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Introduction to “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics” by Clair Bishop

In the wake of the disastrous French elections of 2002, the sociologist Luc Boltanski gave an interview published under the title “On the Left, the End of Utopias.”* For the sociologist, the “failure of the 21st of April” was tied up with a fairly stable symbolic structure of two diametrically opposed human activities— critique and celebration—the former associated historically with the Left, and the latter with the Right. With the withering of a critical and revolutionary horizon, the sociologist mourned, all possibilities for reclaiming a celebratory Leftist culture would disappear as well. It is hard to imagine an art world event more out of step with this political account than the opening, in the same summer of 2002, of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. For here was an institution where, one was told, the utopian spirit in art would be revived, and where celebration would be the order of the day—from the prominent bar and the late hours (open to midnight every day) to the often handson, “user-friendly” art works (on a recent trip to the Palais, I spent much of my time there drumming). Significantly and perhaps uniquely, it would be an institution made in the http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png October MIT Press

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