SS - Ethics, Aesthetics and Artistic ends

Working through development of my workshop and exhibitions, I become more aware of my audience. What will they get out of it? How will they respond? Will they anticipate the communication of ME/CFS or chronic illness? Will they relate to the images? Will I offend them in any way? Will I do the story of my images justice? Do i present them with legal documents before, after or during the workshop for further photographing? How do I stay within ethical reach of my audience without pushing the boundaries to much? How abject or aesthetic will the images be? How will my audience react? 

This week I have been reading more on ethics and always it seems with aesthetics. The constant arguments I find in text about how aesthetics can take away from the honesty and integrity of the imagery, such as (SISCHY cited in GILMORE: 2011)  ”The general
problem with the works, the critic Ingrid Sischy writes, is that such ‘‘beautification
of tragedy results in pictures that ultimately reinforce our passivity toward the
experience they reveal…. Beauty is a call to admiration, not to action.”

I wonder on how we influence our audience, do we mislead them in our journey to portray the truth or portray a story from our own perspective. Are we using our audience in this way, a form of ’bigotry’ as (GILMORE : 2011) suggests. On the other hand those artists that hide in doorways, or set up hidden cameras, also may be pushing the boundaries of ethics. 

In the extreme, (CONRAD P: 2003) comments ”Arbus cultivated her own sinister mystique. Like Robert Mapplethorpe documenting sexual devilry - games of genital mutilation, and men sharing libations of urine - she announced: ‘I want to photograph evil.’ Her daughter, Doon, alarmed by this mission statement, suggested in 1972 that she merely intended to defy visual taboos. Now, having licensed the public display of her mother’s secrets in the new exhibition, Doon appears to have changed her mind. Revelations contains images of family members on their deathbeds and facsimiles of Diane’s tormented journals. Arbus’s estate, once so protective, here permits allcomers, as Doon says in her afterword, ‘to peer into dark corners’. But how much darkness remains?  

As I say this seems to be the extreme, and I know I wont be putting my audience under this sort of overt pressure, but it questions more that I should push the boundaries more and maybe nby doing this I communicate a better understanding of my work. 

The Workshop environment is different of course from the exhibition, where we can stand back in an uninvolved way and form our opinions in private. As part of a workshop we are asked to express our emotions through whatever we ask the audience to do. Giving the audience participation, in many ways, may make them more vulnerable. For my upcoming workshop I have a trauma counsellor attending and I am a little relieved. In dealing with chronic illness and its my first workshop, I know I am not qualified to deal with any repercussions, other than going through a similar experience myself. 

I also wonder on Arbus’s work and her intention, the use of the work ‘freak’ and its contextual reference, did she seek permission from her portrait subject and how much of it, if any was, money orientated, was it just a natural follow on from her fashion photography in exploring something new. I am aware that she would have been aware of the rise
of the Civil Rights Movement, the black rights movement in the late 1950s and
60s, and the rise of the disability rights movement in the United States, and
subsequently in Australia in the 1970s. It still leaves me wondering if her imagery is kind and appropriate. 

CONRAD P. 2003. Freak practice: Do Diane Arbus’s feted photographs of grotesques actually justify the bold claims made for them?: Revelations by Diane Arbus The Observer ; London (13) 05 October [online] at 
[accessed 17th JUL. 2018]

GILMORE J. 2011. Ethics, Aesthetics and Artistic Ends. Journal of Value Enquiry. The Journal of Value Enquiry. (45) pp203-214. 15 June [online] at [accessed 19th JUL. 2018]

MCDONALD D 2017. ‘Talking Back to Dianne
Arbus’, Social Alternatives, [online] at [accessed 17th
JUL. 2018]

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