PhD Reading Diary Guide

Demystifying Ethics for Arts Based Research
  • I didn’t Interview Myself: The Researcher as Participant in Narrative Research by Maggie Kirkman

When I was reading this, I thought that the knowledge we were supposed to grasp was how to include ourselves in our research, as art makers we are all likely to do. Then I looked at the title for the seminar again- and the word ethics re-framed the article for me. Now I am left pondering academic ethics which may, or may not, reflect on actual ethics. Kirkman is required to make an argument on including herself within the research, because not including yourself is seen as the standard method. From a true or a non-academic ethical point of view researching a grouping to which you yourself are a member is more ethical than researching the other. Standard practices do not require the same level of academic ethical scrutiny as non-academic.
"'the story-of-a-life" as told to a particular person is in some deep sense a joint product of the teller and the told. Selves ... can only be revealed in a transaction between a teller and a told, and .,.whatever topic one approaches by interviewing must be evaluated in the light of that transaction'". This insight is very valuable, but I do think it goes beyond the narrative. Any research that involves humans is impacted by the researcher and the research process--that a multiple choice questionnaire might yield different results on living room couch or on pink paper than in a clinical setting. Which is why Kirkman's thought: "I, too, am a narrator, as are the women who participated; I narrate my story of the research, and therefore need to be identified to the reader in such a way that the reader can assess my authorial influence."  is so important.

  • Medical Archives and Digital Culture by Suzannah Biernoff

Beirnoff clearly demonstrates that BioShock ethically erred by depicting the Gillies photographs of actual people. There is no real ethical defence for the use of these images in such as way. The only defence, and it isn't really an ethical one is that it does not matter, though I am certain upon inspection the truth would be more around the lines that their desire to use the images was much greater than any concern that uses the images might be morally questionable. But Biernoff does not leave the culpability squarely at Bioshocks hands. The images, which as she argues may have been ethically acceptable within their medical usage, are now free available on the internet. This issue is bound to arise much more often now as many old archives are being digitized. Having copyright no longer applying does not negate ethical concerns, but there is no longer a producer to whom the ethics involved is concerned with.
As a side note, the article also had me thinking of Teresa Margolles and how it is possible to use the deceased in an ethical way.

  • The Ethical Claims of Bio-Art: Killing The Other Or Self-Cannibalism by Ionat Zurr & Oron Catts

Zurr and Catts article was interesting to me because I am not acquainted with bioarts as a discipline. It was interesting to learn about non-living, semi-living, partial life & fully living and the distinctions that lay between them.
Their idea of gallery as lab as place of ethics is intriguing:
“Drawing on Singer's idea of ethics, while pushing the goalpost even further than sentiency, we are suggesting that going beyond the "I" and “You", specifically in the light of Western ontology should mean going beyond race, sex,
species and even more-in the continuum of life. For that we have created a tangible evocative entity that is partially living and partially growing in the gallery, as part of the artistic experience.”

“Our works emphasize ethical concerns by staging rituals that attempt to expose and symbolise our different and usually conflicting relations to living systems. These rituals are located inside a laboratory situated in an art gallery: The rituals are performed for practical reasons-maintaining the life and growth of the semi-living sculptures-as well as for conceptual reasons; by celebrating and terminating artistic semi-living art forms, we trouble the conventional art viewer's autonomous reflective space”

The authors talk about how trying to display a growing ear in a gallery generated a lot of criticism, while their neuron project did not. What the authors fail to understand is that people simply do not understand neurons enough to have any opinion on the ethics involved. Within the system of the neuron project as it is described, the neurons act as a a computer chip might—that it might be sentient is something that any casual or quick viewing member of the public might never think of unless it is explicitly mentioned in a statement about the work.

  • The Politics of the Body in Pain: Reading the Ethics of Imagery by ELIZABETH DAUPHINÉE

The moral quandary of needing to both present and withhold torture imagery that Dauphinée presents is best seen in her conclusion “We are asking these bodies to do political work for us that, however ‘right’, also works to reduce them to representative examples of their plights. To understand the tortured bodies at Abu Ghraib as solely illustrative and/or representative of other phenomena (i.e. militarized violence, American empire) is simultaneously to risk the erasure of those bodies in the very instants of their own trauma and undoing. It is, perhaps, a double betrayal.”

This piece clearly demonstrates that there is not always a correct ethical answer. That it is possible to be both ethically in the right and in the wrong at the same time and it may not always be possible forgo wrongdoing.

To assess humans ability to respond to others pain, Dauphinée looks philosophers: the Cartesian model and Butler’s theory of interconnectivity.  I find the cartesian model to be lacking truth, that pain of others is not only ever marked by radical doubt and that only in a patriarchal system can this be an accepted theory—that compassion and empathy which allow us to feel the pain of others is considered undesirable within toxic masculinity. However, butler’s theory of interconnectedness is very convincing, we are most able to feel the pain of loved ones, and after that people whom we know or relate to. Nurses are clearly able to feel the pain and suffering of their patients because they build a report with them. Similarly, the pain we are least likely to believe are in those who are least like us or to whom our interconnectedness bears some culpability: we don’t want to believe torture victims when it was our government who did the torture, but even further removed then that is that we don’t want to believe in the infallibility of human nature, that good people do horrendous acts: it is easier to believe in stranger rapists than family member rapistst; it is easier to believe in car crashes than in concentration camps. 



Locating Methodologies

I read the Lowenhaupt Tsing, Lippard, Fremeaux/ Jordan and then Wynter/ McKittrick in that order. As the articles seemed to be around one theme, I thought it might be helpful to respond to them as a whole. This was a mistake. My thoughts on the resource extraction in the lowenhaupt book were covered by Lippard’s ideology on place. The Fremeaux/ Jordan article on the the ZAD displays how this identity within place can be put intro practise. So it seems my reading order was perfect in order to both understand and to react to the writings.

Then we hit the Wynter/ McKittrick, which I freely admit I do not understand. I read it first when I was quite sick and really did not get it then, now I am still certain I am lost. But there we have a little help from the internet, Dr. Alana Lentin, an academic and professor  who posted a blog to augment a class she taught and one of the posts is about Wynter’s theories. “The notion of sociogeny—social genesis, which Fanon opposes to both phylogeny (species level origins) and ontogeny (the development of an individual organism in its own lifetime)—speaks to the intrinsically relational nature of humanness for colonised Black people.” (Lentin 2021) With that little nugget of information I then have the reference to our previous lecture and writing of Stolz on ontogenetic niches.  I know what Wynter/ Mckittrick are speaking of, but I do not grasp how the rewriting of our entire culture is necessary. Wynter says:“For our entire order of secular knowledge / truth, as it has to do with ourselves, is devastated if we are hybrid beings!” The idea that people are a mixture of both their genes and environment seems to be very plausible to me, but not at all earth shattering, so I am pretty sure I missed the point.

Anyhow, rather than pull apart these themes further, I wanted to post some art that I have already made that speak to the themes of Lowenhaupt Tsing, Lippard, and Fremeaux/ Jordan.

I Used to Be a Douglas Fir, Now I am An Oak: Seeking Place Through the Use of Trees
bamboo; bolts; dye: acorn, oak bark, oak leaves; loom, artists old sweater, wool
variable dimentions

The piece, I Used to Be a Douglas Fir, Now I am an Oak: Seeking Place Through the Use of Trees requests a new orientation towards nature, one where our being is tied to it. The work suggests personal identity should be tied to the local environment, so not only does one find their identity within it, but when changing location, it also requires a change of self, shifting to adapt to local terrain.

The new reoriented identity comes from oak trees, which in this piece starts with the storm collected oak wood that created the loom; it continues into the warp, which is one long performative dye job, using oak bark, oak leaves, and acorns as dye materials; and it follows through into weft, also dyed using the same materials. Oak flows throughout the piece, breathing it into being. As the oak flows throughout the art, so it also flows throughout the person. The oak is interwoven with an old sweater, a warm embodiment of the self.

Having an interrelated relationship with trees and their surrounding environment is a spiritual practice found in Indigenous cultures and is not featured within western philosophical traditions. It requires hierarchies to be broken, for the self to not be the penultimate being. Destroying the environment would also mean destroying oneself. I have an obligation to see that both the trees and I thrive simultaneously.

Ladders for Better Democracy: Catalonia (Catalonian Upraising), Estonia (The Singing Revolution), Iceland (Wadmal for the Pirate Party)
naturally dyed wool from Catalonia, Estonia & Iceland
Variable dimensions
 Our world is in chaos: global warming, a migrant crisis, epidemics, authoritarian governments, global companies with little oversight and disempowered citizens.
Our system is broken and needs drastic change. Our current Neo-liberal democratic system is unable to fix our world’s problems. We need to adjust our societies into equilibrium with the earth and each other.

Fluevog created Ladders to Better Democracy to inspire people to know they have power to change this. They are ladders to gain height, to have higher viewing perspectives. Every ladder is based on a peaceful people’s revolution and is made from naturally sourced fibre and local patterns. The blue, white and black ladder is based on the Estonian singing revolution, where they used song to help overthrow the soviet occupying power; The grey twill ladder is based on the pirate party in Iceland that took over after the 2008 financial crisis. Every new ladder in the series will look at different situation to inspire other communities to peaceful revolutions or reforms.

Welcome to Post-Capitalism
Old clothing, single use plastics and unprocessed wool
70 X 30 cm

Using Kitsch and humour, Welcome to Post-Capitalism merges the past with the future. Rug hooking was popularized by poor working-class women who made rugs out of old cloth and thrums [off cuts] from textile mills to create beautiful items for their homes. This traditional and functional craft is futurized with new discards—every day single use plastics. The term welcome is used ironically as a light happy term to describe something that will be anything but blithe. The change to Post-Capitalism will require a societal shifting that, if not bloody, will at least be momentous and grave.

Lentin, Alana. “A Word on Sociogeny and ‘Lived Experience.’” Alanalentin.Net (blog), August 3, 2021.



Critiquing the Critique:

  • The Room of Silence (students from Rhode Island School of Design)

  • Observations in Forms and Patterns of Critique by Judith Leehman (2004) PDF

  • Feldman’s Model of Art Criticism / abbreviated

  • Worksheet / In Preparation / from the book, Making and Being, by Susan Jahoda and Caroine Woolard

The room of silence was a bit shocking that it was still so bad and that there were so few students of colour. I know the artworld is overwhelmingly white, but I guess the high price of university in the US compounds this. But I suppose it shouldn't be surprising, when I did my masters, in a school that is making an effort to try to be more inclusive and somewhere with a relatively high amount of students of colour (though still considerably lower than the general population) all of the professors teaching the master's program were white. I never had to deal with going to critiques where people simply refused to engage with my themes.

The other readings are all interrelated. In order I read the Feldmen Model, then the worksheet and lastly the leehman, which I very strongly feel was the correct order. The leehman was presented as the most informative because it literally gave the most information and was significantly longer, but I think I found it to be the least helpful. I understand and agree that a firing squad can leave everyone feeling like they have failed, but there is some place between firing squad and don't kill the baby that is commonly employed and I feel (I hope?) is much more productive, but maybe what Leehman means by don't kill the baby is not my intepretation as the examples are all metaphors and not real life examples. When we got into the dynamics section, the watch your intonation is helpful, the reminder of how dynamics change during the day is crucial to remember, amplification makes sense, but on the group norms section I feel like my opinions are similar but different. I would phrase part part of it as avoiding an echo chamber and the value of different perspectives--that by simply being in a critique environment at an art school so many voices are already not present (different ages, socioeconomic groups, new immigrants, ect) that allowing only the dominant opinion of the group only further insulates the art and diminishes the expansion of art. How to change a bad critique, as Leehman introduces, is important, but I feel, personally, I am not sure if this is based on evidence, is that while it is most important for the person whose work is being discussed to change a bad critique, I think they are the least able to do so. The last element of Leehman I want to discuss is the creative response. I don't think I have ever done this. Does it work with slower practises? Would it help group dynamics? Does it produce better work or is it an annoying chore? It seems like something that might be really good for first year students, but unless it is something that can be made quickly would be really annoying for more senior students, but maybe I am bias.

Jahoda & Woolard check list I feel to be the most useful of the texts provided. There were two sections that I mostly did not have in my critiques that would be very use. I think allowing students to set homework ahead of time for their critique is a very helpful and necessary and I hope would help diminish the silent room issue that was seen in the video. The two sections on types of feedback that the person whose artwork is being discussed wants is so super important, which I feel is only kind of normally asked for, but this way of presenting it is so empowering for the student and should make for a very useful critique.

 It has been a very long time since I have done early level critiques. I did TA an intro to ceramics class, but I think we had an hour to critique half the class's work (7-10 people). But keeping that in mind, I find the timing on looking at the work and describing it to be very unrealistic.


Take 5 minutes (or more) of collective silence to look at the work
O Take 5 minutes (or more) to make drawings of the work, together (10 min)
O Take 5 minutes (or more) to write individually about the work (15min)
O Take 5 minutes to touch/know the materials used in the work (materials displayed as well as work) (20 min)
O Other:
O Take 5 minutes (or more) to describe the materials, media, and techniques used (25 min)
O Take 5 minutes (or more) to describe the formal qualities of the work (scale, axis, line, elements,
palette, texture, etc.) (30 min)
O Take 5 minutes (or more) to describe the presentation /mode of display / installation of the work (35 min)
O Take 5 minutes (or more) to describe the audience/participant for this project (40 min)

The running total is 40 minutes, not counting transition time or any analyzing, reflecting, suggesting, referencing, etc. This seems very excessive, I feel like I might be missing something here.

Lastly is the Feldman model. It is a nice quick easy condensed beginners guide. There is nothing to be enthusiastic about nor anything to disagree with. I think it is great for students because it is easy and comprehensive, but bad for students if it is the only guide given because it is prosaic and formulaic.  Changing how critiques run can lead to more exciting art.


Slow practices in art and research: Waiting, observing, reflecting

With Elena Marchevska & Rachel epp Buller


Read this short piece / interview with Ernesto Pujol, including spending (several hours, half a day, a day) in silence as Pujol requests, and then introduce yourself to the group by describing what you noticed / how you experienced that time of silence?

Michelle Boulous Walker, Slow Philosophy: Reading Against the Institution. London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi, Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017, p.8-32

Ellen Samuels, “Six Ways of Looking at Crip Time”

Cristina Müller’s Nine Letters, a 20-minute film

Listen to Renewing the World podcast episode with Alicia Harris

I will start with Alicia Harris's renewing the world podcast. Indigenous north american way of relating to the environment is not a new ideology for me. It is something I have, not often, addressed in my practise. I have never heard it in relation to a rock before, which I found really interesting. I found the podcast to be slightly annoying--not because anything was annoying, but because the ideas are so interesting to me and it was presented in a fairly beginner way, I wanted the 2.0 version. I would love to sit and pick her brain. What does it mean for land claims when you view rocks as apart of your ancestors? How do western courts even approach this when it is something that is so fundamentally foreign to us? This how to deal with "the other" without a proper reference point is a nice segway into Ellen Samuels's six ways of looking at Crip time.

And as I do that, I am aware that the article is framed within six different kinds of crip time that I did not pay attention to while reading, so this now gives me a chance to look at that again.  Crip time is time travel; Crip time is grief time; For crip time is broken time; Crip time is sick time; Crip time is writing time; crip time is vampire time. The list is a perfect summation of the article, it does highlight some of the advantages that come from a disability but it is also really forthright about how shitty it is. As someone who is blessed with good health, I felt that this article was a really good insight, it lacked sugar coating, but also disallowed pity, anger and empathy yes, but not pity. 

While Samuel's crit time article provided elucidation, Cristina Müller’s Nine Letters video left me in (productive?) confusion. I felt her loneliness without really understanding it. The new york scenery was so banal. The music and the letters, tied to the imagery brought me to a hum drum everyday life that had this quiet void of longing. Clearly there were her letters, a letter her parents wrote when she was a child,  but the other letters I am not certain about, I believe it was supposed to be unknown.

What it is to Know and Learn: with Marc Herbst & Ali Schwartz


Human nature and cognitive–developmental niche construction, Korola Stotz (read 1-4, browse the rest)

Hannah Arendt (the full selection)

Aesthetic Experience of Metabolic Processes, Desiree Förster (browse full selection)

Training for Exploitation, PWB (20-26)


I started with the Hannah Arendt text and found it really challenging to read. It oozed privileged and I felt like I disagreed with everything, so I was also less willing to engage with it. The despotic kings of their castles (men in home life) were either lucky to not have their throats cut or stupid enough to believe they ruled with an iron fist, I believe the latter was more likely true. 

It was looking at what makes a human human. "Action alone is the exclusive prerogative of man; neither a beast nor a god is capable of it, and only action is entirely dependent upon the constant presence of others." I am not certain if I disagree with this or simply misunderstand it, both I think. We have action (praxis) and speech (lexis) and Polis or city state and the ranking where by speech is ranked highest, then praxis is after, both of which are intrinsically linked to the polis. "To be political, to live in a polis, meant that everything was decided through words and persuasion and not through force and violence." which I high disagree with, but maybe if we change political to democratic, then maybe the idea holds. Aristtole was correct that everyone not considered a citizen was deprived, though I don't think the deprivation lay in not talking, not being heard, valued, able to decide your own destiny was much more of an issue.

 The Stolz was the most interesting read for me as it contained ideas that I had not previously reflected upon. That alongside genes is inherited environments including social, environmental and knowledge sharing these impact/ are related to genetic sharing. 

The developing organism inherits its ‘ontogenetic niche’, i.e. its ‘ecological and social legacies’, as reliably as it inherits its genome, even if the mechanisms of transmission may be remarkably different and often depend on the active (re-) construction of this niche for each generation.

This is incredibly interesting and very useful. It teaches us that even scientific knowledge can be very flawed. It also related to social justice and inter-generational poverty (or trauma or____) is so pervasive, that it can act almost like genes.


The Forster article breaks down Environment, Milieu, Atmosphere and teaches us that "Cognition...cannot be regarded as separate from the body" and bodily processes and that we gain knowledge through our bodies in tangent with our reasoning. This idea seems to contradict the Arendt text, which places reasoning and speaking above everything else.


The breakdowns of different ways to gain/ create knowledge in the Training for Exploitation was great. Through my activism work, particularly in a extremely low-income neighbourhood, I have witnessed/ participated in some of these methods. The different methods are confusing in that they cross-over and mimic each other, but I think that is the nature of these alternate methods of knowledge creation that they are nuanced and different while still overlapping, so that you don't need to "re-invent the wheel" but you also do not have to constrain yourself in systems or modes or being that are too reductive. These methods are all grass roots, involve community and take into account lived experiences.



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