Belvedere Torso (c.1st Century BC) (via)
Toby Ziegler, Co-workers (2009)
History is not the dreadful totality to which art was surrendered as a result of its break with classical harmony. It is a two-faced force itself: for it separates as much as it joins together. It is the potential of community that unites the sculptor’s act with the practice of craftsmen, the lives of households, the military service of the hoplites, and the gods of the city. But it is also the power of separation that provides the enjoyment of ancient art—and the enjoyment of art in general—to those who can only contemplate the blocks of stone where the potential of community was saved and lost simultaneously. It is because it is divided itself, because it excludes at the same time as it gathers, that it lends itself to being the place of Art—that is, the place of productions, that figure the division between the artist’s concepts and beauty without concept. The mutilated and perfect statue of the inactive hero thus gives way to the complementarity of two figures. the head without will or worry of the Juno Ludovisi emblematizes the existence of art, in the singular, as a specific mode of experience with its own sensible milieu. The Torso's inexpressive back reveals new potentials of the body for the art of tomorrow: potentials that are freed when expressive codes and the will to express are revoked, when the opposition between an active and passive body, or between an expressive body and an automaton, are refuted. The future of the Torso is within museums that make art exist as such, including and above all for their detractors; but it is also in the inventions of artists that will now strive to do the equivalent of what can no longer be done, by exploring the differences within bodies themselves and awakening the hidden sensible potential in inexpressivity, indifference, or immobility. The very dreams of a total work of art, of a language of all the sense, a theatre given over to collective mobilization, art forms identical to the new forms of life—all these dreams of ethical fusion following representative distance are possible only on the basis of a more intimate separation. The history of the aesthetic regime of art could be thought similarly to the history of the metamorphoses of this mutilated and perfect statue, perfect because it is mutilated, forced, by its missing head and limbs, to proliferate into multiplicity of unknown bodies.
— Jacques Rancière, Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art
But there is something more radical about the history of art as practiced by Winckelmann. It is not merely a matter of accurately representing the ways of life and expression of people from the past. What matters instead is to think about the co-belonging of an artist’s art and the principles that govern the life of his people and his time. A concept captures this knot in his work: the concept of ‘style’. The style manifested in the work of a sculptor belongs to a people, to a moment of its life, and to the deployment of a potential for collective freedom. Art exists when one can make a people, a society, an age, taken at a certain moment in the development of its collective life, its subject. The ‘natural’ harmony between poiesis and aisthesis that governed the representative order is opposed to a new relation between individuality and collectivity: between the artist’s personality and the shared world that gives rise to it and that it expresses. The progress of primitive sculpture up to its classical apogee, then its decline, thus follows the progress and the loss of Greek freedom. The first age of a collectivity massively subjected to the power of aristocrats and priests corresponds to the rigidity of forms, due both to the awkwardness of art in its infancy and the obligation of following codified models. The golden age of Greek freedom corresponds to great and noble art with ‘flowing lines’. The retreat of this freedom translates into the passage to an art of grace, where style gives way to manner—that is to say, to the particular gesture of an artist working for the particular taste of a narrow circle of art-lovers. This history of art, understood as a voyage between the two poles of collective absorption and individualistic dissolution, was destined for a very long future…Many of our contemporaries still see this as an historicist ‘derailing’ of art. But this ‘derailing’ is nothing other than the route through which the concept of Art as its own world came to light. Art exists as an autonomous sphere of production and experience since History exists as a concept for collective life. And the person who formulated this conjunction was no sociologist spitefully trying to cut down the sublimities of art to the prosaic conditions of their production. He was a hopeless lover of ancient sculpture, hoping to provide it with the most suitable sanctuary for its veneration.
Jacques Rancière, Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art
The police says that there is nothing to see on a road, that there is nothing to do but move along. It asserts that the space of circulating is nothing other than the space of circulation. Politics, in contrast, consists in transforming this space of ‘moving-along’ into a space for the appearance of a subject: i.e., the people, the workers, the citizens: It consists in refiguring the space, of what there is to do there, what is to be seen or named therein. It is the established litigation of the perceptible.