I received formative feedback on my first assignment and was asked to reflect on Dr. Rees’ comments and suggestions. I’ve organized my thinking according to the sections in the feedback form.
The overall comments were encouraging and acknowledged the work I put into my first assignment. I articulated my intention to work towards a formally evaluated degree from the outset, and I think I was hoping for some sooner-than-later clarity about where my work stands with respect to those institutional assessment requirements. Dr. Rees’ comments here were open-ended but positive, I feel.
Feedback on assignment
One thing that took me aback was not having a definitive “mark” on my paper. Somehow, I had forgotten that the assessments throughout the course are formative. While there is a frustration with not knowing how my work stands up against conventional standardized measures, formative assessment is much more in line with my values and, I think, really puts the emphasis on learning and self-improvement.
I appreciated Dr. Rees’ recognition of the extensive research I did. I was nervous about research and referencing (it’s been a long time since I’ve done either), and felt concerned there would be some confusion with my frequent paraphrasing of research sources, rather than using direct quotations. It seems like that was the case, so I’ll have to work on clarifying that in my next assignment. I didn’t feel 1,000 words afforded me much freedom to quote directly, and paraphrasing allowed me to borrow and build off of nuggets of ideas I came across in my research.
I was also relieved that the paragraph I included in my essay about my subjective distance to The Battle of Orgreave was well-received. I really worried that it didn’t add value as it was a reflection that couldn’t be backed up with research; I think I can be more confident expressing (and explaining) my personal reactions to work, even in formal assignments, in future.
There was a weakness to my paper that I was aware of at submission, and Dr. Rees brought it to light constructively: I made a few references to Deller’s overall artistic approach without relating his other work to Orgreave. This was mostly due to word count constraints and the fact that, at some point, I had to accept that my paper had some flaws and also allow it to be finished. While I included a few sentences to redress this lack in my final revised essay, it seemed appropriate to address it more fully in my blog below.
Revisions to my original work
While I feel good about the quality of work I produced for this assignment, I reworked the essay to account for some of Dr. Rees’ suggestions, and explored some of her other questions in this blog post (below).
The revisions made to my original work were modest, and included tightening up the word count; attempting to better clarify my citations (differentiating between when I’m paraphrasing and directly citing other works); integrating brief details about some of Deller’s projects and artistic interests prior to beginning work on the Orgreave re-enactment; and adding some similarly brief details that reveal what I think Deller was trying to achieve in the making of this piece, and what he reveals (however discreetly) about his own interpretation of history, particularly as it relates to the violence between striking miners and police at Orgreave.
Jeremy Deller’s work
Two entries on Deller’s website [accessed 12 Sept. 2018] that I thought offered some interesting insights about his approach to (his own) art, especially in the period preceding his work on The Battle of Orgreave (2001), were the following:
What intrigued me about these entries is how– in The History of the World— the literal process of making connections between two seemingly disparate or unrelated styles of music led to far more elaborate commentary and connection between Britain, its history, its industry and so on. Interestingly, one can observe the seeds of thought and fascination preceding Deller’s work on Orgreave. The History of the World inspired the separate work Acid Brass (1997), which marks a clear transition from Deller’s art taking the form of a made object (a drawing or a map, for example) to him simply playing with or expanding on an idea (here, what happens when a brass band learns and performs a set of acid house music) and/or facilitating an experimental event.
This bringing together of folks from different sides or perspectives is clearly something that animates Deller’s work, and we see the same experimentation in The Battle of Orgreave. While it seems to me that his work on Orgreave was also about redressing the idea of what is “true”– and, perhaps, offering some retroactive justice to those misrepresented during the miners’ strikes– Deller clearly wanted to bring people with different perspectives together in the creation of a new cultural artifact.
Deller’s approach to work is decidedly accessible, absolutely the opposite of snobby or elite: often (as in The Uses of Literacy (also 1997), but also in later works including English Magic (2013) and Do Touch (2016)) it not only implicates but depends on the participation of regular people for success and survival.
Themes that seem to motivate/drive Deller’s work include British people, culture, history and music. The first three in that list are obviously key to Deller’s artistic direction and vision for The Battle of Orgreave.
Feedback on reflective commentary
Dr. Rees encouraged me to reflect in further detail on why so many of the artworks I’ve encountered were at first unappealing to me. Again, I think the reason I didn’t go into much detail in my submission was the word-count guidelines didn’t allow for it; that being said, these questions reflect important considerations about my own tastes, preferences and preconceptions around art, and exploring these more pointed questions in my own time, for my own development, is important.
Right now, I don’t have answers to her questions, but I’m going to paraphrase them below, so I can reference them more easily in future, and/or consider them as I move through Part Two (Creative Reading) of this course, and engage with a range of different texts.
Questions to consider as I encounter and respond to contemporary artworks:
- Can you pinpoint what it was I do/don’t like about the artworks initially? And how specifically my experience of them changes?
- Are there any particular types of information that are crucial to being able to reach a greater appreciation of the art itself?
- Are there any general themes that arise from my research (for example, an approach to analysis) which I can use towards a deeper understanding of other art forms?
I particularly value, and hope to apply, the following piece of feedback, regarding my ongoing issues with time management and task prioritization.
I suggest prioritizing the areas that fascinate you most (either because you like the work or you don’t, and want to go deeper to learn more), and go into a lot less detail with the others. These sorts of selections are an important part of your artistic life too, and will help you to forge your own artistic direction in relation to the course materials.
It helps me to put the assessors’ own time considerations in perspective, too.
Again, the feedback around my learning log was positive with some tips for deepening reflection and also permission to flat-out dislike something, and explore/reflect on why that might be, too. I do think there is value in that for my own work.
Even as I expand my art world (that is, what I see and consume as a spectator), I find the work that moves me most has stayed more or less the same: figurative, expressive, multimedia paintings, illustrations and black-and-white photography that evoke complex emotions and human (particularly women’s) stories. That’s also the work I’m mostly compelled to create, although exploring the new and the “rule-lessness” of it all is inspiring all sorts of big, courageous ideas that I’m carefully jotting down as they come to me.