forestine (forestines) wrote,


I was chatting with a friend from grad school about peoples' beliefs about criticism vs. critique. I've found that grad school was so much different from my BFA because rather than encouraging us to try new things and figure out what our work was about, we were constantly bombarded with criticism that felt personal and was far less constructive than I had hoped. In grad school I cried in the bathroom after several crits, once crying in front of everyone, yet the firing squad comments just kept coming. How is that supposed to help anyone? I have heard several profs spout off the phrase, "In grad school we break you down and build you back up again," but I never noticed much building.

I have found myself feeling jealous at other artists whose work might not be well-received, and yet they are able to contain all the enthusiasm they need to keep going, within themselves. To do that, you need to be able to fill this well with your reason for doing this, your belief – maybe even knowledge that your work is worthwhile and that it is important to keep going. Critique that feels personal makes it so hard to take constructive advice out of that. You feel bad, as a person. That means everything you ever make will fail, instead of this particular work that might need something.

I joked with the friend in that conversation about how maybe right now, in my break between school, work and projects, I am trying to counteract the effects of grad school, like it was so damaging that I need to repair myself first. It makes me really angry that it's not the norm to teach students how to fill their well with their own personal enthusiasm. It is possible to critique constructively while encouraging that person to keep going, keep exploring. Are academics bitter husks who feel the need to perpetuate the same crappy system? What did I pay for, to feel like crap? I could have done that at home.
Tags: enthusiasm, from other blog, grad school
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