sábado, 6 de marzo de 2010

DEBATE AESTHETICS AND MODERNITY Jacques Rancière and Peter Sloterdijk / By Adolfo Vásquez Rocca


Peter Sloterdijk by Adolfo Vásquez Rocca


DEBATE AESTHETICS AND MODERNITY Jacques Rancière and Peter Sloterdijk / By Adolfo Vásquez Rocca


Ranciere - Sloterdijk


Peter Sloterdijk

'Jacques Rancière and Peter Sloterdijk debate Aesthetics and Modernity'

Peter Sloterdijk at the Social Theory Centre


Peter Sloterdijk


This is a chance to hear two leading continental thinkers and public intellectuals debating the aesthetic both as a way of understanding the modern world and as a problematic category within that world. In a genial confrontation between German and French traditions and modes of thought, Prof. Rancière and Prof. Sloterdijk assess the role of the aesthetic in the digitalised and globalised world. Their personal presence at Warwick has been especially valuable as they both have major works still not translated into English. This podcast offers an excellent overview of some of the key ideas of the acclaimed thinkers, whose work connects philosophy, literature, history, art, politics, sociology and psychology.


Jacques Rancière

Jacques Rancière is Emeritus Professor at the Université de Paris VIII.

DEBATE AESTHETICS AND MODERNITY Jacques Rancière and Peter Sloterdijk / By Adolfo Vásquez Rocca

Peter Sloterdijk

Peter Sloterdijk is Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Philosophy and Media Theory, Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe

The debate was sponsored by the Social Theory Centre, The Centre for Research in Philosophy, Literature and the Arts, and the Institute of Advanced Studies at Warwick University.


DEBATE AESTHETICS AND MODERNITY Jacques Rancière and Peter Sloterdijk / By Adolfo Vásquez Rocca


Peter Sloterdijk

Since the publication of his Critique of Cynical Reason (English version 1988) Peter Sloterdijk has become the most important representative of post-Frankfurt School critical theory in Germany. In a series of publications, ranging from treatments of Nietzsche (Thinker on Stage), engagement with postmodern philosophy (Derrida, ein Ägypter), and discussions of the relationship between religion, science and politics (Eurotaoismus, Regeln für den Menschenpark, leading to his famous dispute with Jürgen Habermas in 2001 over genetic engineering and eugenics), to the recent three-volume work Sphären (spheres), Professor Sloterdijk has cemented his role as one of Europe’s most sought-after intellectuals. In addition, he is a national media figure in Germany, hosting the bi-monthly discussion programme Philosophische Quartett on ZDF. For many years Professor Sloterdijk operated as a freelance writer but since 1992 he has taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, a leading institution in higher education devoted to research and teaching on the relationship between philosophy, the arts, the human sciences and new modes of communication. For the last few years he has been its Rector.

Professor Sloterdijk’s main contribution to European social theory is to have consistently sought a new language in which the human sciences broadly conceived might grasp the challenges of the twenty-first century. To this end, the argument of his magnum opus, Sphären, is that there is a need to come to terms with two major developments in the advanced societies of the late twentieth century: deindustrialisation and the predominance of spatial over temporal relationships. He argues that this is a challenge for the human sciences because they have been wedded for decades to models that cannot take these developments into account. In particular, almost all versions of the sociology subscribe to some version or another of historicism. Most of Sphären – divided into ‘Bubbles’, ‘Globes’ and ‘Foam’ - is devoted to this second problem, and seeks to promote a ‘topological turn’ in the human sciences, centred on the theorisation of space. It argues the resources for such spatial thinking are to be found in a buried layer of the European philosophical heritage that stretches from Plato to Leibniz. Volume 1 is mainly concerned with dyadic relationships; volume 2 excavates the philosophical history of the concept of globalisation; volume 3 rethinks the nature of social relations in terms of the structure of foam, arguing from an image of what Sloterdijk calls ‘connected isolations’.

Libro 'Peter Sloterdijk' by Adolfo Vasquez Rocca PH. D.




DEBATE AESTHETICS AND MODERNITY Jacques Rancière and Peter Sloterdijk / By Adolfo Vásquez Rocca

Adolfo Vásquez Rocca

| E-mail: adolfovrocca@gmail.com

Marshall McLuhan’s claim that “the medium is the message” is a more-or-less foundational tenet of media studies, and it is exactly this claim that Rancière contests. In an insight that is both groundbreaking and re-hashing some 18th-century observations on aesthetics, Rancière claims that “it’s not the medium, but the operation.”

According to Rancière, the problem with media theory is that it tries to deduce a work’s aesthetic affects and political effects from the formal/empirical properties of its medium. “Contemporary mediological discourse” assumes that “the properties of apparatuses of production and diffusion” (Rancière, 18) determine every aspect of media objects and media discourse.* So, for example, some theorists argue that the aesthetics or politics of “new media” are derived from formal/structural features of specific programs, hardware configurations, or even the fact of digitization itself.** Rancière, however, thinks this tactic conflates of the “technical properties” of a medium with “the aesthetic properties” of a work’s form and content (Rancière, 2) – in other words, he’s arguing that the medium is not only not the message, it’s not what makes something art (as opposed to journalism or advertising or whatever). As famous hackers like Grandmaster Flash and T-Pain well know, the technical properties and constraints of a specific device are limited only by the creativity of their end-users. Turntables are not just for reproducing sound, just as Autotune is not just for pitch “correction,” so it would be foolish to try to find some sort of necessary, causal relationship between hip hop’s aesthetic and its means of (re)production.

What does make something art is its “operation.” An “operation” is not form, not content, but a regime of images, a set of norms and conventions that determine what counts as art and what doesn’t count as art. Rancière defines operations as the “alteration[s] of resemblance” that “produc[e] what we call art” (6); they are the markers that distinguish an art object from a mundane, utilitarian object. Think about Duchamp’s Fountain. It has no material-technical property that distinguishes it, “Fountain,” from any old urinal in any old restroom. It is, however, displayed in an artworld context, it is considered to be the singular work of an author-artist, it is considered to have both exhibit aesthetic properties and to have some sort of substantive content (broadly construed). These features are all “operations” in Rancière’s sense.*** An operation is more or less what Foucault would call a “regime of truth” or what Thomas Kuhn would call a “paradigm” – it’s an epistemological framework that doles out what counts as artistic meaning and affect, how meaning and affect are perceived, and how meaning and affect are communicated. For those familiar with Rancière’s political philosophy, “operation” is another term for “distribution of sensibility”: they are “the link between perceptions, actions, and affects” (Rancière, 5). Operations do not follow from technical-material properties of a medium, but from convention and its vicissitudes. Rancière argues that operations “create and frustrate expectations” (5) – they are norms that, when followed, produce certain kinds of pleasure (like familiarity), or, when frustrated, produce others (awe, interest in innovation). Operations are conventions, the product of history and society; “operations do not derive from the properties of [any] medium” (Rancière, 5).

Interestingly, Rancière’s claim here is nearly identical to Rousseau’s critique of 18th century music theorists. In his Essay on the Origin of Languages, Rousseau argues that “Whoever wishes to philosophize about the force of sensations must therefore begin by setting the purely sensory impressions apart from the intellectual and moral impressions we receive by way of the senses, but of which the senses are only the occasional causes: let him avoid the error of attributing to sensible objects a power which they either lack or derive from the affections of the soul which they represent to us” (289). Rousseau is speaking about Jean-Philippe Rameau, a very prominent music theorist and author of one of the canonical and foundational texts of Western tonal harmony. Rameau thought that all of music’s properties could be deduced and derived from the physics of sound (specifically, the relations among intervals in the overtone series). Rousseau disagrees with Rameau, claiming that the latter “attributes to sensible objects” – i.e., sound waves – an affective power that can arise only through convention. “Sounds act on us not only as sounds,” Rousseau explains, “but as signs of our affections, our sentiments; this is how they arouse in us the emotions which they express and the image of which we recognize in them” (Rousseau, 288). Music works like a language. It is a semiological system wherein certain sounds or combinations of sounds have come to be associated with certain meanings.**** Like Rancière, Rousseau argues that it’s not the medium, the physical/technical properties of sound waves, but the conventions or “operations.”

* All Rancière quotes are from The Future of the Image (Verso, 2007).
** In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich describes his project as “beginning with the basic, ‘material’ principles of new media – numeric coding and modular organization – we moved to more ‘deep’ and far-reaching ones – automation and variability” (45). Clearly he’s following McLuhan to a certain extent insofar as he tries to deduce a metatheory of new media from the material/empirical properties of networked computers. This tendency to deduce aesthetic properties from material-technical properties is likely also indebted to Walter Benjamin’s theory that the means of artistic production bear directly on the status and functioning of art objects as such.
*** The last one, the idea that it has a meaning in need of interpretation, is an operation Rancière identifies as central Western art from the 19th century onward.
**** Or, as Rousseau says, music “is a language for which one has to have the Dictionary” (286). All Rousseau quotes from the Gourevitch translation.

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