Straw Godzilla: Engaging the academy and research ethics in artistic research projects

Barbara Bolt and Robert Vincs
Vol 34, Number 1, p.52
In Australia, the university ethics approval process is guided by the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. The National Statement does not provide a hurdle to be overcome or avoided, nor is it a Godzilla-like monster that must be slain for truth to survive. Rather the National Statement provides an affirmation of an abiding respect for all life and a mechanism for beginning the intelligent questioning, theorization and contextualization for a work of art. Focusing specifically on the emergent discipline of artistic research, this article addresses the question of how the supervisory process may take on the ‘spirit’ of the National Statement to engender genuine ethical debate, rather than merely focus on the instrumental obstacles that seem to get in the way of the research. It specifically addresses the emergent field of artistic research and the concomitant resistance to ethical regulation of artistic research, in which bureaucratic instrumentalism and compliance or censorship are considered to potentially emasculate the vitality of an art work and the ability of art to serve as a truthsayer or agent provocateur. In this, the attitude of the supervisor toward research ethics in artistic research is considered a key factor in determining their students attitudes towards the ethics process. This article will present several initiatives undertaken with the intent of more fully engaging supervisors and students with research ethics.