JACQUES RANCIÈRE

Dates: 1940-

Nationality: French

Jacques Rancière is a French philosopher and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris (St. Denis) who came to prominence when he co-authored Reading Capital (1968), with the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. In 2006, it was reported that Rancière’s aesthetic theory had become a point of reference in the visual arts, and Rancière has lectured at such art world events as the Frieze Art Fair.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Jacques Rancière’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 29 October 2010, 22:53 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jacques_Ranci%C3%A8re&oldid=393692405>

RANCIÈRE, FOR DUMMIES by Ben Davis

The 66-year-old French philosopher Jacques Rancière is clearly the new go-to guy for hip art theorists. Artforum magazine’s ever-sagacious online “Diary” has referred to Rancière as the art world’s “darling du jour,” and in its recent issue, the magazine itself has described digital video artist Paul Chan as “Rancièrian” — as an aside, without further explanation, no less! For anyone looking for a primer, Rancière’s slim The Politics of Aesthetics has just been published in paperback.

Rancière has the undeniable virtue, for the esoterica-obsessed art world at least, of being something of an odd duck. A one-time fellow traveler of Marxist mandarin Louis Althusser, Rancière split with him after the May ’68 worker-student rebellion against the de Gaulle government, feeling that Althusser, a partisan of the Stalinized French Communist Party, left too little space in his theoretical edifice for spontaneous popular revolt. Against this background of disenchantment, Rancière set out to explore the relationships between philosophy and the worker, rethink ideas of history and try to construct a progressive theory of art.

The Politics of Aesthetics is a quick and dirty tour of a number of these themes. It features five short meditations on various conjunctions of art and politics, plus a lengthy interview with Rancière by his translator Gabriel Rockhill titled “The Janus-Face of Politicized Art,” an introduction by Rockhill and a concluding essay by the art world’s other favorite quirky philosopher, Slavoj Zizek. It is a short but serious book and, in keeping with French intellectual practice, sensuously impenetrable, coming equipped with a glossary of terms for the uninitiated.

Davis, Ben. “Ranciere, for Dummies.” Artnet.com.<www.artnet.com/magazineus/books/davis/davis8-17-06.asp>

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