Thinking Through Images

Jaana Erkkilä
Doctoral student, Department of Art Education, University of Art and Design, Helsinki

Abstract. Visual thinking as a method of research is in major role in my dissertation. My research is focusing on diversity in school world. I study voices that are rising from the margins.

My visual work connected with my research work has a methodological value. As a visual artist and art educator I find the language of images most familiar to me. Still I see the images that I produce in research process very different from my so called free artist’s work. I want to focus in my presentation on the difference between artist’s art work and visual research work based on my own experience. I see them as parallel, but still different processes.

Sometimes a picture that has originally had its start in the process of research , becomes a work of art. The purpose was not in making art, but rather exercising visual thinking. Then something happens and research and art work melt together. I find it very interesting, if one looks at it in the connection of Martin Heidegger’s essay on the originality of art (1998). Heidegger claims that there is a happening of truth taking a place in the work of art. Research is also looking for truth, if not the ultimate truth, truth of the moment anyway. So, where is the difference of science and poetry, if we look at it through Heidegger’s theory of originality in art work? American painter Agnes Martin said in one of her lectures:”The great and fatal pitfall in the art field and in life is dependence on the intellect rather than inspiration.” I am looking for the meeting points of artistic intuition/inspiration and intellectual observation.

The images in my research work are not in a place of illustration. As a researcher I think through visual narratives and they show me such things I could not see through verbal analyses. In my dissertation there is a place for literal storytelling as well. I am studying, how visual and literal storytelling is producing knowledge that might be difficult, perhaps even impossible to bring out in other methods.

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Understanding the marginal through art practice

My presentation is about how to use art practice as a method to create knowledge, and to process that knowledge in order to understand the marginal. The case is about looking at homelessness as phenomena, how it is created and what are the mechanisms in society that pushes individuals into margins. In this case I created a story that took inspiration from somebody’s life that I followed through a window.

I have always been interested in people in the margins and I guess that this interest has come from my encounters with all kinds of people through literature and a great diversity among people with whom I have shared life in different places and circumstances. The world of stories open up new ways of seeing life. Through different art forms we can experience a life of others’, at least we can try to understand something that is different from our ways, out of our firsthand experience.

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