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The Future of the Image by Jacques Rancière
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Jan 08, 2010

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bookshelves: theory-n-shit
Read in January, 2010

The main crux of these five essays explore the status of art, that which is presupposed as art or any representation that fits within the prominent form of creating images (design). Ranciere’s exploration delves quickly and loosely into the historical development of its theories, various characteristics that make up this period and the social/political implications, associations, and aspects that influence and interact within these “aesthetic regimes.” Once establishing these characteristics, Ranciere notes that one of the prominent characteristics of art today is the attempt to disassemble from prior associations--whether it be with specific images, forms, idea, or connotation to an established interpretation. Unfortunately, in doing so it has created an “aesthetic regime” that is suffering from some all-too structured tendencies. Unable to ever be a wholly autonomous movement, its attempt to work against the art of representation (or even early moments that worked against three-dimensional representation), is making itself into its own regime full of rules/guidelines. Of course, this makes it exactly like the principles it rails against. Ranciere suggests that this is the unfortunate outcome that is driven by capitalists society and erasure of any real distinction between art, images, or any kind of representation utilized in design and advertisements (Although, Ranciere doesn't believe that their should be a clear distinction). Ranciere concludes that the modern aesthetic regimes still contain some sort of boundary, beyond which is viewed as an excess. This is a misstep that makes it an unfortunate by-product of what it originally revolted against.

There is a whole lot more in here about film and fiction that doesn’t immediately relate to any kind of argument or foundation that Ranciere is trying to lay that are really brilliant at moments. Ranciere hits his stride in clarity and potency in the last two essays where he explores design and the so-called “unrepresentable.” The first three essays get pretty vague in terminology and argument. Ranciere also has this tendency to organize his thoughts it what I can imagine look great in bullet-points on a piece of paper but don’t work so well in the form of an essay. He will often outline A, B and C. Then, of course, each will have a subset, and those subsets will have sub-subsets. Do we ever return to the original A, B or C? Rarely. And if we do, I didn’t catch it. I felt, maybe naively, that Ranciere was saying a whole lot that already seems pretty obvious, only in a really obscure, convoluted way. Thus, the nature of continental philosophy books published by Verso. ;)
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