is finally saying about these states of art, difficult. (Who, for example, is doing the conflation here?) What finally makes it out of this abstractness, conversely, seems ultimately pretty banal: as near as I can tell what the book is claiming, it's saying that there are moments in the history of capital-A art in the west where works of art acknowledge something like the mass lived experience of populations, which appears within artwork as a heightened attention to the physical parts of the artwork itself. (So paintings as paint-on-canvas, theatrical performances as bodies on stage, etc.) That's fine, if not particularly novel. What's frustrating is that, again as near as I can determine, that acknowledgment of mass experience is referred to as "potential," a term that is frustratingly never defined. At my crankiest, it felt like the book kept undoing previous systems of the valuation of art using this "potential" as their foil; and then provided no real content for that word. There are some attempts made to define potential, or whatever other value art adds to the world; but these are themselves vague, as in Ranciere's repeated invocation of the particular quality of light in a room as what I believe to be a stand-in for lived experience. I was intrigued by the idea that "art" was invented by nineteenth-century museums as a way of getting people to notice the techniques and abstract beauty of painters and sculptors while ignoring the ideological content of the artworks themselves. Yet do we--and did anyone--completely ignore the politics of, say, paintings glorifying the seventeenth-century Catholic church, or whatever monarch commissioned them? Ranciere is similarly willing to flatten as complex a figure as John Ruskin into someone whose only interest was in architecture. (Although of course "architecture" then sort of expands to become a term for all art that provokes enhanced lived experience--I think?) Speaking of lived experience: I don't know that the headache this book provokes is in any sense worth the rather thin insights it produces.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    An exceptional tour of "historical modernism," as opposed to the "serious" modernism that uprooted it—which is in fact the only modernism that today we recognize as such. Rancière takes us through fourteen distinct aesthetic moments, from 1764 to 1941, examining the underground movement of this historical form: identifying its geneses, tracing its successes and failures, and charting its afterlives. What we discover in this patchwork subsequence is an alternative history of modern art and aesthe An exceptional tour of "historical modernism," as opposed to the "serious" modernism that uprooted it—which is in fact the only modernism that today we recognize as such. Rancière takes us through fourteen distinct aesthetic moments, from 1764 to 1941, examining the underground movement of this historical form: identifying its geneses, tracing its successes and failures, and charting its afterlives. What we discover in this patchwork subsequence is an alternative history of modern art and aesthetics, a history of the small and the mundane and the unknown, a history of the inconsequential that, through Rancière's presentation, discovers, or perhaps, has restored to it, it's peculiar, centreless gravitation. Despite the chronology of his chapters, Rancière's argument does not pierce like a "javelin" of reason but instead washes over the reader in waves, only to be brought together, ever so loosely, colloquially, in the final paragraph of the book. Rancière's style beckons the reader into the very historical form that he explores, teaching its movements through the rhythm of his prose as much as through the analyses of his chosen artworks. As such, the book is not an easy read, and at times readers can flounder in the tide of Rancière's words. As Le Guin would say, however, Rancière's book is not full of heroes but of people, and this collection of essays takes the shape less of a spear than a carrier bag, a container, a gathering that is both womb and tomb, the bringing-into-relation that is both as old as human time and distinctive of the "regime" without a ruler that Rancière so lovingly details. To read Aisthesis is to dwell in the aesthetic space that Rancière reawakens, to be enlivened to an otherwise outside the "serious" and "consequential" dialectic of history that we have been taught is the only possibility for our understanding.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Not that it's much of a competition but Rancière has to be the most cultured and well read philosopher since Schopenhauer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Szczelkun

    Like a course for a 14 week module to de-mystify aesthetic discourse and show how it has always had ruptures that are often from outside of what is normally considered as fine art disciplines. His opening lines are: "This book deals with the same topic in fourteen scenes." That topic is changes in aesthetics. With aesthetics meant in the sense that "has only existed in the West since the end of the eighteenth century."  This notion of Art arose at a point at which ancient hierarchical forms began Like a course for a 14 week module to de-mystify aesthetic discourse and show how it has always had ruptures that are often from outside of what is normally considered as fine art disciplines. His opening lines are: "This book deals with the same topic in fourteen scenes." That topic is changes in aesthetics. With aesthetics meant in the sense that "has only existed in the West since the end of the eighteenth century."  This notion of Art arose at a point at which ancient hierarchical forms began to be challenged. Changes in aesthetics arise from and make intelligible transformations in our common 'forms of sensible experience'. This sensible experience covers institutions, practices, thought patterns and affective modes which find expression in created forms. He points out that when elite art forms were opened to public view they contained radical aspects, such as foreign views, as well as priming a paternal management of culture for the masses. "Art exists as a separate world since anything whatsoever can belong to it." p.X. It is this openess of Art that allowed the conservative old aristocratic patronage and ossified state academies to be challenged. "It shows how art, far from foundering upon these intrusions of the prose of the world ceaselessly redefined itself… blurring… the boundaries that separate them from the prosaic world." p.XI. The European bourgeoise class embraced the advantages of an open culture, with them at the helm, as it allowed them to meet, absorb and control challenges to their hegemonic values as well as holding out an aspirational model with its promise of 'equality of opportunity'. The scenes discussed are focused on a single work and the "interpretive network that gives it meaning around an emblematic text." He uses the idea of a sensible public meshing with an intellectual community whose verbal commentaries make our sensible perceptions 'thinkable' - by which he seems to mean able to be articulated and shared. To do this the Art world and its intellectual community of writers must welcome the 'unthinkable'  in both senses of the word.  He avoids the usual canonic key events and formations, and the disciplinary categories that tend to separate art discourses rigidly into the different artforms. His study demonstrates that the practices of artists and their audiences tend not to adhere to these artform disciplines. Aesthetic innovation leaps the boundaries imposed by our 'disciplines'. It is argued that perhaps the dancer Lois Fuller and comic Charlie Chaplin contributed more to the 'modernist paradigm' than Mondrian or Kandinsky, or that Walt Whitman is as influential as Stéphane Mallarmé.  Aithesis "aims to capture the occurrences of certain displacements in the perception of what art signifies." p. XIII.  Central to this is a "history of the paradoxical links between the aesthetic paradigm and the political community… The aesthetic revolution developed as an unending break with the hierarchal model of the body, the story and action." p. XIV. The metaphor of the 'body politic' was imagined as having the Humanist elite as its literary/thinking/judging head and the working classes as the body that responds to the instructions issued from that thinking 'head' or class. He ends the prologue by returning to his theme of inaction: the need for leisure and reverie if we are to achieve emancipation from class separation. The general strike is primarily a site of radical inaction - a time to (re)think. The workers movement does not need Art that gives moral instruction. Nor does it need to be trained in ideology, or disciplined as a revolutionary army, it needs the time and space to realise its own becoming. "Social revolution was the daughter of aesthetic revolution, and was only able to deny this relation by transforming a strategic will that had lost its world into a policy of exception." p.XVI.  The rest of the book is being summarised and reveiwed on my blog http://stefan-szczelkun.blogspot.co.uk/

  7. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Campos

    Onde outros autores enxergam uma única “história da arte”, Rancière enxerga três regimes diferentes, excludentes: o regime ético, o regime representativo e o regime estético. O regime ético é o definido por Platão, onde as imagens pintadas são condenadas como imitações das aparências, e a poesia, como alheia à verdade. O regime representativo, ou poético, é o da arte clássica, "mimética". O texto base deste regime é a Poética de Aristóteles, onde o filósofo evita a condenação de Platão e justific Onde outros autores enxergam uma única “história da arte”, Rancière enxerga três regimes diferentes, excludentes: o regime ético, o regime representativo e o regime estético. O regime ético é o definido por Platão, onde as imagens pintadas são condenadas como imitações das aparências, e a poesia, como alheia à verdade. O regime representativo, ou poético, é o da arte clássica, "mimética". O texto base deste regime é a Poética de Aristóteles, onde o filósofo evita a condenação de Platão e justifica a poesia como uma ficção, desde que sejam observadas certas regras na sua feitura. Finalmente, o regime estético equivale à Arte Moderna. Ranciére, no entanto, o define com muito mais precisão conceitual e temporal do que outros autores que escreveram sobre arte moderna. O regime estético, para Rancière, é o regime onde as regras ficcionais clássicas entram em colapso, a partir das especulações filosóficas e estéticas de autores como Kant, Schiller, Hegel. O texto fundamental deste regime é o ensaio de Schiller "Cartas para a Educação Estética do Homem", publicado em fins do século XVIII. Nesse ensaio, Schiller define a experiência humana do "belo" como uma síntese entre o pensamento racional e a percepção sensível. Ao fazê-lo, Schiller, desloca, ou desmonta, os fundamentos clássicos das artes, que eram baseados em regras de como fazer (as regras da ficção estabelecidas por Aristóteles). Agora, o "belo", ou a Arte, surge como a experiência humana por excelência, sensível e racional ao mesmo tempo, e não apenas como um conjunto de regras para a elaboração de ficções poéticas. "Aisthesis", que eu estou lendo no original em francês, é um livro de ensaios sobre "cenas" deste suposto "regime estético". Cada cena se desenrola a partir de um momento específico: um texto, um autor ou conjunto de obras. Rancière interpreta as cenas à luz de sua teoria, e assim ilustra suas idéias, bem como joga luz em momentos importantes da arte e da cultura últimos séculos.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric Steere

    Aisthesis is the most authoritative text from Ranciere's, as he develops a singular and non hierarchical thesis on art. Art is both very living through its reactivation in the performance space Ranciere conceives, even it is necessarily divorced reality, since anything can belong to it. These come in a series of 14 vignettes that capture the high of antiquity sculpture to gymnastics, from Dresden 1764 to Hale County New York (that's rural people) 1941 , Ranciere engages with the reception of the Aisthesis is the most authoritative text from Ranciere's, as he develops a singular and non hierarchical thesis on art. Art is both very living through its reactivation in the performance space Ranciere conceives, even it is necessarily divorced reality, since anything can belong to it. These come in a series of 14 vignettes that capture the high of antiquity sculpture to gymnastics, from Dresden 1764 to Hale County New York (that's rural people) 1941 , Ranciere engages with the reception of the art object, its space in the activation of its own performance, hence never static forms multiply a diverse strata, a regime of perception that can at times be constituted by welcoming the images, objects and performances that can seem opposed to fine art. For Ranciere, thinking is in welcoming the unthinkable, and his own aesthetic gaze leads to obscure yet determined ruptures in his Aisthesis. Be it the operators of the spotlight on Charlie Chaplin or the symbols of the spiritual world of Emerson, the logic of the regime of perception, affection, and thought that Ranciere supposes in the dream of artistic novelty and the coming together of art & life as proposed by modernity and destroys that dream--art exists as an autonomous sphere of production. The highlight in this series is the ultimate chapter on a journalistic report and art in actual, as is represented by the neutrality of the gaze. Journalism s "art of reportage" it's "universality " , is based on composite represented ideas & images--facts. It is in choosing hhehe signs that are sufficient to provoke the audience is knowing what evils and what fortunes and miseries the signs are symptoms of--and even what cures them!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    It made me feel good when I thought this book was fair-to-middling because I don't really get excited about reading theory, and my friends who like reading theory all hated it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Egor Sofronov

    Extraordinary work. Excites strong emotion.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Uroskie

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  13. 5 out of 5

    Billy Lennon

  14. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Boyce

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marlene

  16. 5 out of 5

    renee

  17. 5 out of 5

    egg.ca

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chateubriand

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adam Kerker

  20. 5 out of 5

    Inna

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Morris

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike Corrao

  23. 5 out of 5

    Taro Hyodo

  24. 4 out of 5

    Oscar

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jay Maggio

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eva Smrekar

  27. 5 out of 5

    Samir Muñoz Godoy

  28. 5 out of 5

    J.F. Martel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barry

  30. 4 out of 5

    Olesia Bigus

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