Ethics of Listening: Examining Methods and Praxes Toward a Community-Centred Art
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This dissertation describes methods and practices that help define the making of a “community-centred art.” My thesis is guided by my primary concern with three overlapping theoretical areas: art as activism, listening studies and ethical research. This thesis asks the following questions: What models of ethical research and collective cultural production are possible and suitable in that they make sense, and make change, for those people and communities involved in-situ?; What practices of teaching and learning can generate and encourage practices of “co-creativity”? My study locates contemporary praxes from the mid-1990s to the present within a historical continuum in relation to particular discourses and sites of practice in Canada, the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom. It documents how what we consider “contemporary” extends back into the period I will bracket as the community arts movement in Britain (c. 1960s-1992) with deeper historical roots in much earlier examples of popular arts. My move to situate “the contemporary” within a historical continuum diverges from recent writings by those visual arts critics and theorists who reformulated “public art” (Lacy 1995; Jacob 1995) through concepts of “connective aesthetics” (Gablik 1991, 1995a) and “dialogical” forms of practice (Kester 2000, 2004). Most known are the now popularised forms of “relational” practice, accelerated by the writing of the French Conceptual Art critic Nicolas Bourriaud (1998). Within this study, the practice of attentiveness to one another is described through modes of listening, where listening is an oral and auditory practice, as much as it is linguistic and multi-sensorial. I argue that observations on listening – because listening must necessarily be situated within sociality – require an ethical framework. What I am calling an ethics of listening therefore seeks to understand listening in a first instance as a disposition that is ideologically bound by ethics.