The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson

In the end, the irony of Artaud's theater of cruelty may not lie in its legendary inapplicability, but rather in the fact that our age may have given the lie to its dream of the destructive, regenerative, revolutionary power of the spectacle.

This isn't because, as some have said, there is no longer any "reality" beyond the spectacle. Nor is it because some privileged people have the luxury of "patronizing reality," while the unfortunate—who are presumably mired in the so-called real at every moment—do not (see Sontag). Rather, it is because the whole notion that art, or a more fundamental form of representation (such as language, vision, or consciousness itself), obscures or distorts an otherwise coherent, transcendental reality is not, to my mind, a particularly compelling or productive formulation. Much more interesting, I think, are the capacities of particular works to expand, invent, explode, or adumbrate what we mean when we say "reality." Another way of putting this would be to use Ranciere's term, the "redistribution of the sensible." To focus on this redistribution is to celebrate the bounty of representational and perceptual possibilities available to us, and to get excited about art as but one site for such possibilities—one means of changing, quite literally, what we are able to sense.