Why Would I Lie? is an interdisciplinary research biennial organised by researchers enrolled at the Royal College of Art, aimed at broadly exploring ethics and aesthetics in contemporary research practices connected to art and design. The biennial comprises exhibited works, discursive presentations, a film programme, publication, and a major conference. It takes place at the RCA’s Dyson Building in Battersea on 18–25 April with the two-day conference on the opening weekend (18–19 April). 

As Dan Fox and Jennifer Higgie observe in their 2011 frieze article ‘Keywords’, ethics is ‘a word used with surprising frequency by a community as murky and unregulated as the art world.’ But, according to art and design philosopher Clive Cazeaux, there are deep links in the history of ideas between ethics and aesthetics: ‘concepts of morality,’ he claims, ‘are worked out within theoretical frameworks which are also responsible for determining concepts of art and the aesthetic.’ How do ethics come into play in contemporary research in art, design, architecture, critical writing and curating? How does the act of challenging convention – the hallmark of the avant-garde – engage with the ethical? Can breaking social, legal or disciplinary contracts of agreed behaviour reveal another ethical aesthetic? And in what ways can working subversively within conventional structures engage with ethical questions? Is participation in any aesthetic convention an ethical question, whether it be the design brief, the gallery show, or the pages of a pay-to-access academic journal? 

Is the ethical merely an appeal to a value norm ‘so pervasive that it no longer looks like a partisan position at all’? Are ethical matters, therefore, ‘merely technical, as well as introspective … how may I best comply?’ (WealthOfNegations.org). All too often confined to a form-filling compliance exercise, avoided wherever possible, the ethical aspects of research practices demand complex, continual renegotiation. Do certain avenues of research have an inherent politics, regardless of the researcher’s intentions? Are some questions best left unasked, certain discoveries better redacted? Is the truth something which requires a ‘creative’, or an ‘economical’ mode of engagement? To what extent can we – as designers, artists, writers, researchers, humans – produce fictions in service of the truth as we feel it? Is there an aesthetics of the bare fact, the tactical edit, or the barefaced lie? Can we continue to deliver democracy in the backdraft of a beautifully engineered smart bomb? And, after all, why would I lie, what possible justification could I have?

Read more about the biennial and its organisation in news stories here and here.

Organising committee

Manca Bajec (Sculpture), Helena Bonett (Curating Contemporary Art), Susannah Haslam (Communication), Benjamin Koslowski (Information Experience Design), Peter Le Couteur (Sculpture), Carol Mancke (Sculpture), Brigid McLeer (Photography), Emily Richardson (Visual Communication), Kyuha Shim (Information Experience Design), Mercerdes Vicente (Critical Writing in Art & Design) and Natalja Vikulina (Visual Communication).

We have art in order not to die of the truth.
Friedrich Nietzsche