Excerpt: “Radical History and the Politics of Art invites us to abandon many of the myths upon which debates on art and politics have relied for decades. The book successfully breaks with the binary logic behind the majority of studies on this subject and puts into question the widely accepted theory of aesthetic autonomy. Rockhill’s insightful critique of Jacques Rancière’s thought, his valuable reevaluation of the politics of avant-garde art, and his numerous concrete examples drawn from a variety of artistic traditions and commonly overlooked arts such as architecture, ensure that this work will quickly become a versatile reference. Overall this is a stimulating and forcefully argued book that clears the ground for future scholarship on the social politicity of art.”
“Radical History and the Politics of Art by Gabriel Rockhill (review)” was recently published by Sophie Seita in Modernism/modernity 22:4 (November 2015): 835-837.
“Radical History is an engagingly written book that is full of insight, and which judiciously and forcefully combines readings of some of the most cited critics on art and politics in the twentieth century. As such, it makes a new, demanding inquiry into the appropriate methodology for rethinking politicized aesthetic practices… [read more]”
A review of Radical History & the Politics of Art was recently published in Choice (see below).
CHOICE June 2015 vol. 52 no. 10
Rockhill, Gabriel. Radical history & the politics of art. Columbia, 2014. 274p
This volume by Rockhill (Villanova Univ.) investigates the relationship between art and politics by beginning with the philosophy of history. The basic claim that ties this engaging essay collection together is that past interpreters of the relationship between art and politics err in seeing the relationship in terms of two independent domains that exist prior to the relationship between them. Making sense of this requires a foray into the philosophy of history, which is where Rockhill’s book begins. Rather than starting with theoretical concepts, one must begin with concrete practices to make sense of contemporary art. Drawing on the work of recent French philosophers such as Michel Foucault and, in particular, Jacques Rancière, Rockhill argues for a nominalist, antiessentialist philosophy of history in which identities are constituted out of individual relation; this is the focus of the book’s first section. The second section applies the antiessentialist conception of history to problems of the avant-garde. The book turns explicitly to Rancière in the third and fourth sections to elucidate the politics of aesthetics. This volume should appeal to scholars working in contemporary art theory and to those interested in contemporary French thought. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and researchers/faculty.
–C. R. McCall, Elmira College
Copyright 2015 American Library Association