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Marie Brett, Artist in Residence UCD College of Social Sciences and Law

By the artist, May 30 2016 11:21AM

April/May 2016

UCD School of Law lecturer John O’Dowd has been working with me on the subject of Ethics & Consent (in Ireland) and sharing knowledge on The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (1). It’s wonderful he’s also shared with me his contacts in further Irish Universities of lecturers with specialist knowledge in this area. I’ve recorded our discussions, and plan to come back to this later in the year, to dove-tail it with other aligned research.

Dr Mark Coen has been really helpful in assisting me in my research into prostitution, and I have several contacts to chase up … exciting!

UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work & Social Justice invited me to present a lecture as part of the ‘Women, Art and Activism: Creative Strategies for Social Change’ course coordinated by Dr Aideen Quilty. This was a really interesting day, with opportunity to witness and discuss ideas of arts and activism, and to question, what is, or can be, claimed as agency within artwork? (mine and others), and what can or might lie dormant? – and why? Lots of potential here.

UCD School of Sociology. I was really pleased that Dr Alice Feldman could be a guest speaker at ‘E.gress in Limerick’. This is a national tour of a film, with a programme of discussion events – and in Limerick, partnered with Limerick City Gallery of Art, Dr Alice Feldman was joined by Dr Tracy Fahey (LSAD) and each spoke about the artwork, particularly in relation to thoughts on ethics and risk. Great presentations, conversation and each prompted lots of discussion afterwards.

UCD School of Philosophy, Applied Ethics /Death. I’ve been attending more great Philosophy lectures on Applied Ethics by Dr Christopher Cowley, further examining ethical issues surrounding human death. Classes have been exploring the complex issues of Euthanasia and Mercy Killing. Loads to think about including questions of:- Should euthanasia (in some form) be legalised?. Is the Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Compatible with Good End-of-Life Care?. ‘What is Mercy-killing?. Is ‘turning a blind eye’ ethical?. Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under Irish law. I’ve made lots more sound recordings. It will take a while to work through these, but there’s exciting potential here. I’m also just beginning to think about the type of visuals which might possibly accompany aspects of these sound files.

What else is happening: I’ve been linking in with a Hospice about a new project potential later in the year. Also I’ve brought the film E.gress to Kilkenny (partnered with Butler Gallery) and it’s exhibition continues at The Model, Sligo. In Dublin I’ve been visiting productions by Brokentalkers and Willfredd (theatre companies using contextual materials to creatively explore issues of institutional abuse and hospice care). At UCD, it was great to attend the symposium ‘Creative Research Practices and Alternative Sites of Learning' for artists, researchers and educators, and also to see the artwork made and chat with students who were part of the 'Tunneling Art & Science 2016' exhibition.

(1) The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 brings about the long-awaited repeal of the Victorian-era Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and the Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811.

•The legislation demonstrates a seismic cultural shift away from a paternalistic and ‘best interests’ approach towards persons with intellectual disabilities to a right-based approach of choice, control and consent

(March/April 2016)

UCD School of Philosophy, Applied Ethics /Death. I’ve been attending Philosophy lectures on Applied Ethics by Dr Christopher Cowley, which examine ethical issues surrounding human death. So far these have been great, allowing me an insight into deeper thinking around some of the complexity of suicide and intended/non-intended self killing(1), plus also around Dementia, and questions of ‘Why is dementia sometimes called a living death’? and ‘what is the Dementia someone elseproblem?’ (2). I’ve also been atttending tutorials, where in smaller group discussion, some of the questions and thinking are further un-packed. There’s no easy answers! – I think we end up with more questions than answers. I’ve been making audio recordings throughout, and looking forward to having time for listening and editing … towards making a series of sound-tracks as part of new artworks based on death ethics. I’m going to wait until this lecture series is complete before reflecting on gathered materials.

The Human Rights Centre Director Suzanne Egan has been assisting my research of

Human Rights and Film work. It’s wonderful to learn more about The Irish Council for Civil Liberties Human Rights Film Awards and to view recommended films. Lots here!

UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences invited me to present a lecture to 3rd Year Nursing Students as part of their Arts and Health Module coordinated by Emma Finucane. I really enjoyed this, especially discussing with the students about how my artwork and methodologies both do and don’t chime with their strategies and work priorities. Lots of potential.

Feminist & Gender Theory. I’ve been attending Philosophy lectures and student discussions on theories of gender, power, the body and labour presented by Dr. Clara Fischer. These are great, and from numerous topics, it’s particularly theories on ‘Feminism and the Sex Wars’ that I’m keen to explore more. I hope to collaborate with Dr. Clara Fischer, to inform and contribute to a new artwork I aim to make later in the year, exploring aspects of prostitution.

School of Irish, Celtic Studies/Centre for Irish Folklore, National Folklore Collection. I’m continuing to access some wonderful archive materials on Death Traditions held at the NFC, assisted by Anna Bale, Dr McCarthy and Simon O'Leary. Very inspiring!

Alongside … my time at UCD, I’ve been exhibiting my film E.gress in The Model, Sligo, plus touring it to Waterford City Centre, using a mobile cinema; here’s my IMMA artist blog https://immablog.org/2016/03/02/artists-voice-marie-brett-reflects-on-her-filmwork-e-gress/ Plus I was keynote speaker at the Death/Disease/Design symposium at LSAD; exhibited with the Affective Entities show at Cork’s Wandsford Quay Gallery and I’ve also been developing new research with Funeral Directors.

(1) Suicide / intended self-killing - Lectures have been exploring the scope of the concept of suicide; asking what can be classed as suicide? If a person does not strictly intend their own death, can their death – by their hand - be classed as a suicide? Is suicide right /wrong /morally indifferent? “some cases puzzle us; not because we do not have all 'the facts', but because we are not sure what to make of the facts we have. Socrates is such a case: Socrates drank the hemlock which killed him. He did not drink it unwittingly or involuntarily: he intended to drink from the cup, knowing it to contain a fatal poison. But this does not show that he intended his own death: for we distinguish the intended effects of a man's act, those which form part of his reason for acting, from those which he foresees but does not intend. Nor, therefore, does it show that he was a suicide: for a suicide paradigmatically intends his own death. … Socrates' intended action as a consequence a judicial execution: he drank the hemlock because this was the proper way of carrying out the sentence of the court; had he not been duly sentenced, he would not have felt bound to drink it. So what he intended was not simply to drink from the cup, but to assist in his own execution.” R. A. Duff. Socratic Suicide?

Can we call a person ‘a suicide’ if s/he persists in an activity (e.g., taking heroin) which s/he knows will very probably cause their own death?

(2) Dementia someone else problem “Advance directives permit competent adult patients to provide guidance regarding their care in the event that they lose the capacity to make medical decisions. One concern about the use of advance directives is the possibility that, in certain cases in which a patient undergoes massive psychological change, the individual who exists after such change is literally a (numerically) distinct individual from the person who completed the directive. If this is true, there is good reason to question the authority of the directive - which is supposed to apply to the individual who completed it, not to someone else. This is `the someone else problem.” David Degrazia. ADVANCE DIRECTIVES, DEMENTIA, AND `THE SOMEONE ELSE PROBLEM'


A shrine to wives of the Maharajas of Jodhpur who committed Sati. Jodhpur Fort, Rajasthan, India. Marie Brett

Smithsonian Institution. AIDS Memorial Quilt on National Mall, Washington 1992

1945 Gettyimages. ‘Body of Nazi Heinrich Himmler lying dead on floor after suicide / newsreel’

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