15:45 - 16:45
Within the formal learning institution, creative practices sit in an interesting position with respect to research ethics. The Tri-Council Policy Statement, Article 2.6, that states creative practice activities, or the creation of works of art, in and of themselves, do not require research ethics review. Although there is no organization of post-secondary art institutions in Canada, Universities Canada speaks of research meeting the highest standards of ethics, as mandated by the TCPS2. The College Art Association, a principal professional association in the United States, recognizes that a universal code of ethical conduct for artists, while potentially useful, is problematic as such a code could potentially limit legitimate expression. Creative practices may affirm conventional behaviors and community standards, and equally likely, the arts may challenge, criticize, and transgress those standards. Post-secondary art institutions frequently have policies that support artistic and intellectual freedom to examine, question, speculate, and comment on any issue within the law.
Challenges arise for artists, research ethics boards, and institutions when the boundaries of research and creative practice blur. At what point does art become research? TCPS2 defines research as a disciplined or systematic investigation intended to extend knowledge. When artists seek to collect/record/document as part of their practice, to involve the public in the creation of art, or to disseminate either the art or public reactions to art, the art arguably becomes research. To broaden the discussion, some artists utilize strict methods of social science practices, while others identify their creative practices as research in order to achieve funding eligibility status, on par with their institution’s definition of research. In such cases, particularly where the art may be controversial, what obligations do artists and institutions have in terms of public protections? When art is construed as research does the mandate to review fall to an REB? Challenges that arise include arts colleges/programs awareness of research ethics, expertise, the capacity to support REBs, and a low volume of projects requiring review. Potential solutions include an in-house REB, in-house ethics review, and partnering with other organizations.
Best practice suggests that artists consider their own ethical responsibilities and implications of creating and disseminating their work. For example, the title of this proposal refers to a gallery exhibition in Nicaragua in which an artist said he captured a dog on the street and confined it in a gallery without food or water. He stated his goal was to draw attention to the fact people worried more about starving animals in the world than they did about starving people. The dog was treated humanely and not harmed in any way but a popular story hit the press that the dog was being starved. World communities were outraged and petitions demanded that the “artist” be banned from future shows. What would an in-house REB tend to do if this creative practice came forward for review or oversight?
While the answer is not censorship of the arts, the question remains: What do institutions do when their members wish to create art that transcends ethical norms or crosses over into arenas historically established as research? Recent art world examples include art as protest, exhibiting problematic historic images, paying minimum wage to tattoo on bodies, involving spectators in performance art, provoking audiences without warning, intending to inflict repeated self-harm, creating a tunnel in which entering means agreeing to be physically attacked. The presenters will examine a number of case studies that highlight the intersection of creative practice activities, research ethics and practice ethics in the arts. Considered will be questions such as: What is best practice in such scenarios? How do university REB’s touch upon practices? Should creative activities be exempt from REB review in all instances and if not what are the determinants? The presentation promises to be provocative and hopefully to begin to open up an ongoing discourse.
Keywords: Art research ethics