"GAVIN ARNALL: You argue in The Politics of Aesthetics that “it is within the mimetic regime that the old stands in contrast with the new.” This makes us think of the surrealist practice of invoking the outmoded, a practice overlooked by many theorists of the avant-garde who characterize the avant-garde as inclined toward rupture, the future, and the new. Do you see this romantic gesture of invoking the outmoded and utilizing it in a new way as a practice in accord with the aesthetic regime? Does this practice, in other words, participate in constructing what you call “the newness of the tradition?”

 JACQUES RANCIERE: Yes, I think so. The aesthetic regime means a rupture with what came before, the mimetic regime. The latter was ruled by an idea of the historical evolution that created a gap between the ancients and the moderns. On the one hand, the ancients were supposed to provide models. But, at the same time, they were the primitives, and it was no longer possible to do the same thing as they had done. One had to study Sophocles or Aeschylus, but it was not imaginable to perform their plays because they were at odds with modern refinement. I think one of the markers of the move toward the aesthetic regime is the project to present on stage the plays of Greek dramatists. Even the concept of the classics is linked with the aesthetic regime, which leaves open the possibility of reusing, recycling, and reinventing the ancient forms. I think it is quite an important point. You mention surrealism as a way of reusing existing forms, and it is true that in surrealism there are instances of reusing aesthetic forms that are scorned, such as popular culture. Basically, I think that the aesthetic regime means this possibility of reappropriating all the works of the past, that it has been constructed by forms of recycling, by reinterpretations. The idea of rupture has been heavily emphasized; however, it is important that precisely the most radical statements of rupture with the past are combined by forms of artistic practice that were in fact practices of reinterpretation and the reuse of existing forms. Surrealist practices clearly belong to that tradition that is part of the actual tradition of modernism, along with future-oriented ideas of art constructing the new forms of life. Modernism has always thrived on that duplicity. The problem is that what is called modernism today belongs to neither of these two forms. It is in fact an antimodernist ideology elaborated in narrow leftist circles at the end of the 1930s. Postmodernism in turn validated the confusion and contributed to obscure the historical reality of aesthetic modernism".

 De “Aesthetics and Politics Revisited: An Interview with Jacques Rancière”

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