Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator

Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator, vol. 45, Artforum International Magazine, Inc, 2007.

To remember:

  • paradox of the spectator[:] there is no theater without … but spectatorship is a bad thing[:] … First, looking is deemed the opposite of knowing … Second, looking is deemed the opposite of acting … spectator is separate from capability … and possibility … (271)
  • Since the advent of German Romanticism, the concept of theater has been associated with the idea of the living community. Theater appeared as a form of aesthetic constitution – meaning the sensory constitution – of the community: the community as a way of occupying time and space, as a set of living gestures and attitudes, that stands before any kind of political form and institution; community as a performing body instead of an apparatus of forms and rules (273).
  • Either, according to the Brechtian paradigm, theatrical mediation makes the audience aware of the social situation on which theater rests, prompting the audience to act in consequence. Or, according to the Artaudian scheme, it makes them abandon the position of spectator: No longer seated in fron to fthe spectacle, they are instead surrounded by the performance, dragged into the circle of the action, which gives them back their collective energy. In both cases the theater is a self-suppressing mediation (274).
  • self-suppression = process of pedagogical relation (274)
  • stultification: endless verification of inequality, opposite of emancipation (Jacotot)
  • intellectual emancipation: awareness and enactment of that equal power of a translation and a counter translation (Jacotot) (275)
  • these oppositions are what i call a partition of the sensible, a distribution of places and of the capacities or incapacities attached to those places … they are allegories of inequality. This is why you can exchange the values given to each position without changing the meaning of oppositions themselves … it is easy to turn matters around [on the disparaged spectator] by stating that those who act, those who work with their bodies, are obviously inferior to those who look … contemplate ideas, foresee the future, or take a global view [capacity vs. incapacity] (277).
  • looking is an action that confirms or modifies that distribution and ‘interpreting the world’ is already a means of transforming it, or reconfiguring it … the spectator is active, just like the student or the scientist: He observes, he selects, he compares, he interprets … connects … participates … or is able to undo … … They pay attention to the extent that they are distant(277).
  • Master’s notion of transmission: There is something on one side, in one mind or body – a knowledge, a capacity, an energy – that must be transferred to the other side, into the other’s mind or body. The presupposition is that the process of learning is not merely the effect of its cause, but the very transmission of its cause: What the student learns is the knowledge of the master. [that cause-effect is stultification] … On the contrary, the principle of emancipation is the dissociation of cause and effect (277).
  • An emancipated community is in fact a community of storytellers and translators (280).
  • Breaking away from the phantasms of the Word made flesh and the spectator turned active, knowing that words are only words and spectacles only spectacles, may help us better understand how words, stories, and performances can help us change something in the world we live in (280).

To consider:

  • implications for spectator of social media …

To consume:

  • Rancière, Jacques, The Ignorant Schoolteacher
  • Jacotot
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