8.1.4 Art practice as a research method (pt 1 of 2)

8.1.4.1 Development

In this PhD research I could have chosen to explore artworks that other artists had already created. I could have observed works, read the literature and had discussions with artists. Such research could indeed yield theoretical data relating to the processes of artistic inspiration. However, by choosing to create artworks as part of this research I am able to observe the stages by which creation takes place, as well as engage with audiences and observe the development of the PhD from one artefact to the next.

This process of self-reflection also allowed me to gain an understanding of how the making of my artworks could be used to trigger others to open up to their own creativity. Therefore, making art and exploring its development, was inherent to this research. This personal motivation meant that I was less interested to observe a so-called completed artefact in the museum, and am more drawn towards examining the way that inspiration is captured and how it transforms into art, as well as engaging with others to inspire them to open up to creativity.

8.1.4.2 Dissemination

Art practice was used as a method in this research to disseminate knowledge. In my artistic films I incorporated some of my theoretical ideas, giving them artistic shapes and colours. This provided another form of representation in addition to paper publications and paper presentations. The films were screened as part of paper presentations, and in turn the presentations were themselves filmed and made into other films. In this way I have treated paper presentations as a source for art. For full description of the process of dissemination through making art refer to chapter 9.

8.1.4.3 Art presentations

While I arrived for each presentation well prepared with a theoretical background, I treated the presentations as an ‘academic performance’ (see example paper presentation made into the video Interdisciplinary Mud; DVD disc of the film is enclosed to the [printed] thesis), where a coherent presentation is delivered, but not in the formal dry style of a person holding up a paper that covers half his face, and reading it aloud in front of the audience. I never read from a paper; I only referred to keywords. This allowed me to be free, where I was able to use body language, vocal tones, and have direct eye contact with the audience, in a way that recalls an actor on stage (Dekel, 2008, para 1). The result was that these presentations were described as ‘thought-provoking’ (Dr. Liz Stanley, by email) or alternatively, received critical or unfavourable responses from audiences, as in the case of a presentation in front of Computer Science postgraduate students (Portsmouth University, August 2006). Nevertheless, even in that latter case, two students approached me at the end of the presentation expressing much enthusiasm and interest, which, I assume, they were too shy or reluctant to express during the actual presentation. I noted that performing a paper is generally inspiring to audiences.

8.1.4.4 Art as a trigger

Art practice can also be used as a tool to move people out of their comfort zone, which seems to limit people’s creativity, as I have experimented with by asking people in the street, ‘What is Love?’, for the making of a short film by that name (2007; DVD disc of the film is enclosed to the [printed] thesis). As a researcher I could use other techniques to obtain answers, such as questionnaires. However, being invited to sit in a classroom and answer a questionnaire has the danger of allowing people to maintain their comfort zones. By approaching people randomly in the street, holding a camera in my hands, people (who did not ignore me but actually stopped to respond) gave immediate, spontaneous answers. This will be discussed in chapter 12.1. Here I am merely interested in demonstrating that art practice in itself can be used as a research method for gathering data.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Why ask?