A Framework for the Consideration of Narrative in Creative Arts Practice
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This research project is aimed at creative practitioners in art and design who choose to engage in postgraduate research and who recognise narrative to be an important aspect of their work. While the goal of narratology has been explicitly declared as an interest in understanding narrative in all its forms, this project responded to a perceived absence of art and design centred perspectives in the general literature on narrative. A general attitude has developed throughout the course of the twentieth century resulting in a view that narrative has become a dead issue for contemporary practitioners. Findings from the investigations conducted as part of this project demonstrate a contrary view and show that definitions of narrative tend to be weak unless anchored in specific practices or disciplines. The lack of scholarship to support contemporary art and design research practitioners produces a problem by giving the false impression that narrative is largely irrelevant to practice. It also inhibits new scholarship when what currently exists is poorly categorised. The research question asks how it is possible to support the creative practitioner doing postgraduate research to better articulate their position on narrative in a way that contributes to scholarship in the arts and consequently to knowledge about narrative in general. The thesis argues that approaches to narrative traditionally associated with the discussion of art continue to be relevant today but only account for practice in a marginalised way. It posits that theorisation of narrative in the social sciences provides additional opportunities for creative arts practitioners. In psychology, sociology and anthropology the focus has tended towards localised or personal narrative in accordance with the disciplinary interests in those fields. If small stories, in contrast to the great narratives of history or literary art, can be regarded as the prototype of narrative, then artists can draw on other academic resources which better reflect their own disciplinary interests. Having established narrative to be more relevant than it might otherwise appear in the existing traditional scholarship, the thesis proceeds to make use of my practice as a case demonstrating narrative possibilities to be considered in relation to the work of practicing artists. Since my work operates across fields of art and design it was necessary to use a mix of methods to reveal the understanding of narrative in the different cases. Finally, the thesis proposes a narrative framework which categorises narrative in creative practice in five classes which incorporate the work, its reception, and the social space in which it is experienced. In addition, the practitioner's perspective is a distinct class. The purpose of the framework is not to describe narrative in all the forms that could ever be imagined by creative practitioners. Instead it offers a way of thinking about narrative that is derived from practice and structured relative to theories traditionally used to discuss narrative and art.