Sunday, 22 May 2016

Drawing-with-others: visual and hermeneutic ethnography

I think I have reconnected with the reason why drawing (and other production of images of various sorts) is one of the central strands that runs through my work. I am beginning to understand - again - what drawing is to me, and my research practice and I am excited to explore the implications of these ideas more fully. This is good timing, as I was beginning to fall into the trap of seeing drawing as ‘a thing’ somehow apart from me, a method to be used, or worse, a decorative stimulus. I was becoming disconnected from drawing through this objectification, and this was fatal. Instead, I write this post to remind myself that drawing demands that I am fully authentic and present with others, that drawing is meaningful and vulnerable communication where my horizon of understanding connects with them, enabling real conversations. 

I am not sure exactly how this translates into research methodology other than to say I am seeing drawing is a way of being-with-others, one in which things are re-presented and encountered in new ways, supporting insights and new stories for those participating. I am finding it helpful to think of as a form of visual ethnography, in which there is a shared hermeneutic encounter. My philosophical basis for this is the work of Paul Ricoeur and Hans-Georg Gadamer (as as you may know from previous posts, I find motifs in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze inspiring although the connections to the former two sources are minimal, if not non-existent). I have another post I plan to write on Gadamer’s Truth and Method which I have found, together with several of Ricoeur’s works frame these sorts of ideas. 

One of the implications of these thoughts about drawing as conversation with others is to prompt me to keep it alive. I stalled when I began to think about images in a passive way - simply ‘things’ that needed to be impressive. As I have re-focused on the activity of drawing, and how I might help others encounter and respond to images, I saw something I wanted to develop. Part of what motivates me is to put myself and others in situations where genuine enquiry and curiosity can come to the fore. There is too much formulaic, ‘safe’ social research out there, in which people play the roles of expert and subject, we ask the same questions and get the same answers. The problem is, people taking part in research like this know this. If I can put myself and others in a much more interesting place, where I and (hopefully) others see things in new ways, and we are equally engaged, then we might work harder to understand. I will be interesting to test out ways to develop this ‘drawing with others’.