Worries and concerns

Having come back from the Christmas break, I am finding myself feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the reality of how little time we have left in university. Graduation aside, which is in 6 months from now, our timeframe for completing our work is realistically only the next two months, possibly three at a push, before we have to direct the majority of our energy to planning and assembling our degree show.

While this is an achievable deadline, what concerns me most is that I do not feel I know where I am now going with my project after having had my feedback from my formative assessment before Christmas. While the tutors seem to like the medal I have produced so far, and the idea of the set, they do not feel that it is enough work to constitute a degree show which requires a “body of work”. This is a fair point, which I had not previously considered, not knowing precisely what is expected of a degree show and thinking more in terms of having a final piece than an entire body of work. The tutors seemed most interested in the notion of the medals stacking, and working together as a set, and suggested that I create several more series of stacked medals which tell a narrative. However, they did not seem to want me to continue in the direction of personal narrative, as I have been looking at in my current set of medals. They noted the fact that the message I am expressing may not be apparent to everyone when looking at my medals, giving the example “I could look at these and just think that this was a person who was just very interested in keys”. While this is true, as I have written previously I do not think that the message is entirely obtuse to those who are willing to try and ‘read’ the imagery, and that keys are identifiable in their function which is then tied to their significance. While it is true that these objects hold a particular significance and meaning to me, which they will not necessarily hold for others, I would argue that that this is true for many artworks and that there is always the risk that viewers will not understand, or frankly care about your work or message.

When asking if perhaps what they were suggesting with creating several other bodies of work in relation to my medals, was expanding on or reinforcing the message of the main set to perhaps make it clearer or provide context to the objects (keys), their response was a definite no. They were clear that rather than being related to my personal narrative, they should be a response to narrative as a whole, and specifically not related to me. From my perspective, I can’t help but feel that this completely undermines and detracts from what I consider to be my ‘main set’ of medals. This then tells me that discussing my own experiences is not as worthwhile a topic as I had initially thought (despite the fact it was not something I was originally considering, but was convinced of its value by other member of academic staff), which is very disheartening as I have spent a lot of time and energy labouring over the theme and concept to get it to what I thought was a reasonably robust point. It also seems counterintuitive to me to create an additional body of work that does not reflect the tone or message of the main piece, that I do not feel connected or engaged with and I do not feel works cohesively to strengthen my work as a whole. Perhaps this is not the case, and it is by nature my challenge to take the suggestions I am given and work with them in a way that does enhance my work, but currently I am having difficulty in seeing the value of the exercise other than simply to produce more objects.

This not to mention the fact that I find this task of making two or three more sets of stacking objects incredibly daunting in itself. While I understand my tutor’s argument that the medals I am working on currently can by produced into bronze without a huge amount of difficulty, and that I should be more ambitious with my work. However the idea of designing from scratch two or three more sets of stacking objects (while it was suggested they do not have to be medals or take as much effort to construct, potentially coins for example), is not one I take lightly as I feel the nature of two sided objects, and in addition to this the stacking of them, is a relatively complex set of dynamics which is why I chose to work with it in the first place. This combined with the fact I have little sense of clear direction with this task to drive me, no anchor point to construct my work around other than “narrative” which is almost ubiquitous in nature, leaves me feeling incredibly uncertain and concerned for the completion of my project.

While I’ve no doubt that I will at least pass and complete the year, graduating from university, I understandably want my work to be as strong as possible and approved of by others (especially my tutors). Because of this I am left feeling shaken by my overwhelmingly average formative feedback, falling perfectly in the middle of the bracket “Satisfactory”, aside from context which was in the bottom of the bracket “Good” (2:2 and 2:1 respectively). While I did not anticipate getting a first, and I understand that this is formative feedback which forms a basis to improve your grade, it is disheartening to me to be told that your work is simply “satisfactory”, ‘it’ll do’. It makes me question whether or not I have any real skill for art, and whether I should pursue a career in the arts at all, let alone as ‘an artist’ producing and selling my work (not that I have any real concept of how to achieve that in the real world to begin with). It is a consistent feeling that I’ve had throughout my time at university, that there is something fundamental I just seem to be simply ‘not getting’. Something that I seem to be lacking that leaves me in this constant position of uncertainty and achieving only average grades, yet I can’t seem to grasp what it is that I’m missing. I come into university every day and work consistently, staying later than most (although certainly not as late as some) working for several nights in the week this past term. Trying to ensure my ideas are refined and robust, and when sculpting trying to make sure my technical skills are good and the objects are detailed. All in all simply trying to create work that I can be proud of and working hard. However this simply does not seem to be enough to even bring me within the bracket of “Good”, to get any indication at all that the work I’m doing is worthwhile and of any value.

Then there is the matter of what happens post-graduation. We are being made to look for post-graduate opportunities that we might engage with, form and idea of what it is we are going to do upon leaving university; a useful exercise in itself. Unfortunately I seem to be at a complete loss, hardly knowing where to begin, unsure of what to search for or what avenues might be available to me, any attempts I have made have come up largely at dead ends looking seemingly not relevant or not achievable for me. I am feeling an incredible sense of panic building in me at the realisation I have no plans in place for when I finish uni, and in fact no concrete place to live. While moving back home is realistically an option, and I am not expecting to have to live on the streets, it is certainly in my mind the absolute last option available which I would give almost anything to avoid, even if that means living on the sofas in friend’s houses. While I imagine many students sympathise with the notion of not wanting to move back into the family home after graduating university, for me it is a particularly pressing and important matter, and frankly the only goal that I have upon leaving university to never move back home again. This is why I feel it is very important to have a clear exit plan upon leaving uni, which would ideally involve some form of professional practice such as a residency or work experience as the tutors suggest, around which I could plan where I’m going to live, how I intend to make an income. This is also why I am finding it very distressing I do not have these matters in place, and in fact have very little clear idea of what it is I’m aiming for or how to achieve these goals, with the knowledge that graduation is coming ever nearer and these plans need to be put in place now at the latest, and ideally should have been done sooner (and certainly cannot be left until any later) yet I barely know where to begin and am certainly not in the finalising decisions stage. Any plans that I can envisage making such as residencies generally only last a couple of months at the most, which leads me to the question of “what then?”. Will a residency necessarily lead onto paid work, or to another opportunity? Most residencies provide some form of accommodation or housing over the course of the programme, but even assuming I find a residency which I am accepted onto, and can start soon after graduation, where do I live once it’s over? There are so many uncertainties and factors which I either can’t account for or have the potential to change so wildly, it seems impossible to be able to make concrete plan in which I can feel secure.

There is of course also the matter of the dissertation, which is due in three weeks from this point, although realistically it should be effectively completed within the next week in order to allow time for proof reading, getting it printed and bound, etc. Thankfully, at this current moment in time I am not too concerned about this, as I feel that the dissertation is in fact the one thing that is going positively at the moment, and I feel that it is an achievable goal to complete it within this next week as long as I push hard on it now and dedicate time to it. How I feel about it next week however, might be a completely different matter.

While I of course intend to discuss this with the tutors, and any other relevant members of staff, my concern is that I will be met with the response of “well we can’t do it for you” and “go and research”, which are responses I’ve come across in the past. Although I do appreciate the sentiment behind these responses, certainly the tutors cannot be expected to do these things for me while I sit back and reap the rewards, and it is down to me as an adult and an independent person to research opportunities that are relevant to me, I do not think this is what I am asking of the tutors. I have never asked and certainly would not expect, anybody to do my work for me, or to hand me things on a plate, which seems to have been the impression people have gotten when I explain the difficulties I am having. I am simply aware that I am lost and clearly looking in the wrong places for information seeing as nothing I seem to be finding is of use, and am in need of some advice pointing me in the right direction or narrowing my search. This I feel is within the remit of the tutors, drawing on their experience in order to guide me in a clearer direction of search, which I then fully intend to act upon and research myself.

Hopefully, after a booked tutorial on Wednesday, and an appointment with Paul Fitzpatrick which I have requested, things should begin to look clearer and less uncertain. In the meantime I can at least put my energies into my dissertation while I work on a plan of action in regards to my project and post-graduation.

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