To remedy this passivity Bertold Brecht - and Antonin Artaud - attempted to create forms of theatre with only "active participants as opposed to passive voyeurs" p. Such theatre attempted to embody the living community. The Living Theatre, founded by Julian Beck, was a continuation of this project. Debord persuasively argues that consumerism manages our desires to the extent of alienating us from our power of judgement. Consumerism may be banal but it does not follow that consumers are powerless idiots. If The Society of the Spectacle tells us anything at all, it is to underline the message about our own inability.

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Reminiscent of Freire. The later essays take to task Barthes while relying on DeLeuze and others in support of appreciating modern image making as an evolution rather than a repudiation of image A fascinating take on spectatorship and the image. The later essays take to task Barthes while relying on DeLeuze and others in support of appreciating modern image making as an evolution rather than a repudiation of image aesthetics and cultural fabrication.

Ranciere talks about abrutir rather than oppression. Before that the idea of the myth of the audience as passive victims of the mass media was taken apart by many in Media and Communication studies. Sage, , p. So Ranciere is following a well established media studies trend that he probably contributed to with his earlier writings. Ranciere directs this analysis at some of my favourite French theorists from Guy Debord to Pierre Bourdieu.

Ranciere is perhaps the first higher ranking philosopher to dare confront icons of the Marxist radical left with their, and our, own classism.

The criticism of Pierre Bourdieu that follows in chapter 2 is something similar to what I wrote less elegantly, back in Bourdieu does not understand how the stratification of taste that he measures as cultural norms is negated by the actions of autodidacts and other outsiders who do not figure in his sociological surveys.

Bourdieu only recognises individual cultural agency by young bourgeois. The suggestion in Emancipated Spectator is that things like participation art only reinforce the idea that the audience are usually passive receptacles. Ranciere points out that predetermined outcomes cannot be emancipatory because for an artwork to be emancipatory the viewer has to be making judgements based on their own knowledge and experience. The rest of the book mainly concerns these questions.

For Ranciere both conditions are co-terminus without any need for consensus. In fact dissensus is better. Dissensus is almost our natural condition as autonomous individuals in a dynamic state of communication about their inevitably different subject positions.

Emancipation is then down to "collectivising our capacities invested in scenes of dissensus". He goes on to discuss how this idea relates to our contemplations on art. He is emphatic that the sensory world of the artist is separate from that of the viewer and that there is no right way to think about art and never has been.

Some of the most influential conventional writing about art has been a celebration of interpretation set free of any originally intent, use or context. Things that are not used for their intended purposes. This is the point at which I start to feel the analysis is unsatisfactory.

Up to now my intuition and previous studies make me think he is right about equality of intelligence and what follows, but the idea that the reading of art is separate from any intention of the artist and that artistic intention cannot be at all rhetorical, if it is to be emancipatory, is more difficult.

As an artist focused on social change it is difficult to imagine the removal of intentionality from work.


Jacques Rancière



The Emancipated Spectator


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