who cares? (some thoughts on ethics)

who is speaking for who: i had an interesting discussion with fellow MAers about ethics in relation to making and showing work. one of the works discussed included Sam Durant’s ‘Scaffold’ (2017) which highlighted the need for a considered (and ethical) approach to making and showing work. the discussion led to questions about who makes the work and for who – would the work have provoked similar protest had it been done by a member of the native american community? can artists ever speak for others? why? why not? indeed, these questions arose in my ‘project 180 km’ (2016) and, now that i think of it, these questions might have been the beginning of my moving towards subjectivity and phenomenology – we can only ever speak for ourselves?

ethics according to who?: is there a universal standard for ethics? do these standards change from place to place, people to people. i can certainly think of a few examples where they have changed over time (women’s rights, special needs, race, colonialism, animal rights etc etc). so if  i’m going to be ethical – is that according to my standards? how ethical is that?

who cares?: despite all the arguments for and against various art works such as Santiago’s Sierras ‘The Line’ (2000), Sophie Calle’s ‘The Hotel’ (1999) etc, perhaps an essential role of artist is one of provocateur – instigator of debate, questioner of beliefs, ethics, ideas, status quo. if artists are responsible towards their audience, calling attention to the uncomfortable shows responsibility, whether in uncomfortable ways. and as for issues of ethics – is it not equally if not more ethical to confront the uncomfortable rather than ignore or make it palatable? as KF often reminds us, what is the ‘so what’ of our work? why does it matter? who cares? if its all ethically ‘nice’ (for want of a better word), its ‘niceness’ may succumb to the 30 seconds view, be forgotten and essentially impotent. and might ‘the end justifies the means’ ethically, where an uncomfortable is essentially ethical in its ability to incite debate and change towards a better. and as the cynics of ancient greece traveled from place to place to argue against established ideas and beliefs, the voice of dissension is necessary, powerful and at our disposal.








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