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Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art

Rancière's magnum opus, challenging the aesthetic and the concerns of modernism
Composed in a series of scenes, Aisthesis—Rancière's definitive statement on the aesthetic—takes its reader 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 Mallarmé to the Folies-Bergère, attend a lecture by Emerson, visit exhibitions in Paris and New York, factories in Berlin, and film sets in Moscow and Hollywood. Rancière 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 specificities of the different arts, as well as the borders that separated them from ordinary experience. This incisive study provides a history of artistic modernity far removed from the conventional postures of modernism.

Reviews

  • “... a magisterial book of great scope and ambition that has the capacity to alter how we understand the artistic culture of the past 200 years.”
  • “Exhilarating... Rancière’s most thoroughgoing polemic against the received idea of modernism.”
  • “Jacques Rancière's Aisthesis transforms the field of aesthetic philosophy.”
  • “French philosopher Jacques Rancière is a refreshing read for anyone concerned with what art has to do with politics and society.”
  • “In the face of impossible attempts to proceed with progressive ideas within the terms of postmodernist discourse, Rancière shows a way out of the malaise.”
  • “It's clear that Jacques Rancière is relighting the flame that was extinguished for many—that is why he serves as such a signal reference today.”
  • “Far from the grand narratives of modernism that claim the language of art progresses in the search for purity ... modernity breaks down the hierarchy between spheres of culture, disturbing the boundaries between art and life ... [Rancière] analyzes a series of moments from this other history that could only be written in proliferating fragments ... this aesthetic ‘regime’ conditions the forms of art and democracy in an era of the permanent emergence of new sovereign subjects.”
  • “Since The Division of the Sensible ... Rancière has been reminding those who would separate the wheat from the chaff in contemporary creative practices that art only exists as an unstable boundary that must be continually crossed. In Aisthesis the philosopher develops his thinking, drawing fifteen scenes of a counter-history of artistic modernity.”
  • “Such is the clarity and complexity of Rancière’s thought here, and so intimate is he with the writings excerpted and the works to which they refer, that one has to conclude that this is a fundamental test of his broader conceptions of artistic, literary, and political history.”
  • “Such is the clarity and complexity of Rancière’s thought here, and so intimate is he with the writings excerpted and the works to which they refer, that one has to conclude that this is a fundamental test of his broader conceptions of artistic, literary, and political history.”

Blog

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  • Parrhesia Journal reviews Jacques Rancière's Aisthesis

    Jean-Philippe Deranty, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University, wrote a commending analysis of Jacques Rancière's Aisthesis in Parrhesia Journal. He writes that Aisthesis "proposes significant conceptual innovations in relation to aesthetics" and is held together by "the constellation of interlinked formal concepts and thematic threads beign woven throughout the fourteen chapters."

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Other books by Jacques Rancière Translated by Zakir Paul