International Visual Methods Conference

Just back from the 2nd International Visual Methods Conference that was held at the Open University campus in Milton Keynes (13 – 15 September 2011). I managed to pull off a multimedia presentation with my colleague Kris Smith – the artist on the Growing Up with Cancer project. Kris appeared by pre-recorded video, I appeared in person and we showed the self portraits from the project. A very positive reception – lots of questions and interest to hear more.

Presentation abstract

Title: Beyond the Illustration of Research Data: Using professionally facilitated image making techniques to enable participants to describe, enhance and extend data originally captured using traditional text-based methods of research.

Authors: Julie Mooney-Somers (Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine, University of Sydney) and Kris Smith (School of Drama, Fine Art and Music, University of Newcastle)

Abstract: Our research involved 20 cancer survivors (aged 15-30 years) participating in research and creative activities. In conversation with a researcher, they produced a narrative account of their experience of growing up and having cancer. Working with a visual artist, they created self-portraits; mixed media, graphic, photographic, and musical representations of themselves and their cancer journey. The interviews provided material for the generation of self-portraits, while exploratory work during the creative process generated reflections for subsequent interviews. By aligning and reconfiguring an image to almost literally match an aspect of an experience, each person’s understanding of the nuances of these aspects was enhanced in unexpected ways. Often a composition or colour was rejected by the participant, not for aesthetic reasons but because it couldn’t adequately portray aspects of the experience. Sophisticated and nuanced, these works express the complex and contradictory nature of dealing with a life threatening illness during a time of significant flux, when identity formation is foreground. These self-portraits were far more than a catalyst for a subsequent research interview, they standalone as pieces of art. Our presentation will take the form of a conversation between researcher (in person) and artist (pre-recorded video), with reference to the self-portrait images.

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