Fitzpatrick, Mackay, Macfarlane, Phillips & Spiers

Creating with Communities: A panel conversation on the ethics of Socially Engaged Art

Tal Fitzpatrick (PhD candidate, VCA, University of Melbourne)
Caroline Phillips (PhD, University of Melbourne VCA 2016)
Maddy Macfarlane (PhD candidate, VCA, University of Melbourne)
Amy Spiers (PhD candidate, CCP, VCA MCM, University of Melbourne)

This panel invites four practice-based PhD researchers sit down and reflect on the unique ethical considerations and institutional challenges involved in undertaking creative research in the field of socially engaged art. This panel brings together artists with very diverse participatory practices in an effort to demonstrate it is possible to nurture ethically informed cultures that value difference and diversity, both within the academy and when working with community. As part of this conversational approach to unpacking the relationship between ethics and creative practice research the panelists will address the following questions:

  • In your socially engaged projects how do you position yourself in relationship to the community you work with?
  • How do you address the issue of agency, voice and representation in your work?
  • How is your creative research affected when you work with communities that are, from an institutional perspective, seen as ‘vulnerable’?
  • How do you address the tensions between your own ideological and/or political position as the artist with those of the people involved in your socially engaged practice?
  • What barriers to engagement have you faced as a result of the expectations and processes that you are expected to comply with to attain ethical clearance?
  • What ethical issues have arisen for you specifically as a result of using social media/ digital engagement in your work?
  • Outside of the institutional frameworks for ethical research, how do you ensure that your practice is ethical?

Panel members:
Caroline Phillips (PhD, University of Melbourne VCA 2016) is a Melbourne based artist whose work has been shown in a number of solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia and Internationally. Working primarily in sculpture, Phillips employs recycled and industrial materials to create handmade objects and installations. Through the transformation of materials coupled with craft practices, Phillips explores contemporary feminist materiality and aesthetics. Phillips also works as an independent curator and arts writer. Her most recent project, f generation: feminism, art, progressions examines the ongoing continuum that is feminist art though a collaborative, multidisciplinary project at George Paton Gallery, Melbourne.

Margie Mackay (PhD candidate, VCA) is a Melbourne-based artist working across forms of participatory art and ritual performance. She guides multi-disciplinary teams of artists, community groups, and the general public in the creation of large-scale, site specific contemporary ceremonies.  Encouraging multiple points of engagement, Margie hopes to generate states and sites of transpersonal reflexivity, creating dialogues between viewers/ participants, performers, and the space in which the event takes place. Margie’s work is driven by her ongoing commitment to the rights of the ‘more-than-human’ realms, the recognition of Indigenous cultures, and championing human rights.

Tal Fitzpatrick (PhD candidate, VCA) is a Melbourne based artist, craftivist and community development worker. Her participatory approach to the practice of applique quilting is driven by her fascination with the power of craft to solicit the sharing of stories. Tal ‘s work looks to unpack how we can drive social and political change by using practice to engage diverse groups of people in complex conversations. As part of her research Tal works with community groups and charity organisations on projects that explore issues such as women’s rights, disaster resilience and the everyday practice of democracy.

Maddy Macfarlane (PhD candidate, VCA) combines her community radio practice – as an announcer and trainer at PBS 106.7FM – with perspectives from ethnomusicology, to explore community radio as a public site of public research into music, performativity and self/representation. Her research practice sees the co-creation of pre-recorded radio pieces with local music communities (professional, amateur and community musicians and audiences). Radio content creation becomes the research method, and broadcast becomes the presentation, performance and dissemination of the knowledge exchanges. Positioning radio as research explores research paradigms in public hands.

Amy Spiers is an artist, writer and researcher. Her socially-engaged, critical art practice focuses on the creation of live performances, participatory situations and multi-artform installations for both site-specific and gallery contexts. Amy is currently studying a PhD at the Centre for Cultural Partnerships, Faculty of the VCA and MCM, University of Melbourne.