Somewhat to my surprise – and as a result of secondary research, intervention testing, and personal artistic experiments – my most recent intervention ended up becoming a workshop method.
During the development of this method I found a book called Opening up the Wardrobe: a methods book, which helped me realise I have developed a new method from scratch that could potentially be applied to a number of research areas and/or stakeholders. For example, my workshop collaborator Alice is interested in testing it with people who express themselves through drag.
Opening up the wardrobe covers a range of different methods used for exploring the contents and experiences of wardrobes. Most of them however, look at clothing and wardrobe behaviours mainly from a materialistic and aesthetic point of view. Even when there are self-reflective and emotional elements included, the premise is to examine and influence the behaviours of people as users and consumers, rather than agents of their own narratives.
Opening up the Wardrobe shows each method in form of a set of questions about its background and applications. After reading the methods that were most closely linked to my research topic, I decided to apply the same questions to my own method as I thought it might be useful for clarifying the structure and potential applications.
Below is my method explained through the questions asked in Opening up the Wardrobe: a methods book.
Where did you get the inspiration from?
The method is based on a complex structure of interdisciplinary research and artistic exploration. The main inspiration comes from concepts within phototherapy, Barthes’ ideas about the Punctum and ‘essence’ of the photograph, and poetry as a tool for emotional storytelling and healing.
What aspect/question/entity does your method explore?
How affective objects can be used to trigger creative and self-reflective storytelling, how subconscious emotions can be accessed by deeper investigation of memories and emotions associated with a specific item of clothing, and how the participants benefit from this process.
How do you go about using your method?
The method is realised in a workshop format with a group of no more than 10 people. Due to its emotionally strenuous nature, the workshop is designed in two parts. For the first session, each participant is asked to bring with them an item of clothing that they have an affective connection with. The clothing and its affective associations are then explored through an investigative process that combines written, tactile, and visual elements. The raw material discovered during the self-reflective process, which starts during the first workshop and continues afterwards, is then used to create a written piece that represents the feelings found embedded within the piece of clothing.
How is your method different to others?
This method differs from other ones mainly because of its deeply investigative nature, with potential to reach previously ‘untought’ thoughts. I am not aware of any other methods that use a combination of photography and poetry to explore the affective and mnemonic properties of a specific item of clothing. I am also not aware of any therapeutic methods that use this approach.
In your experience, what insight does this method generate?
This approach can give both the participants and the researcher valuable insight about the affective lives of clothing and the transformative potential of exploring them, as well as facilitate new discoveries about individual identities and relationships with other people. The method can also offer insight into the creative process in general.
How have you used the data your method produces?
The method has informed the development of my MA research and my PhD proposal. It will be a useful tool in identifying target groups and potential applications for my research.
References Fletcher, K. and Grimstad Klepp, I. ed. (2017) Opening up the Wardrobe: a methods book. Bollington: Novus Press