Riga, Lettland

16. September 2019

The poetic image in the aesthetic regime

In Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes that people are enclosed in existence; thus, everything revolves around getting out of it. But what can a human do to free him- or herself? We find a field of support in the arts. The prison is outside, says Bachelard, and an abundance of space is more crowding to a person than a lack of it. But human beings have a unique ability: imagination. Imagination increases the values of reality, and without imagination there is no aesthetic regime. At this very point, the connection to the aesthetic regime is evident. Art in the aesthetic regime is tightly connected to imagination. Without imagination there is no becoming-alive of art, no arrival of dissent, which is constitutive for an elaborate development of a political conscience. 
The first universe of a human is the house. This refuge has the value of a shell. The house is the first cosmos. But the cosmos of any human grows and has a helping hand in the human ability of imagination. Imagination imagines incessantly and enriches itself with new images. So, the experienced house is not a lifeless box. The inhabited space transcends the geometric space. Space stores compressed time. This means that the house, the cosmos, is one of man's great integrating powers, because it is home to thoughts, memories, and dreams. The space calls the action. But before it acts, imagination works. She mows and plows.

The French philosopher Jacques Rancière referes to the existence of a so-called aesthetic regime of art. The description of the aesthetic regime of art has political potential, because it opposes a world, in which everything serves a purpose. In the aesthetic regime of art, the hierarchy of genres and forms of representation is destroyed. The hierarchy is replaced by an equality of artworks, which have become equal inhabitants of a common sensorium. In the equal coexistence, democracy realizes itself in art. Why? The equality of all objects denies any necessary relation between a particular form and certain content. So, as Joseph J. Tanke points out, the aesthetic regime contends that there is no longer any meaningful distinction between the potential subjects of art. In the aesthetic regime, equality first manifests itself as indifference, in that anything and anyone can become the subject of art. The break between sense and meaning achieved by the aesthetic regime means that artists cannot in good faith insist upon the univocal nature of their forms without reinstating the hierarchical logic of the representative order.

Gaston Bachelard analyses the poetic imagination. For him, the rise of a poetic image is a sudden emergence of a mental event. And those mental events are characteristic for the life in the aesthetic regime of art. Those images can transform a human being into a vivid participator in a democratic community. The moment, in which the image emerges in the consciousness, holds the tension. The image that appears here is a direct product of the heart, soul, or even of a human being in his or her immediate presence. When Rancière encounters the records of the carpenter Gauny, he is also confronted with his immediate presence, a presence constituted by the distribution of the sensible. Gaston Bachelard brings us closer to two mechanisms: (1) the approval and (2) the reverberation. In the first mechanism, a person hears something (e.g. a poem) or sees something (e.g. a figure), and in the second mechanism, the person says it, appropriates it. When a person appropriates something, there is a shift in the existence, says Bachelard.
A poetic image, the unique event of the logos, is a renewal of our personality. It contains the ability of constructiveness of the becoming existence. An aesthetic regime without this marvelous capability of imagination is unthinkable. 

In my reflection, I try to shed light on Rancière's approach to aesthetics and his view on the three different regimes. In addition, there are a few specific explanations on politics and the term dissent. In a concluding step, I try to make some connections to Bachelard's reflections on the poetics of space in order to suggest exciting consequences for human everyday life. The primary goal is to bring these two theorists closer together and to elaborate on this in ensuing studies.

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