Historiographic Poiesis and Adoption Ephemera: Journeys in Arts-Based Research

In: Perspectives on Arts Education Research in Canada, Volume 1


How does arts-based research contribute not only to academic knowledge, but to empathy, imagination and community making? As an arts educator and researcher I have naturally employed artistic methodologies at the centre of my work. In The brooch of Bergen Belsen: A journey of historiographic poiesis, I explore a single aesthetic experience, an encounter with a small hand-made floral cloth brooch donated to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. At the start of my inquiry I had only the object – the brooch itself – my emotional reaction to it, and the few lines of text on a curated museum card. I wondered, how do we create “spaces for remembrance,” and what are the implications for teaching, learning and living in a just society? In my later dissertation Ephemera: The searchings of an adopted daughter, I examine the wound that comes from being an adoptee in the era of secrecy and closed records. I argue that the absence of adoptive representation in public consciousness can be addressed by the artistic re-visioning of adoption, to give voice to unheard/untold stories.

In both projects, the finding and making of art and the non-traditional research trajectory which spans disciplines moves beyond the theoretical, and it employs elements of poetry and imaginative fiction, auto-ethnography and a/r/tography which creates a rich and layered examination. Arts-based research methodologies have allowed me to merge the scholar and artist, to engage in research as an iterative process where deeper questions engender more complex and embodied responses, and create open, dialogic texts and artworks that provoke new understandings of narratives previously overlooked.