PRINT March 2007


SO MANY OF THE QUESTIONS that French thinker Jacques Rancière has posed over a lifetime are of singular importance to contemporary art now: What is, after all, the relationship between art and politics? Where does art’s greatest potential rest, taking into account its engagements (to say nothing of its affiliations) with both commodification and spectacular market forces? How should one think about various artists’ stagings of social interaction, or even of the self? When artists adopt other guises or disciplines, are there alternative models of criticism or classification to which we should turn?

An extended look at Rancière can lend a dramatic clarity to these matters and, indeed, might prove generative for our conversations about art today—even if only by providing some terms for further debate. To this end, we devote the majority of our March issue to Rancière and his ideas in light of contemporary artistic practices, seeking to “set things in motion,” as the philosopher would say.

To introduce Rancière, New York University professor of comparative literature Kristin Ross—who translated his landmark 1987 text, The Ignorant Schoolmaster—offers an overview of his thinking, from his early considerations of worker-poets in the nineteenth century to his subsequent interrogations of postmodernism. In an interview following, artists and writers Fulvia Carnevale and John Kelsey sit down with Rancière in Paris to compare notes on contemporary art; adding brief testaments to the philosopher’s importance for their own work are artists Paul Chan, Liam Gillick, and Thomas Hirschhorn. Artforum is also pleased to publish “The Emancipated Spectator,” Rancière’s famous lecture on performance originally presented in 2004 at the opening of the Fifth Summer Academy of Arts in Frankfurt and appearing here for the first time in an American magazine. Finally, critic Bettina Funcke examines the pronounced, mutual interest between contemporary artists and Rancière today.—Eds.

Portraits by Roe Ethridge.