Jacques Ranciere – Art of the possible: Fulvia Carnevale and John Kelsey in conversation with Jacques Ranciere
CARNEVALE: In any case, it’s not a question of extracting oneself from market circulation. Does anyone still believe in the search for exteriority in relation to the commodity today? Antonio Negri, for example, argues precisely that there is no possibility of standing outside the market, and through this Marxist reading he concludes that transformation therefore must arise from within capitalism itself. But in any case, there is no true outside. Do you believe that an aesthetic practice that critiques and subverts the becoming-merchandise of art is still possible?
RANCIERE: To ask, How can one escape the market? is one of those questions whose principal virtue is one’s pleasure in declaring it insoluble. Money is necessary to make art; to make a living you have to sell the fruits of your labor. So art is a market, and there’s no getting around it. For artists as for everyone else, there’s the problem of knowing where to plant one’s feet, of knowing what one is doing in a particular place, in a particular system of exchange. One must find ways to create other places, or other uses for places. But one must extricate this project from the dramatic alternatives expressed in questions like, How do we escape the market, subvert it, etc.? If anyone knows how to overthrow capitalism, why don’t they just start doing it? But critics of the market are content to rest their own authority on the endless demonstration that everyone else is naive or a profiteer; in short, they capitalize on the declaration of our powerlessness. The critique of the market today has become a morose reassessment that, contrary to its stated aims, serves to forestall the emancipation of minds and practices. And it ends up sounding not dissimilar to reactionary discourse. These critics of the market call for subversion only to declare it impossible and to abandon all hope for emancipation. For me, the fundamental question is to explore the possibility of maintaining spaces of play. To discover how to produce forms for the presentation of objects, forms for the organization of spaces, that thwart expectations. The main enemy of artistic creativity as well as of political creativity is consensus–that is, inscription within given roles, possibilities, and competences. Godard said ironically that the epic was for Israelis and the documentary for Palestinians. Which is to say that the distribution of genres–for example, the division between the freedom of fiction and the reality of the news–is always already a distribution of possibilities and capacities: To say that, in the dominant regime of representation, documentary is for the Palestinians is to say that they can only offer the bodies of their victims to the gaze of news cameras or to the compassionate gaze at their suffering. That is, the world is divided between those who can and those who cannot afford the luxury of playing with words and images. Subversion begins when this division is contested, as when a Palestinian filmmaker like Elia Suleiman makes a comedy about the daily repression and humiliation that Israeli checkpoints represent and transforms a young Palestinian resistance fighter into a manga character. Think also of the work of Lebanese artists like Walid Raad, Khalil Joreige, Joana Hadjithomas, Tony Chakar, Lamia Joreige, and Jalal Toufic, who, through their films, installations, and performances, blur the interplay between fact and fiction to establish a new relationship to the civil war and to the occupation, by way of the subjective gaze or the fictive inquiry, making “fictional archives” of the war, fictionalizing the detournement of a surveillance camera to film a sunset, or playing with the sounds of mortar shells and fireworks, and so on. This very constructed, at times playful, relationship to their history addresses a spectator whose interpretive and emotional capacity is not only acknowledged but called upon. In other words, the work is constructed in such a way that it is up to the spectator to interpret it and to react to it affectively.