DISSENT ! Jacques Rancière



17 December 2014 20:00, Aleppo (bâtiment Vanderborght, rue de l’Ecuyer 50), Brussels. In collaboration with ‘Phd in one night‘ project & Académie royale des beaux-arts de Bruxelles – École supérieure des arts (ARBA-ESA).

“There is no politics of cinema, there are only singular figures according to which filmmakers apply themselves to bring together the two meanings of the word ‘politics’, through which we can consider a fiction in general and a cinematographic fiction in particular: politics as what a film speaks about and politics as the strategy of an artistic approach (…) We could say: the relation between a matter of justice and a practice of justness.”

How to think about the ways cinema can put into action the relation between the certainties of injustice, the uncertainties of justice and the calculation of justness? This question has been stirring Jacques Rancière ever since he was taken in by the wave of cinephilia that churned through Paris in the 1960’s. From his first interview in Cahiers du Cinéma in 1976, via his own series of writings for the same magazine between 1998 and 2001, to the publication of La Fable cinématographique (2001) and Les écarts du cinéma (2011), cinema has been an important strain throughout his work, linking his dwellings on the shores of politics with his ventures into the realms of aesthetics. How can cinema be thought of as an overpass between these two ever shifting landscapes, as a terrain of struggle that bears the original responsibility of politics: the organization of dissent? If it’s true that we can no longer believe in the dreams of cinema as the privileged form of the identification of art and life, or as an enigmatic force that can give us new vision and awaken us to a new consciousness, how can cinema still make a difference? According to Rancière, we need to let go of those persistent expectations that consider cinema as an instrument to inform political strategies and mobilize militant energies. Instead, it has to be regarded as nothing but a surface where experiences can be organized in new figures and relegated into new trajectories, as a “distribution of the sensible” that can evoke a process of transformation, disrupting the dominant logic of representation and changing the coordinates of the given. Any political “efficiency” of cinema cannot be based on a link between cause and effect, or a bond between revelation and mobilization – on the contrary, it has to content itself with a loss of destination, inviting us to reframe the cartography of the perceptible, the thinkable and the feasible. The question that remains is then not what cinema can do for us, but what we can do with cinema… In this DISSENT! session we will take a selection of recent films as starting point for a discussion on how cinema and its culture can contribute to a reinvention of politics.

On 16 December Jacques Rancière will also be speaking at a Post-conference in the framework of the “Phd in one night” project at Arba-Esa, D.A.M. Gallerie (reserved for students of ISAC / ARBA-ESA).

DISSENT ! is an initiative of Argos, Auguste Orts and Courtisane, in the framework of the research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent), with support of VG. The visit of Jacques Rancière is made possible with financial support of Kunstenplatform, Universitaire Associatie Brussel (VUB/EhB).


How can the relation between cinema and politics be thought today? Between a cinema of politics and a politics of cinema, between politics as subject and as practice, between form and content? From Vertov’s cinematographic communism to the Dardenne brothers’ social realism, from Straub-Huillet’s Brechtian dialectics to the aesthetic-emancipatory figures of Pedro Costa, from Guy Debord’s radical anti-cinema to the mainstream pamphlets of Oliver Stone, the quest for cinematographic representations of political resistance has taken many different forms and strategies over the course of a century. The multiple choices and pathways that have gradually been adopted, constantly clash with the relationship between theory and practice, representation and action, awareness and mobilization, experience and change. Is cinema today regaining some of its old forces and promises? Are we once again confronted with the questions that Serge Daney asked a few decades ago? As the French film critic wrote: “How can political statements be presented cinematographically? And how can they be made positive?”. These issues are central in a series of conversations in which contemporary perspectives on the relationship between cinema and politics are explored.