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Arts Based Research Methodology

Dr. Darlene Clover from University of Victoria taught participants of the Mentor Training Program the use of arts in participatory research methodology.

Dr. Clover started the session with a well-known saying by Aristotle: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”. She raised the question: “How can art be effective and relevant to/in/as research?" and mentioned the challenges participatory researchers can face when using arts-based methods in their research.  She discussed other labels and terms which are used to describe arts based methods: Painting as research, exhibitions as enquiry, poetic research, lyric enquiry, and visual methodologies. She gave  examples of types of arts: photography, video, metaphors, drawing, cartoons, etc. "We need to take out the fear of art and explore how it can be used to gather data," she said. "How can we use art to ‘reflect’ our findings?"

She emphasised the need for counter narratives to establish arts based research. She quoted Butterwick saying, “We need more ways to shift away from the continued pressure of the limitations and oppressive features of positivistic/empirical scientific research."

Dr. Clover particularly mentioned the purpose of arts based research, which is not to make art but rather to use artistic or expressive mediums to investigate problems and issues. Research always provides new ways of making the familiar strange, the strange familiar!

Representation is an essential part of culture, the process by which meaning is produced, exchanged and mobilised. At the heart of arts-based research is a radical, politically grounded statement about social justice and control over the production and dissemination of knowledge.

She also brought attention to the issues of ethics and power when using arts based methods. Main takeaways from the seminar are:

-- Art is always context specific 
-- Art forms used as direct method and not just as a tool. Authenticity of data is always required.
-- Artists can be taken as part of the research team, but they are not the experts in this methodology

There were 28 participants who attended the programme.

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