Discussion group: The Ethics of Participation – Wednesday 25 February

Humanities Seminar Room 1 (Stevens Building, Kensington), 16.30-18.30

Preceding the research biennial, this discussion group seeks to interrogate some of the key questions in the complex and exciting area of ethics and aesthetics and how they impact upon our practice as researchers. The group is aimed at RCA researchers and seeks to open up the discussion as to how ethical considerations might feed into or impact upon our research practice.

This discussion group will consider the ethics of participation and ‘partaking’ in relation to contemporary art and socially engaged practice. It will explore the role of the image and aesthetics in such practices, the problematics of instrumentality and the capacity (or not) for such work to engage, produce or transform communities.

The seminar will be structured primarily around a chapter from John Paul Ricco’s recent book The Decision Between Us: Art and Ethics in the Time of Scenes (University of Chicago Press, 2014). In the chapter titled ‘Unbecoming Community’ Ricco, informed extensively by the philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy, explores the work of artist Felix Gonzalez Torres in terms of ideas of ‘offering’ and ‘partaking’ as forms of participation that are open and infinite, and perhaps can itself offer new ways of thinking about the politics and practices of participation more generally.

In addition to Ricco’s text, two other texts are suggested as providing additional context and argument to the seminar: Chapter One from Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship titled ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents’ and Jacques Rancière’s ‘The Ethical Turn of Aesthetics and Politics’.

To complement and give ‘real-life’ traction to these arguments and writings, the seminar will also welcome Andrew Mottershead from the collaborative art practice ‘FrenchMottershead’, who will talk about their work with communities and public space, and in particular about their international project ‘the Shops’.

Details of FrenchMottershead’s work and ‘the Shops’ project in particular can be found through the links below:

Emma Cocker, ‘Social Assemblage’, in People, Places, Process: The Shops Project  (Site Gallery, 2010), pp.152-159

French & Mottershead, ‘Shops’, Control Magazine, Issue 17, July 2007, pp.2-3

Readings

John Paul Ricco, Chapter  6: ‘Unbecoming Community’, The Decision Between Us: Art and Ethics in the Time of Scenes (University of Chicago Press, 2014)

Claire Bishop, Chapter 1: ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents’, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (Verso, 2012)

Additional reading

Jacques Rancière ‘The Ethical Turn of Aesthetics and Politics’, 2006

Please note: the readings suggested are quite long. It is not necessary to read all of them, or to read each one entirely, but they are included in their entirety in case you wish to.

Convened by Brigid McLeer