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Judith Schaechter Never Lies

Post #1571 • September 15, 2012, 8:33 AM • 2 Comments

Judith Schaechter on not knowing.

The most common approach, for those of you who didn't go to art school, is that the instructor initiating the critique says, "What are you working on?" What a question! I know, I know, it sounds so very, very harmless! But how wrong you would be!

The damage that tiny inquiry has wrought. It's no joke to say that that alone has brought art to its knees. A far more pernicious question, and one that is so standard now as to be reflexively unquestioned, is the one of meaning. An artist is required to know, a priori, what the work means. ... Why is it so bad? Because after four years of interactions that are based on that model, the student artist internalizes the injunction that, at the outset of their project, they should know what they are doing.

Related: Not Knowing is Most Intimate.

Reference: Mos Def.



Walter Darby Bannard

September 15, 2012, 4:08 PM

Anyone who asks, "What does it mean?" in a crit needs to be put in a corner with a dunce cap on, but I cannot understand her first admonition. How does anyone conduct a crit without seeing what a student is working on?


John Link

September 21, 2012, 2:16 PM

Darby, I think she means something like "what is your intention?" I certainly found that to be the number one question most faculty asked students, especially advanced students. The best answer, as Flatboy pointed out in one of the archives, was to say "I'm experimenting because you showed me how bad I was before working with you, and I am hopeful that experimenting, with your help, will fix me".

Another frequent question was "Who have you been reading?" Greenberg was not the right answer.

And of course, "Who have you been looking at?" Olitski was the wrong answer.

Of course I understand if you are going to talk about work, you can't logically avoid the "working on" aspect. It is just that, to many, what one "works on" is expected to be anything but art. You can try to save the world. You can critique rich people. You can stand up for the rights of women, the poor, consumers, dissenters, free thinkers, whatever. Protest of just about any kind is fine, including protest against art itself. Just don't be so gauche as to be "working on visual art". We all know that is the sure path to unoriginality.



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