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Published: 20 Jun, 2018

Life explored in a playful format

NEWS Camilla Hällgren, assistant professor at the Department of Applied Educational Science at Umeå University, has drawn international attention for her latest article on Art Blended Research and for putting the spotlight on pressing social issues through artistic work.

Picture of Camilla Hällgren's art
The kids won't notice. By Camilla Hällgren.

The theoretic reasoning as a researcher and lecturer together with what she does as a professional artist works in unison to create prerequisites to explore pressing social issues and what it could mean to be human today.

“The questions derive from a wonder over the human existence. One of these things is how being human can mean being very small we are in this very big world.”

By using the contrast of model railway miniature figures on the scale of 1:87 with regular sized objects, Hällgren creates a new way of investigating existential topics. Who are we in this big world? What does being human mean? Who has power and who does not? How could this world be a better place for everyone?

Picture of Camilla Hällgren.
Camilla Hällgren. Credit: Maja Bonta.

Parallel with Hällgren’s research, she has developed her profession as an artist. She has gradually begun to merge visual expressions with research – research which is not just traditionally academic but also combines aesthetic learning with research processes. It has become evident to Hällgren that there are more than one way of exploring and understanding the world and in this realisation she has developed the notion of Art Blended Research as a creative and visual research method originating from an intellectual blend of theoretic reasoning and artistic practices. Art Blended Research builds on the insight of the how much there still is to discover in our society, more to see than meets the eye and it is a method of creating knowledge. The strength of this method is in not explaining the state of matters but rather providing the opportunity to explore how things might be and to inspire to alternative ways of viewing the World.

“Art has the potential to immediately make us see the World from a new angle and offers several viewpoints of our World that can be used as criticism of norms and in educational dialogues,” says Camilla Hällgren.

The objective of merging research with art is to gain a deeper knowledge of human existence. In order to manage this objective, she starting point is the overall question: What does it mean to be human? Being human is complex and to create knowledge about what it means, several methods need to work together.

Camilla Hällgren’s miniature toy figures are a part of the collection called Little Sweden Art.
“Little Sweden Art is all about huge social issues on a small scale. The contrast created by combining these figures from model railway with full-scale, everyday items gives a visual expression that suits my exploration of human conditions,” says Camilla Hällgren.

Hällgren’s art is represented in numerous public institutions in Sweden, one of them is the Public Art Agency Sweden, and three of her pictures are included in Lumas’ global network with over forty galleries across the world.

More than one way of conducting research

At present, Hällgren focuses her research on identity and social issues about what happens when our modern society gives young people extraordinary opportunities for visibility online, communication and learning. She investigates the correlation between youngsters, identity making, learning and contemporary media. A central question is what role interaction on the internet plays when we create identity and an understanding of who we are.

 “One of the insights I have made had so far is that our world can be understood based upon so many scientific perspectives and conceptions of the world. There is more than one way of understanding.Consequently, there is more than one way of conducting research. What is regarded as acceptable research and how we perform our studies depends on the positions in our being as well as the ruling paradigms,” says Camilla Hällgren.

Read more:

Little Sweden Art – Hällgren’s artistic work and gallery

Interviews and articles

Artist uses mini figures to highlight big social issues on a small scaleWith Matt Petronzio editor of Social Good at
These Playful Pictures of Toy Figures Pose Serious QuestionsCamilla Hällgren's Tiny Figures Highlight Big Social Issues


Art Blended Research and Children's Gender Identity MakingHällgren’s article in Scientific Research

For more information, please contact:

Camilla Hällgren, associate professorDepartment of Applied Educational Science at Umeå University

Editor: Anna Lawrence