Arts Based Research by: Lisa Herman, Ph.D.

When arts-based research (ABR) is discussed in academia, the artful presentation of data has been considered; however, the process of artfully encountering data is not generally brought into the discussion. What if images: the sounds, the movements, the poetry, the drama themselves are the data in our research? To appropriately research artful data, we need to allow it to affect us. We must be moved and somehow changed by the encounter. I research the images of evil, specifically those of the Holocaust. I am compelled to make art. Linear discourse is inadequate for this inquiry. Images ask for artful representation. They arrive in music and sometimes in a felt sense, through theater and clowns. They are found in words in print and words that we sometimes feel in the air, through touches on our scalp and chills down our spine or acids in our throat. Sometimes we smell images that arise from the sidewalk and sometimes we smell them through other images we see and hear on a movie screen. Sometimes they are thoughts that drift through our mind or someone else’s words hanging in a room. When we allow ourselves to fully sense these images in our bodies and minds we may then write a poem or dance or shape a sound in response to engage and inquire into them. This arts-based research helps me find a way to create a sense of hope. And then I can write about it, the linear discourse.

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