Emancipating Spectators

Jacques Rancière discusses “emancipation as re-appropriation of a relationship to self lost in a process of seperation”(Rancière p.15) He contrasts “the active body of a community enacting its living principle”(ibid p.5) with the separation and contemplation that reduces the theatergoer to a voyeur(ibid p.4). Yet theater requires an audience, Rancière notes, even though it is criticized by some as separating the spectator from thought and action. Rancière explicitly includes

All those forms of spectacle - drama, dance, performance art, mime, and so on - that place bodies in action before an assembled audience”(Rancière p.2)

Stultification is the process by which student’s are reduced to “ignoramouses” whho can only be enlightened by teachers. Rancière critiques this view of learning and more broadly of thinking and acting by juxtaposing it with his discussion of the “ignorant school teacher”. This teacher doesn’t deposit knowledge into the empty heads of pupils, thus reaffirming existing social structures. Rather, the ignorant school teacher reveals the limits of his own knowledge, and thus opens the path for the students.

This view of scholarity is central to Rancière’s critique of theatre. He argues that by engaging the audience and bringing them forth to actively participate in the action( the Drama) the audience can reflect upon and activate itself the performance. He also questions the stultifying effect of viewing, arguing that this too is not a unequivocally passive experience. The value of this rethinking of the relationship of the spectator to performance, in Rancière’s view, is “a reconfiguration in the here and now of the distribution of space and time, work and leisure”(Rancière p.19).

By engaging, and understanding the active nature of this engagement, theatre could create “a community of narrators and translators”. The foreshadowing of change seems to be reflected the storefront possibilities offered by Cadere, and potentially all of the projects suggested or yet to be conceived by Street Level. The risk of merely reifying existing social structure as suggested by Benjamin’s Arcades project seems to be mitigated by the approach that Rancière offers.


Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project.

Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator. Gregory Elliott, trans.London & New York, Verso 2009


A kinec-driven display in the window of the Bank of Moscow. Notice the gratutious “shhh- shhh” sound of the user as he slides the screens.


(Unrelated) Cadere


Architecture, Commerce and Spectacle: A partial bibliography

Street Level occurs in the context of store fronts, but also specifically alluding to video arcades as arose in the 1970’s and can still be found today. But the antecedents to video arcades lie in both the penny arcades that date back to the late 19th Century, and also to the Arcades that originated with the markets and the suks of North Africa, Asia and Europe. The particular fusions of economics and technology that created such commercial spaces are dealt with at great length in Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Projects. This extensive treatise dealt with the rise of technological capitalism and its response to social resistances in the late 18th and early to mid 19th Century Paris. Benjamin’s discussion of how a new technology, cast iron, met with a desire to make commercial activity itself a spectacle, translates well when we consider the place of video arcades as modern techno-economic spaces. To begin thinking about the architectural elements of video arcades, and the performative and spectatorial elements of architecture, I have prepared a preliminary bibliography.

Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Chaos, Territory, Art:Deleuze and the framing of the Earth. New York. Columbia, 2008

Hall, Edward T. The Hidden Dimension. New York. Anchor Books, 1969,1990

 Latour, Bruno & Albena Yaneva “Give Me  a Gun and I Will Make All Buildings Move”: An ant’s view of architecture’. in Networks

Rossi, Aldo. “The Structure of Urban Artifacts” in The Architecture of the City.

Tafuri, Manfredo . Architecture and Utopia

Venturi, Robert Learning From Las Vegas.

Zizek, Slavoj “ Structures on the Streets”


Kama Sutra for lines.