Moving to second year or level 5 as it’s called now.
I’ve finished my block of teaching on the first year and now move over to the second year. A totally different set of propositions, as students are now much more focused on developing their own practice. I have done one to one twenty minute tutorials in their workspaces all day. Tiring but it feels like useful time spent.
So what are the issues? Mainly students are worried as to whether they have discovered something that they can get their teeth into; what is it that’s driving them and is it sustainable?
Everyone gives me about five minutes of an introduction to what they are about; then I have to try and dig a little underneath that to make sure I’m not just responding to superficialities. Most of the time however is pointing towards possibilities. It’s early in the year and the process is about developing on the one hand a focus or driver for the work and on the other opening out possibilities for practical work. Only through work will discoveries be made, but unless as a student you own the process and the reasons for doing it, it will all feel hollow and superficial and won’t be valued. The judgement call is always to do with at what stage of the process they are at. Too much emphasis on craft and the concept might be lost, too much about concept and the making gets lost. Also there are so many different ‘natural’ approaches. Some will be maker/thinkers others concept builders. If you give the wrong advice it gets confusing. Students also have a tendency to worry if they are doing something different to the others. I might think that’s great and try and reinforce this but it can also be about confidence and if people are not ready to go into unknown territory they get lost quickly.
I can’t really give specific examples, but some conversations were entirely technical, such as how to make a variety of pinhole cameras and the technical considerations as to paper, depth of field and use of lens etc. if some of the qualities of camera obscuras or lucidas are to be mimicked others more to do with types of content and how this content can be carried, is it a materials based idea or is it a narrative that needs filming? Sometimes it’s just throwing in another idea or a MacGuffin, (in the sense of an object which forces something to happen or which causes an incident), because I feel that it’s all a bit cosy and safe and if the work is to find something new the situation needs stirring up a little. I don’t do this too often but on a need to do basis at least once a session.
Set times are hard though. Again I understand the need and it ensures all students get equal tutorial time but sometimes I feel the need to take much longer and at other times five minutes is all I need just to throw in a simple question and retire to see the effect.
All the students I spoke to seemed engaged and questioning and only two didn’t turn up. I always think the health of a course can be judged by the numbers of students wanting to be in and using the studios and workshops. The second year feels quite healthy. But perhaps after two days of this I might change my mind.