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The autoethnographic picturebook: a practice-based investigation into the expressive potential of the form

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posted on 2023-08-30, 18:56 authored by Joo Hong Low
My research aims to: advance the understanding of Singaporean society through the creation of autoethnographic picturebooks; and investigate the expressive potential of the picturebook form for autoethnographic inquiry. Current research studies on Singaporean society are almost exclusively conducted by social scientists; my arts-based research could supplement these studies with a more nuanced understanding of the Singaporean way of life and thinking. Basing my inquiry in the literature of arts-based research, I harnessed the evocative power of the arts (i.e. the picturebook) to express contents that are visceral, non-discursive and intuitive. I created four original picturebooks—Lemonade Sky, The Second-Hand Vespa, Random Luck, and Mr Goodchild—for my study. Each book embodies a distinct aspect of the reflection on my lived experience and Singaporean society. Practice-based research provides unique opportunities to discover the expressive potential of the art form. The dynamic relationship between thinking and making is revealed through the examination of works from other artists and scholars, and experimentation with various art-making processes in the studio. Contrary to conventional belief, creative ideas are not developed solely through cognitive activities; they are also developed through the act of making. Visuals from exploratory work such as preliminary studies and experimental sketches are instrumental in shaping creative ideas. Artists do not just conjure up ideas in their minds and turn them into an art form, but rather express their ideas through the practical process of making the art form. My study demonstrates that the picturebook form, which is often associated with entertainment commodities for children, has the potential to carry content of social significance in artful and poetic ways through its dual semiotic mode of visual and verbal texts. I hope it could offer other arts-based researchers an alternative and refreshing way to conduct their inquiry and express the outcomes of their studies.



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