A roundtable on ‘Law and Policy: An Artist’s/Designer’s Perspective’ as part of the PROTECTED CHARACTERISTICS exhibition.

15 November 2010


Transcribed Excerpts from discussion:

I am always inviting people to listen differently to situations, particularly in Healthcare, the way you listen to something or somebody changes what you know about them. It struck me that the way artists look at something changes what it is.

Does the Law have a gaze?

The Law is more like a lens. The person who is using the law has the gaze.

Does it change according to who is using the lens?

The equality act is the structure that we are using to look at a particular problem. So that’s the lens that we are looking through.

So the question of ‘access’ changes according to who is looking through the lens?

The lens is not value neutral. It could be a tinted lens. It could be a lens that makes everything look bigger or smaller. So what kind of lens is the Equalities Act? What kind of vision does it impart?

I think one of the problems that I have experienced is that when people talk about equality; they talk about treating everybody the same. It has really come out in this show that I think that people have looked at ‘Protected Characteristics’ in very different, very individual ways. Equality is about treating people as individuals, i.e. treating them differently not about treating everybody the same. This is counter-common sense.

Perhaps it is about taking a very creative approach to what is in front of you. There is no one-size-fits-all. You have to assess the situation and ask yourself what are the equality issues here, and come up with a solution. For me that sounds like what artists and designers do in their practice all the time.

The notion of something being ‘protected’ requires a ‘protector’. Who is protecting who?

In my work as an artist, I feel there is a ‘positive approach’ [or upfront approach], where you are trying to say the right thing, but it never quite gets there. But what does work is to do the opposite. When we talk about the viewer, you kind of lure the viewer into a certain way of thinking, one that he can identify himself with … something that he will merge with during the process of engaging with the work.

The huge difference between Art and Law is that Law is about stuff. The measure of law is if it changes stuff. Generally speaking, the best Art is not about stuff, and the measure of whether it is good or not, is not whether it changes anything.