The Ethics of Encounter Research Workshop

Thursday 3 March & Friday 4 March 2011

As an increasing number of artists site their practice within the social fabric of everyday life, the encounter has been placed at the heart of a newly defined aesthetic experience. Participatory, collaborative, community-based and documentary methodologies which engage directly with interpersonal relations and social realities now proliferate both within and beyond the institution. This move away from traditional forms of representation into the territories of use and action has endowed art’s latest ‘social turn’ with a renewed and expanded ethical significance. In parallel with these developments, it is claimed that ethics has triumphed in the public debate to reign over culture and displace politics.

This research workshop will examine the complex interfaces which have emerged between aesthetics, politics and ethics in the 21st century. Taking into account their historical imbrications in art discourse together with the so-called ‘ethical turn’ of contemporary politics, we aim to develop a critical understanding of their most recent forms and configurations across the diverse terrains of socially-engaged art. The ethical valence of artworks has dominated debates to date – whether interventions into the social fabric can be considered productively ‘good’ or transgressive, ‘bad’ and yet, ultimately, revealing. If the ethical is now a common route for artists seeking to broach the political and provide a site for critique, is it possible to move beyond this dichotomy and map the potential and limits of ethical engagements in art?

The Ethics of Encounter research workshop has been devised as part of a programme of exhibitions, events and residencies of the same name presented at Stills between November 2010 and March 2011. Consecutive exhibitions included lens-based documentary works by The Atlas Group (Lebanon / USA), François Bucher (Columbia / Germany), Renzo Martens (Belgium), Dani Marti (Scotland), Frederick Wiseman (USA) and Artur Żmijewski (Poland). The workshop has been designed to expand the parameters of this curatorial investigation and situate these works in relation to parallel developments within other reality-driven practices. For more information about The Ethics of Encounter programme please visit www.stills.org.

Speakers and interlocutors include Carla Cruz (Goldsmiths University of London), Gail Day (University of Leeds), Angela Dimitrakaki (The University of Edinburgh), Anthony Downey (Sotheby’s Institute of Art), Alana Jelinek (University of Cambridge), Kirsten Lloyd (Stills / The University of Edinburgh), Tracy Mackenna (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design) & Ken Neil (Glasgow School of Art), Mark Miller (Tate Britain) & Victoria Walsh (Tate Britain), Dominic Paterson (University of Glasgow), Michaela Ross (Chelsea College of Art and Design), Harry Weeks (The University of Edinburgh), Stephen Wright (European School of Visual Arts)