Question of the week from graduate meeting: "How is what we are reading affecting your 'work'?"
Elaboration: 'work' being outlook, how we create, what we create, so a very loose definition of work. We've been reading several of Bruce Metcalf's essays, also a paper that the MFA students at SUNY New Paltz delivered at the 2002 SNAG conference. I've also started reading some art philosophy- Danto. So the readings are revolving around fairly large and abstract questions.
Apparently I think out loud well, now I'm going to try to remember what I said and elaborate on that. (edit: Thanks for the notes Jan!)
I feel like these readings are bringing up some points that resonate with me, and are reinforcing some of my changes in outlook and beliefs since the start of grad school. I am looking a much larger picture, both in terms of how my work fits in and also in what our field is. Regarding my work, I feel that I am developing an understanding of how and where in the timeline of craft/art I fit, what my references are, and also where I want to fit in, where I want to be going, and where I want people to place me. For our field, I feel that I am looking at several of the dimensions of what could be considered under the umbrella of "the field" and seeing how they converge and what a possible path forward might be. I feel that my perspective is pretty open and there's not a lot that I'm ruling out right now.
One of the concepts that came up in Bruce Metcalf's Towards and Aesthetics of Craft and A Moral Theory of Craft was the idea of social responsibility (part of what he refers to as the moral aspect) in our work. This strikes me as important and also something that is gaining popular support at the moment. More on this in another post.
In addition to thinking about where I want my work to fit in, I am also thinking about where and how I want to teach. The beginnings of a conversation have been traded back and forth several times between Jan and myself of what do we keep, and what do we leave. Faced with a more interdisciplinary job market and new technologies, how do we do justice to our students and the history of the field while preparing them for the world? I feel like the readings are helping me identify the nubs, the pearls, the heart of what makes jewelry special. Once I have those, I want to reinforce and amplify that through what and how I choose to teach. If we can't identify why we are a unique branch of the design and arts, then we can't be relevant, and we won't survive- both in the marketplace as well as in the academic arena. The readings are giving me the basis/history and the beginning development of a framework in which I can teach beyond the purely technical aspects.
I feel like one of the nubs for our field is the personal interactivity of the work. While we may not make things that are intended to be wearable or even practical sometimes, I feel that it all does have a level of personal interaction. Whether that is in the materials, or the scale, or the imagination of the viewers when presented with the idea of wearable; we create things that are intimate with people.
I am using the ideas raised by the readings to make better informed decisions. While they may not directly impact the form my work takes and the actual objects I create, they do affect how I think about them- both in relation to the body and to a wider audience, as well as figuring out what they say, and what I want them to say. Helping me to identify the why, not just the what.
My undergraduate background was formal and fairly dogmatic. This has certainly shaped how I create things, as well as what are some of my strong and weaker points creatively. I feel like by taking a wider view, I am better able to identify what it is that I am looking for, and what I hope to be able to do. I want to make work that I enjoy creating and that I have a bond with. I also want to make a living off of my work. That is important to me. I also feel that by looking wider and less reverently at the history and traditional paths, I am finding out what roads I am actually interested in, how to position myself and my work to line up with the areas I am looking to pursue. I also feel that I am gaining the perspective to create a pathway if there isn't one where I want it to lead rather than picking from the options presented and forcing myself into something that only sort of fits.
These readings are giving me morethings to consider, more options. This tends to have the result of feeling like I know even less than I did before, but when I arrive at a conclusion, I feel that it is one that I can defend and stand by.