We left off last week all excited about the class critique. Follow up: went great! They nearly all posted in their reflections that the feedback they got was beneficial.
They’re talking more freely and starting to use the language of the discipline. Score!
There was one especially provocative comment: why are we doing this? That’s a paraphrase, actually. The comment came after I suggested using video effects to alter the look of some shots, and they were really questioning criticism in general. It’s ‘art’ after all, and how can it be judged when it’s in the individual beholder’s eyes? Good question, and I had an answer.
Even the most objectively introspective seeker has to get outside perspective to clarify their vision – and it could be anyone, not just a mentor, who can give perspective that spurs a person to grow. Growing into one’s artistic practice is not a solitary journey, despite legend and lore to the contrary, and those with caring and wise teachers are the lucky ones! I could’ve used more of them as a student and am thankful to those I have now.
That’s not exactly how I responded in class, however.
Basically, I said that constructive criticism was the purpose of the school setting. Anyone is free to do their own work any way they want; close the studio door and paint and draw and make videos all you want! If you enter school, you are asking for judgement and feedback. Well, maybe not asking, but at the very least, being a student assumes one is open to learning. Passage through the academic wormhole requires listening to words one may not like to hear, as well as adjusting yourself to go in new and uncomfortable directions.
It is said that once a tree is pruned, it must always be pruned. Similarly, things once learned, can never ever be unlearned. I recall the heavy feeling I had coming home from my first semester of college, being slightly amazed and daunted by the shedding of youthful things. It is tempting to reject learning in order to keep the purity of ‘first vision’ intact. Another child’s destiny perhaps, this ship has sailed.
I am learning how to provide some of that feedback in the best way possible. I tell students that they don’t have to think or see like I do, but if I withhold my honest truth then I am cheating them. For better or worse, I have the most expertise (not necessarily the most talent) in my classroom, and that’s what I’m there to share.
…You’re hearing me talk myself into it…. It takes more courage and confidence than I have on some days to let them know my real thoughts. They might not like me after they hear some of those. But am I here to be liked? I’m here to give what I have, like it or not.