Undertaking educational research is fraught with complexities, murkiness and uncertainties. As researchers we are required to make sense of vast amounts of potentially disparate information from both the relevant literature and the data we have gathered. It became apparent during a recent research project that the conventional narrative of a manuscript would not allow me to make sense, or tell the complex story, of my inquiry. Multimodal approaches were required to grapple with the murkiness and represent the spaces in-between, where ways of knowing remain unspoken and where language falters. The particular multimodal device with which I engaged in during the inquiry involved making sculptures.
Through an examination of various arts-related research practices, along with broader qualitative research frameworks and perspectives, the concept of bricolage eventually underpinned and shaped the methodology for my inquiry. Bricolage offers a range of prisms to view an inquiry at various points in the research, rather than engaging a reductive perspective provided by a single disciplinary lens. The process of making the sculptures alongside the crafting of the manuscript offered a series of dialogical and reflexive prisms to assist my thinking, analysing, interpreting, representing and reflecting throughout the study.
Enacting bricolage gave me permission to cross both disciplinary boundaries of knowledge and boundaries of knowledge representation. Similarly it opened up possibilities to consider the in-betweens, multiplicities and inter-relational connections that emerged. The forty sculptures that were made along with my manuscript became a series of plateaus and surfaces to construct, place and arrange my thoughts. The sculptures titled Isolated Plateaus allowed me to work out ideas and think with objects, which in turn fed back into the construction of my manuscript and theoretical framework that underpinned my study.
Both the manuscript and the sculptures can be explored independently from each other, although when considered in tandem they offer a deeper level of representational adequacy of the meaning-making that transpired during the inquiry. Bricolage provided the prisms to shape that meaning-making, enabling me to explore boundary knowledge to grapple with the murky uncertain elements in the research and produce sculptures to represent the in-betweens. In this paper I will discuss how crafting the manuscript and making the sculptures developed into a symbiotic relationship; the relationship became a way of dealing with both the form and content of the study.