Visual Echoes is a participatory research project that explores the experiences of preservice secondary visual arts teachers following their first practicum placements in schools. Over the course of several weeks, these participants worked together in groups to translate their personal stories from the field into a series of visual reflections, written responses and large-scale paintings. Building on the methodology of a/r/tography, this inquiry employed aesthetic mapping processes as modes for performing (rather than representing) the interrelationships between art, teaching and research. Through these practices we engaged with cartography in a Deleuzeoguattarian sense, in which maps are understood as generative spaces for conceptual experimentation and collaboration. As artists and teacher educators we guided the direction of this work by presenting stimuli, leading analytical discussions, and providing verbal feedback and written elaboration to the participants as the project progressed. Aside from these minor interventions on the part of the researchers, each step of the research process was explicitly undertaken in a collaborative and participatory modality. Adhering to a participatory research paradigm allowed us to account for the learning environment itself as an ecological work of art, rather than just a background for the human discourses at play in the classroom. As a result, the artwork emerged spontaneously as part of a network of relationships and interactions between humans and non-humans within a community of practice. The majority of participants found this to be a rich and rewarding learning experience, both as an introduction to arts-based research and an extension of their teacher-education. Surprisingly, most participants had not previously engaged in collaborative practices in their careers as art students or professionals. Many of the participants further described a shift in their self-perception as artists and teachers, as well as a deeper understanding of the social dynamics at work in the classroom. These findings suggest that the collaborative mapping of lived experience may provide significant opportunities for enhancing learning in the contexts of arts education and teacher training. The final outcomes of the project include a single resolved painting to which all of the participants contributed, as well as a series of poems, photographs, reflections, diagrams and academic texts. These varied artifacts document and modify each other at the same time, and can be understood as interconnected parts of a single process. The final painting both contains and symbolises the myriad layers that have been added and subtracted from its surface, presenting an overlaid network of memories, marks and erasures. The painting’s form has found resolution as a landscape, from which can be seen to emerge the buried traces and gestures of artists, researchers and teachers. This presentation of Visual Echoes is a multimedia performance based on the narrative development of the research over the course of a semester. Through this performance we aim to bring the many different voices that emerged in the research into relation, including those of individuals, collectives, and artifacts. This allows us to articulate the story behind the final work itself, discuss the implications of our findings, and finally present the artwork which was the culmination of a collective process.
Rousell, D 2014, 'Visual echoes: mapping the practicum experiences of pre-service educators through collaborative artmaking and reflective practice', paper presented to the World Summit of the International Society of Education Through the Arts, Melbourne, Vic., 7-11 July.