The Artist as Troubadour
: Exploring Creative Encounter through Song, Travel and Story

  • Joanna Foster

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is a reflection on my multi-disciplinary practice as a performing singer-songwriter and visual artist. The live performances I have made as a singer-songwriter provide the context for my research investigation into a relationship between performer, audience and environment developed in real-time. Research is practice-based and necessarily non-linear; triangulating audio, visual and textual languages in a polyphony of voicings that allows room for interpretation between methods of working.

Underpinning this research is my experience as an artist-in-residence with the Sambaa K’e Dene, a traditionally nomadic community of First Nations Canadians located in the Western Arctic. Development of music, drawing and printmaking projects with the Dene community, and first-hand experience of the Dene’s intimate relationship with the land, shaped my subsequent journey as a travelling musician in British Columbia and Alberta.

The song performances I made as a travelling musician provide the context for research into what I am calling ‘creative encounter’; a relationship between performer, audience and environment that develops collaboratively in real-time. Key areas of research include embodiment, embodied learning/practice, as a troubadour I am both ‘method’ and ‘medium’; qualities of ‘liveness’, ‘spontaneity’, ‘flow’ and ‘feel’ in an experiential process, and the transformative potential of song performance to become a conduit for connection.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsWilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust
SupervisorPernille Spence (Supervisor), Euan McArthur (Supervisor) & Tracy Mackenna (Supervisor)


  • Embodied
  • Song
  • Drawing
  • Printmaking
  • Journey

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