|Moonscapes and Mallee ScrubRemembering|
“Moonscapes and Mallee Scrub” was written as part of a PhD project undertaken at Flinders University in South Australia between 2007 and 2011. The narrative itself has gone through multiple permutations in my mind over 20 years: revision upon revision upon revision (i.e., remembering earlier acts of remembering and rewriting earlier acts of rewriting). This version represents the latest attempt at this otherwise difficult and troubling memoir – and is the first version to add visual elements and design features to the storytelling process.
The text was composed as a digital scrapbook (or bricolage) using Adobe InDesign. It uses Derrida’s ideas in Of Grammatology (1976) on “picto-ideo-phonographic” writing to move beyond prose-centric forms of writing and scholarship and into visual-verbal forms of arts-based inquiry. Picto-ideo-phonographic writing transcends traditional mono-modal forms of writing by actively “writing” in multiple textual bands simultaneously. In this case the different bands correspond with (1) aesthetic elements (e.g., image, design, colour, layout, pattern, etc.), (2) figurative elements (e.g., creative writing, informal language, anecdotes, reflections, etc.), and (3) discursive elements (e.g. theoretical discourses, professional language, academic jargon, etc.). By blending multiple voices and multiple semiotic codes, “Moonscapes and Mallee Scrub” embraces the multimodal and puts Derrida’s ideas into practice as advocated by Gregory L. Ulmer in Applied Grammatology (1985).
“Moonscapes and Mallee Scrub” is designed for “on-screen” viewing rather than “on-page” reading. This is digital storytelling and digital life writing informed by poststructural perspectives. Here, truth is seen as changeable and uncertain depending on which lenses, perspectives, and selves are accessed and engaged in the making of that truth. The self, in turn, is fluid, unstable, plural, polysemic, discontinuous, and fractured. We “write” the self into being through text and composition; we shatter it through re-vision and reflexivity. In this case, found objects, photographs, designs, documents, and memoirs all come together to “write” the self and “write” the past even while recognising the fluidity of both. I call this approach to life writing “scattertextuality” as it combines elements of memoir, autoethnography, bricolage, photography, design, theory, and creative writing into a collage of textual elements (i.e., a scatter of texts, discourses, and media). Scattertextuality enables me to use a range of textual strategies to extend the scope of my research and writing.
This type of scholarship has generated mixed responses. Many in the academy welcome creative approaches to research and the expansion of scholarship into new forms of expression and media. Others find this type of research “unscholarly” and more akin to “art” and/or “journalism”. They understand scholarship to be linear and logical and written in scholarly prose (not images, artworks, and non-verbal forms). Despite that, I have had more than enough support from friends and colleagues to keep exploring the possibilities of the “artist-scholar”. It is in the hybridisation of these two identities that I feel most at home. One without the other seems incomplete – at least to me.
Andrew Miller is a lecturer in academic literacies at Flinders University in South Australia. He lives at Maslin Beach with his two dogs.
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European Journal of Life Writing - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by the VU University Library.