Writing, Reading and Producing the Visual

Authored by: Joan Mullin

The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts

Print publication date:  September  2010
Online publication date:  October  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415581691
eBook ISBN: 9780203841327
Adobe ISBN: 9781136897931


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Rhetoric, lodged in the ancient art of oral presentation, is commonly described as the study or implementation of a process of invention, arrangement, and production of words to create a planned effect on a particular audience. For art practitioners, rhetoric’s study of human discourse with this presumed focus on words might most closely align it with research in art history. However, studying art historically is not the only use of rhetoric; in its study of how communication takes place and is received, rhetoric is relevant as a useful tool for research in all arts practices since, in addition to the medium of language, the original components of ancient rhetorical practice included the purposeful use of voice, tone, performance and visual effect. Therefore, rhetoric already has for art practitioners a vocabulary for examining and naming their multimodal or single medium processes as well as a set of strategies that can be employed to create effective ‘communication.’ Together these provide two supports for defining and engaging in the production of art scholarship that would measure up to academic standards for postdoctoral production. Scholarship in art practice can include studies and examples of ‘invention’; it may examine but also articulate creative ideas as rhetorical, that is, as communicative practices. However, the use of such rhetorical approaches in artists’ scholarly activity can also help make a case that postdoctoral research can be just as rigorous when the ‘texts’ are multimodal or largely non-alphabetical. 1

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