A Portrait of Jacques Rancière in Fruit Stickers

Several footnotes in MWA quote the philosopher Jacques Rancière’s Aisthesis:

Jacques Rancière writes that “Art exists as an autonomous sphere of production and experience since History exists as a concept of collective life” and dates this existence back to the mid-18th century…. Replacing Art by (small-m) mathematics in the above sentence, it says that the existence of mathematics as a self-conscious tradition-based practice is tied up with its projection in history, which is consistent with the themes of Chapter 2. The timing for mathematics may be different.

(note 70 to Chapter 3)

The questions of where (or whether) to draw the line between art and technique, or between the artist and the artisan, dominate many of the aesthetic debates of the 19th and 20th centuries, as reconstructed in (Rancière 2011).

(note 40 to Chapter 8)

For the educational benefits of the arts in France, see (Rancière 2011), Chapter 8, especially pp. 173-175. The aesthetic theorists Rancière treats in this chapter, which covers a period stretching from Ruskin through the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900 to the Bauhaus, have in common a vision of art as “the power to order the forms of individual life and those in which the community expresses itself as community in a single spiritual unity” (p. 178). This ethic of art is much more familiar than the model on which Hardy draws and it is hard to imagine its application to mathematics in any way.

(note 18 to Chapter 10)

But Rancière’s influence on MWA is pervasive in the chapters that attempt to characterize what mathematics has in common with the arts, and goes well beyond what is contained in these few quotations. So I am pleased to share this portrait, created by the French artist who goes by the name Chaix et les étiquettes, at the request of a group of the philosopher’s admirers.

Chaix’s portraits are composed entirely of stickers that he collects surreptitiously, by the hundreds, during visits to the fruit departments of local supermarkets. The detail below reveals that the red background was liberated from a batch of pears, whereas the philosopher’s wavy white hair originally enlivened a stack of Royal Gala apples. The blue eyes are too blurry for me to read.

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