Otago Polytechnic


Ed Hanfling

The “ethical turn” in contemporary art as research

Over the last few decades, artists working and studying within academic institutions have gradually gained acknowledgement that making art counts as research. Convincing the wider academic community of the merits of practice-based research has meant demonstrating the application of rigorous research methods and systems. But artist-academics still tend to baulk at the process of submitting their research projects to the scrutiny of institutional ethics committees, a routine process in other research disciplines. There are reasons for this reluctance – including the belief that the artist’s role is to challenge social mores and take risks rather than to be conformist and careful – but also a sense in which it is in tension with a conspicuous tendency in the wider field of contemporary art, the very “industry” from which the standards upheld by art schools are derived. Call it the “ethical turn”, away from the “shock tactics” of twentieth century avant-gardes, to an ethos of care; away from individualism and irresponsibility, to a more community-minded engagement with diverse social and cultural values. What relationships or overlaps can be drawn between the ethics of the academy and the ethics of the art world? How might artist-academics respond to the ethical guidelines and structures of their research-based institutions?

Ed Hanfling is a lecturer in art history and theory at the Dunedin School of Art. He is a regular contributor to the quarterly journal Art New Zealand, has published books on New Zealand artists such as Roy Good, Milan Mrkusich, Ian Scott and Mervyn Williams, and is co-author of the book 250 Years of New Zealand Painting (to be published by Bateman later this year). Ed heroically serves as the DSA’s representative on the Otago Polytechnic Research Ethics Committee (OPREC).

Published on 1 Mar 2021

Orderdate: 1 Mar 2021
Expiry: 1 Mar 2021