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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

One Problem w/Art Interpretation Is…

In the 10 Oct 2013 issue of the London Review of Books, Hal Foster (Princeton Art Dept chair) has reviewed Jacques Ranciere’s latest critique of society’s aesthetic nature, “Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art” with many quotes, and lots of great things to say about Ranciere’s approach to criticism. Foster uses eloquent language to evoke the pathos of Ranciere’s not so eloquent language (certainly eloquent if you enjoy reading philosophy tracts; not so for the reader who wants clear, effective prose).

The problem I have with Ranciere is not his ideas, but the method in which his prose expostulates the ideas. Many examples are cited by Foster, but the one that sticks out for me comes during a discussion of Chaplin, Vertov, and the photography of “the Stieglitz circle”:

In each instance Ranciere finds the imperatives of the aesthetic and the mundane at work together: … and with Stieglitz “the objectivity of photography … makes the love of pure forms coincide with the apprehension of the inexhaustible historicity found at every street corner, in every skin fold, and at every moment of time.”

My beef is with the language, which takes a lot of heavy words to express a simple idea; an idea whose strength has been known for millennia: we like and appreciate art because it represents our lives, what we do, how we think and act and express our emotions, triumphs, sorrows, and failures.

Art exists because we exist.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

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