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  • Introduction to Visual Arts Research Special Issue on A/r/tography
  • Patricia Leavy

I was honored to be invited to contribute the introduction to this special edition on a/r/tography, and profoundly humbled by the task. How does one begin? As you know by reading the stunning words by the great poet Carl Leggo, the possibilities are innumerable. A/r/tography invites us to actively, subjectively, and wholly engage with our work and the work of others from within, and so with this in mind and heart, I begin by locating myself.

When I discovered a/r/tography a new world of possibilities opened before me. I found myself both somewhere new and quite at home. The polarization of my artist-researcher-teacher identities never worked for me; I could not carve out parts of myself and place them into different boxes. Like many educators I have always felt that we teach who we are. In these respects and others, I could not separate my “work” from my “life.” How thrilled I was to learn that I did not need to—that I could be in community with those creating work that is fulfilling, meaningful, ethical, and resonant—work at the intersections of “art” and “research.” A/r/tography invites and celebrates interconnectivity.

This special edition on a/r/tography is a significant contribution not only to visual arts research, but also to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary arts-based research and pedagogy more broadly. For more than two decades, arts-based research practices have been on the rise—transgressing disciplinary borders, opening up new spaces for collaboration, and transforming how we conceive of and carry out our work (for example, see Bagley & Cancienne, 2002; Barone & Eisner, 2012; Knowles & Cole, 2008; Leavy, 2009). Over the past decade a/r/tography has developed as a set of arts-based research practices within education research but now [End Page 6] extending across disciplinary borders (for example, see Irwin & de Cosson, 2004; Sinner, Leggo, Irwin, Gouzouasis, & Grauer, 2006; Springgay, Irwin, Leggo, & Gouzouasis, 2008). This slippage and spreading is fitting, as a/r/tography itself “is an act of interdiscplinarity” (drawing on Irwin: Pinar, 2004, p. 9). This special issue represents both the culmination of the a/r/tographical movement to date, and also one of many starting points for future inquiry.

A/r/tography is a metaphor for our simultaneous, overlapping, and mutually informing artist-researcher-teacher identities. Those on the foreground of a/r/tography suggest that beyond recognizing the interrelations of our artist-researcher-teacher identities, this evolving methodology posits the intertwining of these roles creates a third space (Irwin, 2004; Pinar, 2004; Sinner et al., 2006). As a/r/tographers we occupy “in-between” space (Pinar, 2004, p. 9). A/r/tography pioneer Rita Irwin writes:

There are spaces between and spaces between the in-between. There are multiple borders diffused again and again. And yet all the while, we do not dismiss the lands that create the blurred perimeter of the borderlands. With presence comes absence, with light comes darkness, and with sadness comes joy, knowing multiple variations exist between each.

(2004, pp. 31–32)

A/r/tography merges images and text, without privileging either, in order to open up and create new meanings and imaginings. Through metaphor, juxtaposition, presence and absence, reverberations and excess, the marriage of “texts” in different mediums and the fusing of different ways of knowing, multiple meanings are created, reflected, and refracted back. There is also a strong social justice current running through a/r/tographical works as a/r/tographers and readers are invited to co-create, to imagine what is possible, and to carve out new spaces for connection—spaces in between spaces. For those forced to the peripheries of their disciplines or societies, here they walk with others. Through this special collection the a/r/tographers welcome you into this community.

As you have perhaps already come to see as you read Carl Leggo’s poetic meditation on a/r/tography and then began reading this “academic” introduction, Irwin and Sinner have modeled the best possibilities of a/r/tography in the way they have organized this special edition. This volume presents...


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