Well, the first year of my graduate education is finally over. To finish up the year at Columbia, the first year students have a closed-door final review of their work over the past year. As many of the faculty that are available attend.The idea behind the final review is that it is supposed to prepare the first-year students for candidacy, which will happen in the fall of next year, about six months from now at this point. The review is not set up as a critique. The faculty can only (or are supposed to only) ask questions of the student about the work that they are making after the student gives at 10-15 minute presentation.
Then, the student steps out of the room and the faculty discuss what progress they think the student has made and what the student needs to work on before candidacy in the fall.
There are six of us in the first year of the program (now in the second) and for some the reviews were a positive thing, and for some they were not. I haven’t come down on what my opinion of the process is yet. I need a long time to sit with my work as I make it and figure out just why I am shooting what I am shooting. I always start with a basic interest in something and move from there, eventually figuring out why I’m doing what I’m doing. I began making some new work (which I am currently very excited about) about two months ago. It is in my vein of very slow and time consuming image-making, and at final review, there were only three completed (since reviews one has been added). The other body of work I showed at reviews was only 6 weeks old, although there were more images. So for me, 6-8 weeks is not enough time for me to fully figure out why I am making the work. So the feedback that I didn’t really know how to talk about my work was not really helpful and something I already knew.
So being forced to talk regularly about the work you are making can be a good thing; for me, trying to make something new and still very much in the beginning of that process, talk was (and still is to some extent) getting in the way of making work. For the next four months that constitute our summer break, I will not be worried about explaining what I do and I will make, hopefully faster and more elaborate than ever before. And I will sit with the work and think. I am excited.