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Publik, etik och agens: Hur att jobba med konst, publik och etik i transdisciplinära forskningsprocesser? : [Agency, Audience and Ethics: How to Work with Art, Audience and Ethics in Transdisciplinary Research Processes]

I would like to discuss art’s ability to not have a clearly delineated purpose or disciplinarily defined methods. When are audience/participative relations perceived as a danger and when are they experienced as a potential in transdisciplinary research projects?
Art often takes place in the meeting between idea and practice. There is something to be perceived as art and something to be experienced. This is why the audience can both see and be part of a work at the same time. The audience might be more interested in the experience side, while I as a researcher/artist am more interested in the art and what it attempts to do –that is to say in the entirety of the art-situation, of which the experience of the spectator also is part.
It is often the case that art is in a room especially dedicated to it, where it is easy to identify objects as works of art. I myself have in own practice and research worked in parallel with semi-public or public spaces. That is to say that the art has been both in rooms where it can be identified as art and in rooms where it is more difficult to do this. This entails different sets of ethical implications. My responsibilities and the role of the audience differ if it is an invited audience, professional audience of peers or one that does not even conceive of itself as an audience, but who witnesses, take part of.
Autumn 2019 I, Lisa Torell, was invited as an artist and artistic researcher to participate in the research project KatUU – Categorisation supporting the implementation of Universal Design in Sweden ( ). It is a transdisciplinary project led by professors Stina Ericsson (Department of Swedish)
University of Gothenburg) and Per-Olof Hedvall (Design Sciences, Lund University) and financed by Vinnova. The aim is to explore inclusion and exclusion in public spaces. The project investigates categorisation of disability and gender as patterns of inequality and the basis for discrimination. We are six participants in the project. I was invited as an artist and an artistic researcher to in part contribute to conversations and workshops with the other participants and in part to produce an autonomous work. Some in the project have during the autumn carried out a number of workshops. The participants have, for example, come from municipalities, departments of Gender Studies, local disability councils, and city planning. I have been met with respect and openness for my work, but there have also been concerns that I would not consider myself as an equal and that what I do will “only” become art or entertainment. It is both rewarding and problematic to as an artist find oneself outside an art context. Not in the least in ethical terms, when my co-researchers also become my audience. What does it mean to produce work for this audience? And what does it entail to be in such a context?
Is it an advantage to do things differently? What (research) norms do I eventually risk breaking? With the entry of artistic research into the academic field, other opportunities have opened up to work as an artist/researcher. The politics of the institutions of higher learning, have led to a focus on transdisciplinary projects. The aim of these is to work over disciplinary boundaries and to profit from each other’s knowledges and methods. There are potentials in this, but also pitfalls – especially those related to a lack of familiarity with how artistic researchers work, what they do and are expected to contribute with.
The exhibition “The Pavement, a Masterpiece” at Marabouparken 2019 was the reason for me being invited to this project. In the exhibition I addressed the questions of public space, inclusion and exclusion, site, audience and politics through performative site-specific strategies ( The exhibition had as its starting point in my own research project ”Potential of the Gap”. In it I had developed methods to be able to work with the present in every situation. Where a successful situation is very close to a failed situation, where everyone is in reaction, interaction and intra-action (a movement where, in the thought of Karen Barad, all things are in indivisible and multiple processes that change meaning constantly depending on who and what is part of it). To conceive of the situation in this way is to sharpen one’s senses, making possible a work of reception instead of merely perception. This is a situation where gaps can occur, tables can turn and roles be renegotiated.
I used these starting points to devise my workshop participation in KatUU. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic made me revise concepts of site and interaction. Instead of working from the physical, public spaces and cities where we would have met during the spring, I had to adapt my performative contributions so that they could take place on a “physically shared” albeit distant space on Zoom, that is to say using the home offices or offices of the participants and material most of us hopefully had close at hand.
For this symposium of the Swedish Research Council I will do a short version of this workshop with another set of participants in order to be able to discuss collaboration, audience, agency and ethics taking into account both a transdisciplinary and artistic perspective. The catalysts are part of the KatUU project and have participated in previous workshops or have site-related experience. Suzanne Lacy’s audience guide will serve as an aid to structure our discussion.
Umea, 2020

Full spec

Vetenskapsrådet / Working Together, Online, 25-26 Nov 2020.
Publik, etik och agens