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Shocking (Rancière’s) spectators

Hellings, J. ORCID: (2012) Shocking (Rancière’s) spectators. In: Corris, M., Joseph-Lester, J. and Kivland, S. (eds.) Transmission Annual: Provocation. Transmission Annual (2). Artwords Press, London. ISBN 9781906441272

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For Adorno, Benjamin and Rancière the raison d’être of advanced artworks is to provoke, activate and antagonise both their situation and their spectator. I write ‘their’ to privilege the strange, fluid and unfixed, space/time carved out of the here-and-now by this special type of object. Artworks cannot be entirely dominated and devoured, possessed and rationalised, by subjugating spectators. ‘The philistine demand that the artwork give something’ and the culinary call of the culture-vulture ‘what-do-I-get-out-of-it?’ are equally regressive. Spectators should, following Hegel, practise ‘freedom to the object.’ However, this freedom hurts - as Adorno avers, ‘the splinter in your eye is the best magnifying glass.’ The shock of the splinter’s penetration, the accompanying shudder of the wounded and parallactic vision of the pained, is the power and freedom specific to art - which also renews the economy of spectatorship. The spectator who is capable of experiencing the shock and/or shudder of art (Adorno’s, ‘aesthetic comportment’ ), doesn’t refer artworks narcissistically to herself in order to ‘trigger personal, otherwise repressed emotions. Rather, this shock [aroused by important [art]works] is the moment in which [spectators] forget themselves and disappear into the work; it is the moment of being shaken.’ Shaken to distraction. Benjamin takes this up, ‘distraction and concentration form an antithesis (…). A person who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it; he enters into the work (…). By contrast, the distracted masses absorb the work of art into themselves.’ Using selected writings by the aforementioned thinkers, I’ll argue that it is this enigmatic here-and-now, the shocking imperative of art as ‘an opening outwards from pure objectivity,’ which finally emancipates the spectator.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Fine Art
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Art History
ID Code:114036
Publisher:Artwords Press

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