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Telling Stories Otherwise

  • Author / Creator
    Necyk, Bradley W
  • Stories matter deeply. They help us see, experience, understand, and make meaning in our world and lives. As we will see in this dissertation, to create lasting positive social change, we need new stories, stories that reveal new paths, hopes, and futures. Art is a powerful storytelling medium, behaviour, and disposition. It provokes, often, uncomfortable truths and understandings which we can assimilate into our existing cognitive schemas (your world remains unchanged), or accommodate, through a radical shift in understanding (you reorganize your world), with the former leading to stagnation and the latter leading to adaptive growth. The focus of this dissertation is two-fold. First, it aims to tell/uncover new stories about mental health and illness—that can help do away with the old, tired, and “unthinkable” stories that have led to isolation, shame, stigmatization, and treatment avoidance. Throughout my research and dissemination activities, I have observed how telling these stories through the creation of art and presenting it publicly has created safe, inclusive spaces for open and disarming conversations around mental health. Second, it offers an example of ways research and creation are linked (“creation-as-research”) directed to process-focused inquiry outcomes. This dissertation is comprised of six main sections. Insights (theoretical, ethnographic, creative) generated from artistic, “creation-as-research” processes are presented in Chapters One, Four, and Five, along with the creative work that is included in the final section of this dissertation. In Chapters Two and Three, I discuss concepts and ideas related to arts-based research and research-creation, to describe my approach to “creation-as-research,” a specific sub-category of research-creation (Chapman & Sawchuk, 2012). Not specific to health sciences, these chapters outline the methodological and theoretical underpinnings that informed my creation-as-research approach, which may be taken up by, or inspire others working across diverse disciplines and settings, within and outside the academy. My research activities focused on three primary projects. First, I travelled to Iqaluit, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic to run an arts-based workshop on suicide. I conducted an image theatre workshop where we sculpted living images using our bodies to tell stories of suicide. Second, I was a participating artist and co-investigator on an arts-based inquiry into the lived experience of head and neck cancer. Third, I was a visiting artist-researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Ontario where I experienced extended visits in the Youth with Concurrent Addiction Unit, an inpatient hospital program directed to youth experiencing addiction and mental health challenges, and Mood and Anxiety Inpatient Unit. While there, I co-created art with individuals in the midst of acute phases of their illness, in the hopes of uncovering new stories about the experience of illness and recovery. In preparing this dissertation, I have revisited all of these experiences through the creation of visual and narrative art, with the hope of telling stories otherwise. Through this dissertation, I also hope to open up possibilities and literacies for creative, arts-based research. By outlining my doctoral journey, and I hope to lay ground for new artist-researchers to step out onto.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-88nk-sr48
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.