[iDC] Fwd: Social Ethics, Social Aesthetics, Social Beauty

Sal Randolph salrandolph at gmail.com
Tue Jan 15 16:12:26 UTC 2008

Hey Peter,

Thanks for responding.

First a quick disclaimer - No one has been harmed in the making of  
this art  :-)

(well, at least as far as I'm aware).  I'm still in touch with most  
of the people I've done that project with and no one has been angry  
or upset with me about it - everyone knows going in that they will  
receive "a sum of money and a choice" so it's not all that alarming  
to be given the choice as well as the money.  To say that I'm  
interested in situations where a range of responses is possible, even  
encouraged, is not to say that I'm personally interested in art that  
is deliberately mean and manipulative (though Claire Bishop does  
argue quite strongly for those aspects of some of the artists she  
likes).  I'm pretty open with the people I meet during the project  
about what I'm interested in and why.

Actually I think Darren O'Donnell's idea is a good one here:  
"fruitful antagonism," by which he means setting up situations where  
differences and frictions are allowed (or even provoked) but in an  
arena where all is forgivable.  A good example might be his recent  
project "Haircuts by Children" where he works with schoolkids,  
training them in both conceptual art and hairstyling; then they offer  
free haircuts to adults in local salons.  He did this not long ago at  
Performa in New York, and I went.  I didn't actually mean to get a  
haircut myself, but the salon ("Hair 2 Stay") was tiny and it was  
quickly clear that being an "audience" was kind of ridiculous.  A  
very serious 13 year old cut my hair (trimmed the sides of my  
mohawkish style) - silent, tentative, unwaveringly concentrated.   
Personally, I have a kind of hair-cut phobia already, and for years I  
cut it myself just to avoid the awkwardness of sitting in a salon  
chair.  Plus, I'm really attached to my hairstyle.  So for me it was  
a little terrifying to put my fate into this kid's hands, especially  
since she spoke very little english and was just as terrified as I  
was.  And the results were... uneven - my boyfriend kindly called  
them "punk."  But my point is here that 1) I'm still thinking about  
our encounter weeks later and 2) a bad haircut is *forgivable.*   The  
project wasn't "Eye Surgery by Children," after all.  Darren's got a  
good instinct for situations which are interesting to the point of  
discomfort, but not to the point of harm.

And point taken about "social ethics."


On Jan 11, 2008, at 10:02 PM, Peter Timusk wrote:

> Begin forwarded message:
>> I can not read all of this. I wish I could but you wrote too much.
>> I read some ya data ya ready mades thats all cool. Yes read art
>> history but be participatory. I married my wife because she created
>> art and few women I had met actually did make art.  I am not a
>> visual artist. I write cyberpunk pro green party fiction. I do
>> social development because I am in recovery from mental illness. I
>> grew up with mates who became artists so spent teen years playing
>> chess while someone painted. But politically they were both sexist
>> pigs. That said I am DIY punk hacker background but these days
>> consider instigating art to be bad. Why bother? Why upset some one
>> and call it social? Ya give them fifty dollars but do not lay some
>> art trip on them too. Be Kantian about it man. Good intentions not
>> hidden fabricated intentions. Sorry thats the way I see it. Too
>> many people could get hurt in my opinion. I am an volunteer
>> counselor with victims of crime. I mend lives not shake them up.
>> While I still shake up bosses and other in authority so think you
>> should be listening to what I say about social work/art/.
>> with punk it was do what you can... call it art at least you did
>> something constructive rather than waste another Friday night drunk.
>> sorry I can not read more and comment more. You are all way over my
>> head too much sometimes to follow these emails. Social ethics is
>> that really a word? All ethics are social.
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