Knotted Lines: Entangling genealogical methodology with practice-led research

Sera Waters
2015 Conference

This paper investigates the combined use of genealogical methodology with practice-led research and will discuss its role in my postgraduate research, titled ‘Settling Ghosts: a visual arts enquiry into repetitious acts of making home in settler Australia’. Foucaultian genealogical methods, as recently explored by Colin Koopman (2012), ultimately employ criticality with the intention of leading to change; recognising the constructed-ness of the present can activate reconstruction. As will be argued, genealogical methodology when combined with methods of practice-led research, can not only present an avenue for creative arts research to contribute to wider cultural investigations but can present possibilities for these changes. For whilst genealogical methodology problematises legacies of the present through the systematic and inter-disciplinary unearthing of the social and political conditions that generated their construction and generational repetition, practice-led research can dwell within the historical ruptures to seek and present alternative lineages into the future. These lineages can also revise the quiet or silent branches of marginalised historical narratives — in my research notably women’s practices of home-making and the unhoming inherent in colonial ‘settling’ — to reconstruct and reinsert them as not orderly ‘lines’ but rather the messy knots and broken threads of connection analogous to real-life genealogies. Settling Ghosts takes up this combination of genealogical methodology with practice-led research fixated upon repetitive textile methods, in order to repetitively dwell upon, recognise, and reconstruct, the invisible legacies of home-making in settler Australia.

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About the author

Sera Waters is a South Australian artist, arts writer and lecturer. She is currently Head of Art History and Theory at Adelaide Central School of Art. Waters is a graduate of the South Australian School of Art (1997-2000), has a Master of Arts (Art History) from University of Adelaide (2004-06), and is a current PhD candidate at University of South Australia. In 2006 Waters was awarded the Ruth Tuck Scholarship to attend the Royal School of Needlework (Hampton Court Palace, UK) to study hand embroidery. Since this time her practice has been characterised by darkly stitched meticulousness and her research has explored repetitious practices, Australian colonial history and home-making. Her embroidered black-works and handcrafted sculptures have been shown nationally and internationally.