"The process of conducting research is always a meaning-making activity. Whether conducted within a paradigm based on 'discovering' and 'revealing' meaning, or one the posits the 'creation' and the 'construction' of meaning(s), social research is about generating meaning from data."
(Leavy 2015: 243)
This research project is about alternative ways of looking and documenting; concerning images, looking at the landscape, engaging with film and with these methods, making meaning or, rather, creating and communicating knowledge. This is carried out through multi-sensory activities that extend the notion of vision to experience, through an engagement with materials and objects.
My practice is in film and falls somewhere between the documentary, experimental filmmaking and visual ethnography. Throughout my work I have often found myself informally influenced by collaboration and the social interaction or social exchange that pervades films about people and place. In addition, I am influenced by disciplines that employ filmmaking as a way of thinking about research or that use the medium of film as an output, such as visual anthropology and cultural geography. The initial aim of my research was to formalise this tendency and create work that is informed by social engagement and that creates connections to these other disciplines.
During the recent event of lockdown, I found myself dismantling and picking apart my research practice in order to find the essence or centre of it, as, since I could no longer carry out the research activities with participants as I had originally intended, they had to take on a new form. I realised during this process of dismantling and piecing together, that I was enacting or putting into effect precisely what I do with my art and film practice: I take fragments of visual ideas and put them together to find new meaning. I often work through my practice using collage and this technique of placing and stitching eventually mirrors what I do in the edit, which is where I find the film’s “story” or, rather, structure. In montage theory, the idea that placing two shots side by side creates a third meaning or different emotional response in the viewer depending on the combination of shots, is something I enjoy experimenting with and discovering when I edit. I seldom have a pre-conceived idea of what I want a film to look like, I collect, collate, reshuffle and then make sense. Needless to say, I have found the practice of researching a PhD quite a challenge, imagining that I know what I am doing before I get into the process of doing it, which for me is a back to front way of working. Forcing myself into a new way of constructing information that is not open-ended emergent knowledge, thinking that the theory needs to be one thing and the practice another, has made me lose sight of my research at times. That said, losing track has encouraged me to affirm a working practice that is embedded in research and vice versa, in other words, a praxis.