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Tate ethics

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Notes from a seminar held at Tate March 2016 on the ethics of participatory research in the arts, and arts based participatory research

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Tate ethics

  1. 1. Tate learning research centre art/ethics/participation seminar march 14, 2016
  2. 2. Notes from the seminar on participatory art and ethics held on March 14, 2016. Running notes of issues raised, mostly taken by Pat Thomson and at the end, Helena Hunter. Additional post event points by Pat for some clarification.
  3. 3. Introducing Pat as notetaker Trust me… • I’m a Doctor. Well actually I’m a Professor too, so even more trustworthy. • I know what I’m doing. I’ve done this before. I write books about research methods. I teach people how to do research. • I’m just taking notes. You can see what I’m doing. You’ll get a chance to comment at the end of the day. Pointing to the power of translation and interpretation and translation and the usual justification of experience, expertise, position and permission.
  4. 4. Our aims Emily explained that the seminar had arisen from a previous seminar on ethnography and particularly a discussion about the potential for aestheticising a colonial project. So at this seminar we hoped for: • Surfacing some key issues • Identify challenges and • Strategies that respond to challenges • Feedback might be hard • But our goal is open discussion, generous, critical • Ethics – no fixed parameters? Maximisation of common good? A wise course of action? • Who decides? Against what criteria? Juggling desires…
  5. 5. Barby Asante • Barby introduced her work Baldwin’s Nigger Reloaded and showed a film clip with James Baldwin talking about white liberalism. • Who participates? On whose terms? Whose meanings dominate? • Inclusion and diversity as a colonial project… • An anti-recognition project that deconstructs the practices that oppress? • Ethics – do no harm – feel safe, safe space? Ethics – do good, do right – uncomfortable for white liberals?
  6. 6. Ros Hall • Ros addressed the practices of youth participation • Getting over ‘participation’: The ethics of cultural entitlement – changing galleries to become critical zones of interchange. Equalising power via youth led programming/evaluation. Understanding institutional fightback via rules to maintain control/power. Ethical protocols can be used to take control/power.
  7. 7. Steven Hyland • Stephen reported on the work of the Tate Liverpool Circuit programme. • An example of strategy – • The problem – the role of staff influence in participatory programming. The role of “old hands” – already influenced. • Strategy - Change usual processes of participation and institutional mind set. Work separately first before coming together with staff. Post-it as equaliser. All ideas discussed. Change location/space. Use game/play.
  8. 8. Sam Thorne • Sam talked about the politics of Guest + host (institution) • Shift away from institutional critique to generative counter and alt practices. But often still dependent on host institution. Change practice – eg a bakery as art? – is this institutional activism? • Strategy example – Bruguera’s school in her house. Antagonistic curriculum. Lines connected to past institutions. Affiliations to mainstream (parasitic). Exhibited as art work. • Whose work was this – authorship? Participants as material? Who is able to step back/shut down, governance – consequences? Duration – how long does something last, who decides? • Key questions of ownership and authorship, power and control.
  9. 9. Discussion: Table 1 • Cultural identity, age, disability – who is in the room - think broadly • We are part of the problem • Whiteness is invisible to itself • Cultural capital as a lack rather than difference – goes to where value is placed • Which room are we all in – what is it – people in power need to give up power and make room • Recognition is not enough, guessing what is needed is no good, need to make space for everyone
  10. 10. Table 2 • There are professional networks in this room. How to bring people in. Problems with doing this on a projects basis – no sustainability. Importance of alt spaces, partnering might be important. Permeating organisational structures is tricky. • Participatory research – who gets to evaluate? Self evaluate and self author. Research is not pristine, there’s mess, reflexivity needed and honesty about complications together with participants.
  11. 11. Table 3 • Remaining in relationships of difference, need vulnerability, doubt, be ready to fail - but fallout. Pressure to perform. • Institutional frameworks – arts educators complicit – work with/against. Artists as mirror for participants. Arts educators often self delude about ‘doing good’? Need to consider own positionality. • Vultures making a living out of other people? • Separate individual from institution?
  12. 12. Table 4 • Evaluation – how to capture experiences? How to make time to digest them? Who is evaluation for? • Ethics as barrier - must be safety, overcome lack of trust, use moments used for reflection • Ethics go beyond paperwork – in practice. • Institutions burden young people with responsibility for change.
  13. 13. Table 5 • Ethics and morals. Is further definition useful? Institutional structures as a trap? Ethics of redistribution on neoliberal terms – how to change structures and get beyond ‘innovation’. Economic pyramids in institutions. • Political project to change structures – working alone enables action but doesn’t shift institutions or discourses (eg diversity) which are pervasive. • Need a turn from ethics to politics. New ethics of measurement, self audit need to be part of discussion.
  14. 14. Table 7 • Hosts – providing venue and money or a critical relationship? How to host different relationships and discussions? Interdependencies need to be identified. • Learning Departments often host projects – but lower in institutional hierarchy. • Need long term, research at start to track navigate/negotiate institutional practice • Avoid rebranding conversations, but make actual changes in institution
  15. 15. Table 8 • Who validates ‘work’, how? • How to break down hierarchies? • People as material is highly problematic. • What is valued by young people versus by the institution? • Agency inter and intra institutions, responsibility everywhere. • How to critique institution – and a question of institutional appropriation or change • How do we ever get to criticise the rule book? Internal colonialisms and difficult conversations – how, where to what ends.
  16. 16. Table 9 • Authorship, ownership and power. Who decides who is guest and host? Resources caught up in Authorship, ownership and power. • Challenges – participatory work can be disabling to people trying to work with it. • Ethics as process not tick forms, Transparency = not only monitoring but a continual negotiation • Who decides positionality of participants? • Words are important, definitions important as they regulate conversations. • Care isn’t enough, ethics is the interface between desires, conversations and actions.
  17. 17. Whole group plenary • Permeable boundaries to institutions and selves are needed – othering is implicit in language used in this seminar. Need a collective sense of we together. • Difference can disappear over time via thinking/doing together. But how to stop using the terms? • Checking privilege – facing the truth and having uncomfortable conversations. • Need to think about conflicts – language is only one aspect, need processes so we can go through conversations, find a safe place. • Transparency and trust takes time.
  18. 18. Pratap Rughani • Pratap showed a clip of his film Justine • Documentary making is based on informed consent (legal and medical precedents) • How to work with someone who can’t give consent? How to allow her to be seen in her own terms. • Work with assent/dissent • Whose ethics count? Ethics should be enabling not constraining. • Documentary/art. A potential divergence? Social responsibility v artistic freedom? • “To work here means not knowing.” Levinas – reflecting the gaze of another, in the interchange in lived experience lies ethics. • Uncomfortable idea - living off the suffering of others? • Ethical and artistic integrity, working in the interstices of the two.
  19. 19. Steve Benford • Steve showed a clip of the work of Blast Theory in Venice - he works with BT as a computer scientist. • Tech resource to help artists realise vision, research and generalise. Leads to ethical concerns. • Artistic provocations. Control and the machine? The user may not be in control. Relationships of surveillance, isolation, voyeurism, force intimacy with strangers? • Ethics of art (consent is problematic, court jester and trickster to raise challenges) and research worlds – (people as subjects and data, consent, little on discussion after the process) • Ethical debate afterwards rather than consent first?
  20. 20. Alice Fox Alice showed a clip illustrating the importance of a mother’s response to a baby. • Arts based research – but institutional paperwork – does it provide more trust? Opens the door to research, but then moment by moment ethical decisions. • Listening as basis for ongoing ethical practice. Lost voices and impoverished research if we don’t listen • Expanded listening through materials – which materials? Fluid, changeable, play, apply, articulate on/through it. Clay, pastel, ink, marks on solid, soft to carve, found, natural (peat), paint, print making – repetition, things on inside and outside. Material as megaphone. (brush v pencil) Material also has a voice, need to know how to work materials • Making things buys participants time for consideration. Materials are part of the conversation, materiality can add enhanced meaning. Attentive way of being with, shared language. Materials have agency. A way of being with. • Visual conversation. Shared memory/experience. Expect to see change in vitality. Artful listening.
  21. 21. Table 2 • Value of cross-disciplinary conversations. Predominance of medical models difficult in arts and humanities – who decides what is harm? • Purpose of art work – (Pratap’s film lived experience) presented to funder - creates different ethics
  22. 22. Table 3 • Artwork (Sierra) – what does assent mean in context where social conditions shape response ( eg poverty) • Where do ethics diverge from aesthetic? • Artist as anthropologist – a temporary role, how do usual ethics apply? • Artistic research in cross disciplinary settings, a response that may not conform to medical standards. Muddy. Artist can be a useful tool. • Need to find the assent/dissent position. • Artist doesn’t have to leap through ethical hoops – so what are safety nets around arts research projects. Art often taken to produce well being – also flip side, when can it be damaging? • Distinction between medical and artistic ethics is valid – but more serious work needed on artistic. AHRC to fund workshop? • Long term projects, managing relationships when funding runs out and artists goes home.
  23. 23. Table 4 • Ethics and politics can clash. There isn’t a general notion of ethics. • Artistic freedom v ethical behaviour. • If participants agree and can leave at any time then no problem. • In workshop, making an image of reality can be harmful • Tension when researching emergent art forms. Independence in ability to make ethical considerations. • Life span of a work – not token ethics, but as emergent process throughout the life span. Can’t delegate ethics to a piece of paper
  24. 24. Table 5 • Research design in the arts. Ethics as integral. • What it means to be you/me can be different if digital. Online can change relations and ethics lightly or profoundly. • Locus of responsibility is problematic. Sold- on data v artistic use of data. Disruptive technique – rather than build consensus might be better to counter. Does technology confer power in itself – make you feel powerful?
  25. 25. Table 7 • People as materials, people might be not want to use materials, the body is material, • There is listening before event, power inherent in listening, listening as a group v individuals, time taken to work is important in listening • Can materials disrupt?
  26. 26. Table 8 • Materials – depends on the people you re working with, can be literate with materials or not. More important to listen first. Materials are expressive of what? Skills based. Different in art therapy context and another situation? Hierarchies of material in art world eg place of narrative. Materials always socially situated. • Listening – what do we mean by this? Relational, iterative, reflexive process
  27. 27. Summing up Tensions in the seminar around: • comfort and discomfort, safety and provocation – is this a case of doing no harm versus doing good? • exploitation – in whose interest particular practices are being mounted • terminology/discourse: othering, difference, we • Research v artistic freedom
  28. 28. • Discourse and power relations: listening and having conversations: difficulty of language. There is no outside of discourse. We are all implicated • We didn’t talk a lot about knowledge - the ethics of knowledge and ownership: who owns the knowledge and FOR WHOM??????? • We talked about funding – but not in relation to funding for your original contribution – this is often not just yours but reliant on many others, How is this ethically acknowledged – the myth of the sole researcher and the lone artist.
  29. 29. • There are ethical issues when working with the unsymathetic and corrupt – eg Joshua Oppenheim, Renzo Martins – with an e (both documentary film makers) • We haven’t dealt with confidentiality and anonymity which would always arise first in research conversations – why not here, that’s interesting. • When do you have to tell someone what you are doing – how far do you have ot go to tell people what you are doing? • Is it possible to ask the ’right?’ questions???
  30. 30. • Different ethical responses in different places and paths, need to acknowledge specificities. • Ethics ‘protect’ you and your practice/research. Need to work wisely and well. • We make ethical decisions constantly –all the time-what are those decisions? Some research suggests that rapid decisions can be pragmatic rather than principled. We need ot stop to see the cumulative effects of small ethical decisions – moments of critical reflection

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