May 24, 2018

Ah, but I was so much older then; / I’m younger than that now (Bob Dylan, ‘My Back Pages’ (1964)).

7.15 am: A communion. 7.45 am: Email catch-up. In the background: The Nice’s, Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No.6 (1970), which combines Bob Dylan and J S Bach, and folk, rock, jazz, and classical music. A joyous reconciliation of unlikely bedfellows. 8.30 am: Off to School, via the ‘sarnie’ shop on Terrace Road (for my weekly gluten intake), to prepare for a long day’s assessment regime.

9.25 am: ‘Take off!’, with Dr Forster as co-pilot again. The first part of the day was set aside for the remainder of the undergraduate exhibiters. Every student and every engagement is different, requiring a bespoke approach and response:

12.00 pm: At the double gallery, we commenced with the MA exhibiters’ assessments. Proceedings moved up a gear. At this level, we were talking professionalism as well as studentship, and the works’ deeper significance as well as its technicalities. There’s also a greater expectation regarding the students’ self-cognisance and ability to articulate such:

A detail from Rachel’s painting:

4.00 pm: A final review of all undergraduate and postgraduate marks with Dr Forster. It’s helpful to examine one day’s marks in the light of another, and the first marks on the first day with last marks on the last day. The students are marked in relation to criteria appropriate to the module and the educational level. That enables the assessor to arrive at a class (first, upper-second, etc.), and the students’ attainment in relation to that particular class band (either low, mid, or upper). Finally, there’s a small measure of ‘norm’ referencing (establishing a pecking order), in order to position each student in relation to others in the same class band.

4.30 pm: The beginning of report write-ups for the day. My elder son has returned home for a few days. Wonderful! We mused about visiting Ronnie’s again. (This is becoming something of a father/son vice.)

7.30 pm: Back to report writing. In the background, I listened to the late Keith Emerson’s work with The Nice. His alarming intervention with the electronics of his Hammond organ L100 enabled him to produce a range of gritty, rasping, howling, and unearthly sounds that anticipated the sonic palette of the early Moog synthesisers:

Keith Emerson and The Nice (1970) (Courtesy of WikiCommins)

Observations and principles derived from today’s engagements:

  • Maturity is evident in an awareness of sufficiency and a rejection of excess.
  • ‘A sensibility for subtly’.
  • ‘What’s weak about your work?’ This question tests not their competence but, rather, their critical judgement.
  • The assessment may drift into tutorial mode and out again.
  • How a person responds to difficulties is a mark of their character.
  • The best students never make excuses for themselves, or apportion blame to others, or resent the success of others.
  • On occasion, it’s only after the work is set up on the exhibition walls that the weaknesses fully disclose themselves.
  • The weakness of a work is not obviated by screwing it to a wall.
  • Art traps ideas.
  • The merits and demerits of a work can be the like the head and tail on a spinning coin: they can merge in such a way that ‘faults’ become idiosyncratic virtues.
  • A coherent exhibition of work should be internally interpretative.
  • The tyranny of the best work you’ve done (yet again).
  • No one can produce work of a consistently high quality. If you think that you can, then, smell at rat. Both the peaks and the troughs of production are necessary conditions for creative progress.
  • ‘In August, the birds stop singing.’
  • You can’t put to sea without first finishing the boat. Therefore, be prepared before launching yourself into the professional art world. Otherwise, you’ll sink.

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