Research Based on the Expressive Arts IBAE

The first time I heard about arts-based research (IBA) was at the European Graduate School (EGS) in the European summer of 2003 when I went to study the PhD programme. It was at a seminar on research by Paul Antze and Stephen K. Levine. Can the arts be a method of research? I wondered excited and excited about that new possibility for me. I had already done two research papers with more traditional methods. At the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, to obtain my bachelor's degree in psychology I conducted a quantitative research, in which I validated a psychological test to measure the search for help in a group of adolescents. Then for my master's thesis I had a somewhat more connected experience with the arts, I did a qualitative research to deepen psychoanalytic concepts through classical music. I felt that psychoanalytic theory could be better understood from other sources such as music, without knowing it I was already approaching IBA. But it was only in the classes with Paul and Stephen that I knew the new paradigm of research that posits that art can also be a method to approach the knowledge of multiple and creative forms. From that moment I started reading all the relevant literature Levine (2009),Barone, T. and Eisner, E. (2011)Leavy (2009, 2017), Mcniff (2000, 2013) which describes the fascinating universe of IBA and its many possibilities. Even the magazine Poiesis (2013) was dedicated to this topic.


After finishing the CAGS program at the EGS and returning to Peru I had the opportunity to create the Research Based on the Arts course, which is part of the curriculum in expressive arts therapy offered by TAE Peru. Students have to do research using this methodology to consolidate their three years of study. I have taught this course for the last 15 years and it is from this experience that I have learnedmoreabout the IBA based on research conducted by the studentsThey are trained in expressive arts and their way of researching follows the principles of our discipline and thus have enriched the IBA field from the perspective of expressive arts.


In parallel to this process I felt it was not appropriate to teach a method without myvivid and experienced. This motivated me to do my doctoral thesis Tinkuy: The encounter between Peruvian imagery and the expressive arts (2015) where the main method was the IBA from the perspective of the expressive arts that we were exploring in TAE Peru.


Likewise my colleagues and professors of TAE Peru, Judith Alalú, Martin Zavala, Monica Prado, Ximena Maurial, Odette Velez, had the same desire to be able to have a greater immersion in this method and that is how the book Pain and Beauty: Images from the expressive arts in Peru (2019) emerged. Each of us started from a concern or topic of interest in the field of expressive arts and developed it guided by the IBA from the perspective of expressive arts.


Also from 2017 I have the privilege of teaching together with Melinda Meyer the research course at the EGS that so captivated me and transformed my way of understanding research. In the course with Melinda I can now share with the EGS community what I learned at TAE Peru and also integrate, other research methods related to the arts, to my understanding of IBA.


It is from all these experiences that I would like to share for these 25 years of celebration of the EGS the vision of research based on the arts from the perspective of the expressive arts. I will describe 9 points where I summarize the central ideas of what I learned throughout all these years and learning experiences in the communities of EGS and TAE Peru. I also propose to call this way of researching Research Based on Expressive Art (IBAE), a particular way of doing research based on the arts:


  • Personal connection to the topic or question:from the IBAE the researcher approaches intimately to his research question: what is his personal relationship with his research question? Why is it fundamental for the researcher to delve into that question at this point in his life? What will be the contribution of his work to his community? IBAE not only has the potential to generate new knowledge but also to transform the lives of researchers and readers and beneficiaries of research, as the researcher opens up to the personal link he has with his subject. From this perspective, doing the research becomes something inescapable and existential for the researcher.
  • Descentramiento: at IBAE researchers follow the architecture model of an expressive arts session developed by Paolo Knill (2018). They temporarily leave the research question to enter the experience of making art, play or ritual. In the descent the principles of the expressive arts: intermodality, dialogue with the image, aesthetic responsibility, among others are those that guide the process. In the thesis that Sandra Requena (former student of TAE Peru) made, she clearly mentions it: not a step back from the arts! That is to say what Sandra emphasizes is that at this stage we have to stay in the space of creation guided by the arts until we reach a significant artistic product. Do not abandon the creative process with the desire to find answers to research questions quickly. Then artists/researchers can decide to present the created art and receive aesthetic answers from witnesses. It is a stage of honoring the arts and being guided by what is emerging beyond the initial research question.
  • Imaginary of the subject:the question of research and topic have an imaginary that the researcher can access: What are the myths or worldviews related to the subject?éplace or geographic space should visit the researcher to better understand the question?éimages, sensations, sounds, movements, poems, evokes the question? What arts, films, exhibitions, concerts, artists should I review to understand my question?éplace in nature resonates better with the subject to be investigated? Researchers are invited to explore and answer these questions as part of the decentering process.
  • Esthetic analysis:Before understanding the relationship between the experience of making art and the research question it is necessary to keep the experience lived at a descriptive level to allow it to speak for itself. The IBA literature proposes different ways of translating experience in the arts into knowledge. I think this is one of the greatest contributions of the expressive arts to the field of IBA because in our work it is very important to first make a phenomenological description of the whole process of making art as a step prior to understanding. So we described how the process was, what surprises arose, what the artistic product created is like, using an artistic language that will then help us generate connections with the research topic. Researchers at this time follow the call of James Hillman (1981) to make "notitia" as an activity of the soul to know the true essence of things through attentive and detailed attention.
  • The third one.Our IBAE data is the third. I learned this from James Chaytor, another student from TAE Peru and the EGS. In the expressive arts we define the third (Knill, 2016) as the beautiful, powerful and transformative images that arise in the creation of art.What is most surprising, what touches you and connects you with your effective realityIn quantitative research, we work with numbers, in qualitative with words and in IBAE with powerful images that emerge from the creative process, that is, with third parties.
  • Loom/Blanket/QuipuWhat do we do with all the information collected? This is the moment where we unfold everything found in the making of art, play or ritual, in the theoretical revision, in our aesthetic analysis, in our imagery of the subject and the third parties that emerged to start weaving, spinning and connecting the existing "knots" or common points. Quipu are knots made from fabrics used by Incas and Andean cultures in general to keep their beads. Some specialists also consider them a three-dimensional form of writing that ancestors of ancient Peru had to account for their stories. At this moment in IBAE, researchers begin to weave with their third parties and glimpse the kind of quipu or blanket that is emerging from all the data gathered, that is, the connections that are being found with all the elements present. This fabric can be carried out at different times of the process but it is of vital importance to do it for the harvest and presentation, steps that follow. The blanket quipu always keeps open the mystery of the infinite meanings that can emerge from the arts and the fine ways in which fabrics can unfold.
  • Harvest. From the quipu blanket (and all the fabrics that compose it) the harvest arises, that is, the answers to the research question enriched by the experience in descenting.The information obtained bythe IBAEit can also be integrated into the results obtained through other research methods used: interviews, surveys, observations, etc.
  • Presentation: Also blanket/quipu helps us to identify how the researcher wants to present his results, whohas the challenge of creating and finding your own way dand account for the results andwhat you want to generate in readersor beneficiaries of research. Ifgue being a creative act the final form that research will have. A video, a poem, a story or a performance among many other artistic modalities can be part of the way to present the results. Who will read the work? What kind of answers does the researcher want to generate in the readers? What do you want them to feel? Where do you want to publish it?How can you more effectively reach research recipients and bring about change? These are some of the questions the quipu blanket helps answer.
  • Kronos and Kairos: The presences of the Greek gods Kronos, associated with literal time, and Kairos, associated with the time of the opportune, are indispensable throughout this process. It is important to have a linear time to report the time and structure required by all investigations, without neglecting the moment of inspiration and the unexpected. If there is no balance between times and experiences, the IBAEmay be affected. Kronos guarantees academic rigor and viability over time and, in turn, Kairos protects mystery and openness from the uncertainty that every research process must have.


Expressive Arts-Based Research thus arises from the impulse to be faithful to the principles of expressive arts, to put the arts at the center and to encourage their images to speak. To bring poieisis (as Stephen K. Levine always reminds us) to the limit throughout the investigation. To honor and celebrate the beauty that arises from this whole process and thus find the best way to expand knowledge generating well-being and transformation in the researcher and his community.





Barone, T. and Eisner, E. (2011).Arts based research. California, USA: Sage.


Calderón, J.M. (2015)Tinkuy: the meeting between expressive arts therapy and Peruvian imagery.PhD thesis: European Graduate School


Calderón, JM and Velez, O. (Ed) (2019).Pain and Beauty: images from the expressive arts in Peru.Lima: TAE Peru.


Hillman, J. (1981)The thought of the heart.Madrid: Siruela.


Knill, P. (2016).The notion of the thirdRecovered from


Knill, P.. (2018). Fundamentals for a theory of practice. InP. J. Knill, S. K. Levine and E. G. Levine,Principles and practice of expressive arts therapy. Towards a therapeutic aesthetic(pp. 87-188). Lima, Peru: TAE Peru.


Leavy, P. (2009).Method meets art. Arts-based research practice. New York, USA: The Guilford Press.


Leavy, P. (Ed.). (2017).Handbook of arts-based research. New York, USA: The Guilford Press.


McNiff, Shaun. (2000). Art Based Research. London: JKP


McNiff, S. (Ed.). (2013).Art as research. Opportunities and challenges. Bristol, United Kingdom: Intellect.


Poiesis. Researching Art - The Art of Research. (2013) Volume XV. Toronto: EGS Press.


Requena, S. (2015).Seeking an identity through the intermodality of the artsLima: Thesis, TAE Peru.