The love and pain of the Group Crit

Every few months, we MA students take part in a ‘group crit’. This is where we all gather and take it in turns to discuss where we are at and what to do next. This exercise can be both vital and excruciating. We all get nervous about it, we all feel relief after it, but we all feel a strong need for it.

A black cat. He or she has nothing to do with this blog post.

When you are involved in an art project and a philosophy, you develop blinkers. You become unable to see what you are doing through someone else’s eyes. You understand what you are doing. It makes sense to you. But it only makes sense because you live, eat, breathe and sleep it. It might not necessarily make sense to fresh eyes. This is why the ‘group crit’ is so useful. You present your ideas to fresh eyes and they can be harsh, very harsh.

During the ‘group crit’ you explain what you have been doing, usually to your friends and others, and a random tutor. It makes sense, of course it does, to you. But, wait, once you have stopped talking you look up and see a sea of confused and blank faces. The result: panic.

I had to go through this ‘ordeal’ yesterday. I admit that beforehand I worked myself up into a bit of a nervous frenzy. This was partly because I’d missed the last one and it felt like a very long time since the last time I’d taken part in such a crit. This was also partly due to impostor syndrome biting me again. And partly due to the apparent surety of those who presented their work before me. They did seem to know what they were doing. I don’t.

So, yes, I did see the confused and blank faces after I’d introduced my work. However, once that moment of silence passed, I received some really useful and valid feedback, and, in fact, rather a lot. I want the criticism as much as I want the praise so all was good. I had both. Everything that my critics came back with was very useful.

However, I ended my day yesterday feeling discombobulated and confused. I had expected the ‘group crit’ to give me an answer as to what I was going to produce for the final show in October. It didn’t. It gave me things to think about, but it didn’t give me an answer. The MA course leader asked me to describe my practice in one sentence. That question threw me. I was struck dumb by his question. What I came up with sounded awful to my ears. 

So I spent the 12 hours after yesterday feeling rather worked up, confused, and uncertain. Then, today, I had an idea and that idea was thanks to the feedback I had yesterday. More on that next time.

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