An emancipatory potential of art is well recognized, however not always in the political field. We can call to mind problems with making art a more political tool, remembering the experience of the Avant-garde in the twenties and thirties of the 20th century when artists acknowledged that art was political, but direct engagement in the reality of their social conditions had fallen into the trap of either surveillance of a benefactor or of was subjected to the tastes of the art market. Such factors make it difficult today to think about the political dimensions and emancipatory potentials of art.
However, considering art as freeing emotions and as having effects on people’s behavior has a long tradition dating from Artistotle’s thoughts on theatre. Recently, Richard Shusterman has taken up this path through his philosophies of pragmatist aesthetics and somaesthetics. Shusterman is oriented towards the politically emancipatory potential of art experiences, which he understands in relation to both John Dewey’s reflections and ancient concept’s of aesthesis.
Another way to perceive the emancipatory potential of art within the political sphere is marked by Luis Althusser in his letter On Art (1966) to Andre Daspre, where he points to art as the sphere where it is possible to obtain distance from the structure and to think of something radically new. This way is undertaken today by Alain Badiou, who points at responsibility of art in transformation of subjectivity within the horizon of the emancipatory change of the system.
I claim that while noticing that these two different perspectives (pragmatist and post-structural) have in common trespassing fixed borders and limits of concepts, thought and fields (popular art/ high art; artistic experience/ aesthetic experience; materiality/ spirituality of the subject; rationality/ emotionality; structure and its limits), they should be read together as complementary as two sides of the same coin: personal experience and systematic view.