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

8.1.4.5 Authenticity

I have been writing poetry from a very early age. Gradually the form of my poems developed into short-verse spontaneous poetry, usually up to two lines written in a single moment, without any editing. This form of writing can serve as a method for documenting inner experiences, through a concise and precise use of language. Since the text is not edited, it describes emotion in sincere, natural and non-discursive language, as W.B. Yeats (1966: 103) explains. Iqbal (1983: 155), referring to the short-verse spontaneous poetry of Rumi, adds that spontaneous un-edited writing can serve as a direct link to the artist’s feelings, meaning that we can trust the writing as an authentic carrier of experiences.

8.1.4.6 Process in end-products

Art practice involves a few stages in the process of creating: idealisation, preparation, making, and feedback. Gilbert & George (2007, para. 5) state that their final design process on the computer is ‘always ten per cent of the actual piece’, meaning that ninety per cent of the process of creating art work is unseen or unknown to the viewer who sees the final piece. By making art, the researcher can follow these ‘unseen’ stages and become aware of processes that are usually ignored by others, and yet which constitute ninety per cent of the making, as Gilbert & George assert. Such a researcher can then have a better general grasp of the processes, and a greater respect for simple things. A chair, for example, may not be seen any more merely as a piece of metal and fabric made in a factory, but will be respected as the culmination of a long process – a process that may have begun with a thought, a sketch, a request for a business loan from the bank, and a design on a computer, and which culminates in setting up a factory line, buying materials, producing, contacting distributors, shipping off to stores and devising an advertisement agenda. Making art provides the researcher with a tool to observe the processes of making, to the extent that the chair on which the researcher sits to write his thesis will no longer be seen as ‘just a chair’.

8.1.4.7 Processes of documentation

By experiencing processes of making art, the researcher can learn that there are long processes for making data representative, which otherwise may seem as a straightforward representation of events. The experience of making more than twenty films and videos for this research – from the initial stages of imagining and planning through to directing, filming and then editing – provided me with an outlook on other films that claim to show ‘authentic documented data’. It could be said that any director/editor who directs footage and then edits it, will gain an informed view of the editing choices that other editors made. Likewise, a photographer will have an informed understanding of the distorting effects that light and camera angles can have on proportions. This is valuable if a researcher wants to keep an open mind when reading text or watching films as part of his data collection process. By doing art, the researcher experiments with the fact that things follow processes of editing, thus the researcher can gain a better understanding of the duality in which observed data might be edited and presented inappropriately.

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