The Researcher as Artist

ARTIST_1920xTo the extent that the artist shares an awareness of the world with others (through the representational form of whatever they ‘make’), we  highlight the importance of being able to communicate with others – as artist-researchers.

“Never simply ‘theory’ or ‘fiction’, philosophy or empirical observation, ‘everyday life studies’ exist on the borders and the gaps between these representational categories. It is an aesthetic that questions the suitability of ‘system’, ‘rigour’ and ‘logic’ for attending to the everyday’ (Highmore, 2002: 23). As artist-researchers for 53 Million Artists, we are building an aesthetic that exists on the borders.

Our approach to the project represents a response to the challenge of generating a suitable form for registering the everyday – a response that amounts to the creation of a new aesthetics of and for everyday modernity. This aesthetic certainly concerns the outputs of the 53 Million Artists project – of which this is one. Whilst it might not look like the product of artists, we maintain that the behaviours and practices involved have been artful (e.g. mindful methodological innovations), and this is very important for an arts-based project that promotes reflexivity and aims to make an intervention at the level of the everyday.

Highmore notes (2002: 23) that “The necessity of fashioning new forms (or tools) for apprehending new kinds of experiences (new ‘realities’) might be seen as the general impetus and problematic attendant on theorizing daily life.” For us, we can see this as both central to the logic of 53 Million Artists as a social movement, and central to our reflexive research of this project. The tools being employed in 53 Million Artists are those of the researcher – yes, but also of the artist. We note here the developing interest in arts based research that promotes this interdisciplinary approach.

‘Arts based research’ has been described as “an effort to extend beyond the limiting constraints of discursive communication in order to express meanings that otherwise would be ineffable” (Barone & Eisner, 2011:1).  Arts Based research can be undertaken by anyone who is open to the possibility of looking across traditional disciplinary boundaries – whether as artist, researcher, teacher, ‘a/r/tographer’ (Springgay et al 2008) or ‘scholartist’ (Knowles et al. 2008). The implications of adopting an arts-based approach towards traditional forms of (social) scientific research are potentially profound.   At the very least, they encourage re-evaluating what we take for granted as ‘good practice’, including, for example, that which makes for ‘authentic’ research (see Four Arrows, 2008). A distinction is often made between arts-based research and arts-informed research (AIR); however, what is interesting about this is that this distinction is usually premised by the question – do you have to be an ‘artist’ to carry out this sort of research? We suggest that such a question needs to be bypassed, for now at least, as this project offers up a challenge to our everyday conception of just what it is to be an artist anyway.

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