“The Pensive Image” from the Emancipated Spectator by Jacques Rancière

January’s Reading: “The Pensive Image” from The Emancipated Spectator by Jacques Rancière
Wednesday January 19 2011
VIVO Media Arts [1965 Main Street], Vancouver BC
7pm Salon Free
Facilitated by Alex Muir

This month’s reading comes from Jacques Rancière’s The Emancipated Spectator (2008, english translation: 2009). As that title suggests, here and elsewhere, Rancière is engaged in a re-reading of many past potentially canonical interpretations of spectatorship, consumption, and passivity with a mind to loosening the vice-like grip of negativity in which these positions are so often held. The final work in this collection, “The Pensive Image”, begins with photography–reading its aesthetic and social relations through and against the ideas of Baudelaire, Benjamin and especially Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida. Re-using photographic examples from this book, Rancière offers readings as to how the content circulates that differ from those used by Barthes in defining his key photographic terms “punctum” (singular, resistant aspects) and “studium” (informative, social aspects). Meditating on aesthetic invisibility, indifference, the dynamic between art and reportage in representative practice, transfiguration, and the embedding of mediums within one another, Rancière works his way through Flaubert, and Walker Evans, through to the video-based practices of Woody Vasulka and Jean-Luc Godard. In particular, thoughts on the intersection and exchange of various disciplines seem very relevant to many contemporary media-based practices and perhaps even speak to the idea at the core of ‘media art’ itself.

Jacques Rancière is a well respected Algeria-born French theorist, whose works have long circulated around politics, pedagogy and aesthetics–and on many occasions the interrelations of these fields. The book under discussion, and several others have been spotted in the hands of many friends and associates in our community over the last few years–hopefully we could do worse than to read some of this work together. “The Pensive Image” is perhaps slightly to long to tackle aloud in its entirety in one sitting, and thus some excerpting will likely be necessary. Nonetheless the full text will be made available, and, as per always, can be attained in advance by contacting events@vivomediaarts.com.

Co-Presented with Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society