From Art for Arts Sake to Art as Means of Knowing: A Rationale for Advancing Arts‑Based Methods in Research, Practice and Pedagogy


  • Sally Eaves


Keywords: arts-based research, arts, aesthetics, visual narrative inquiry, reflexivity, authenticity, polyphony, knowledge


Abstract: This paper advances a philosophically informed rationale for the broader, reflexive and practical application of arts‑based methods to benefit research, practice and pedagogy. It addresses the complexity and diversity of learning and knowing, foregrounding a cohabitative position and recognition of a plurality of research approaches, tailored and responsive to context. Appreciation of art and aesthetic experience is situated in the everyday, underpinned by multi‑layered exemplars of pragmatic visual‑arts narrative inquiry undertaken in the third, creative and communications sectors. Discussion considers semi‑guided use of arts‑based methods as a conduit for topic engagement, reflection and intersubjective agreement; alongside observation and interpretation of organically employed approaches used by participants within daily norms. Techniques span handcrafted (drawing), digital (photography), hybrid (cartooning), performance dimensions (improvised installations) and music (metaphor and structure). The process of creation, the artefact/outcome produced and experiences of consummation are all significant, with specific reflexivity impacts. Exploring methodology and epistemology, both the ⠜doing⠀ and its interpretation are explicated to inform method selection, replication, utility, evaluation and development of cross‑media skills literacy. Approaches are found engaging, accessible and empowering, with nuanced capabilities to alter relationships with phenomena, experiences and people. By building a discursive space that reduces barriers; emancipation, interaction, polyphony, letting‑go and the progressive unfolding of thoughts are supported, benefiting ways of knowing, narrative (re)construction, sensory perception and capacities to act. This can also present underexplored researcher risks in respect to emotion work, self‑disclosure, identity and agenda. The paper therefore elucidates complex, intricate relationships between form and content, the represented and the representation or performance, researcher and participant, and the self a



1 Nov 2014