O Espectador Emancipado by Jacques Rancière

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: Earlier this year I went to a conference in Lisbon in which Jacques Rancière and Hans Belting discussed various problematics regarding the image. Despite having unfortunately chosen a seat next to a gentleman who kept falling asleep and loudly snoring, I enjoyed the talk, and was intrigued enough to delve into Jacques Rancière’s work (I was already familiar with Hans Belting’s).

The author has some thought-provoking ideas, and he writes in such a clear, logical way that I ended up liking this book a lot, even though I didn’t quite agree with all his points. The book comprises five essays (the results of various talks given all over the world), all of which are highly intelligent, well-developed, and far too long and detailed for me to discuss here, so I’ll just list them briefly.

The first of them, The Emancipated Spectator, is about the problematic of the spectator in the art of theatre, which was interesting to me since theatre is probably the art form I’m least versed in. The author raises some very good points about whether the spectator is passive or active, and if that should be addressed or changed by the actors. Next came The Misadventures of Critical Thinking, which explores the tradition of criticizing art and whether that tradition (or its denial) is relevant nowadays. The Paradoxes of Political Art was one of the most interesting to me, since it delved deep into the contradictions inherent to political, and politicized, art. The last two, The Intolerable Image and The Thinking Image, were closer to the lecture I listened to and focused mainly on images and visual arts.

This is a book well-worth reading, and I also recommend searching for the responses to these ideas by other authors, some of which can be found online.

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