In today’s session we each presented our preliminary ideas for the self initiated project and received feedback from the group. I had some apprehension presenting my proposal, ‘The Contemplative Critique’ due to my concerns it might seem a bit too abstract or impractical but the response from the group was much more positive than I anticipated.
I outlined my ongoing interest in the group critique as a forum for fostering critical thinking skills, explaining the structured way that I approach crits as detailed in my last blog post. Critical thinking is typically considered as objective and in a sense a step outside of what is being analysed, we talk about ‘critical distance’. As I said in my very first blog post, I am very interested in the relationship between intuition and criticality in studio art practice and how we can share and discuss first person experience critically. This ties in to my long standing interest in contemplative studies, which has emerged from contemplative psychology, the neuroscientific study of contemplative practices and subsequent attempts at integrating quantitive scientific research with first person experiential research.
The field of contemplative studies has fed into pedagogy, now an emerging discipline in itself. In August I will be attending the UK’s first contemplative pedagogy conference, specifically looking at how it can be applied in higher education. My proposal it to take what comes out of this conference and attempt to integrate some element of contemplative teaching practice to the group critique situation. The aims and purpose of this would be to cultivate attention in the group – where listening, presence, clarity and compassion are married to critical analysis of the art works presented.
The obvious questions were how this may actually manifest as practice, to which I can only at this point discuss contemplative practices such as reading, listening and writing as well as mindfulness meditation. It is not my idea to have students meditating in crits however! So this is all very uncertain. I want to avoid creating an atmosphere that is too ernest, or without fun! There were suggestions that the process could be recorded via a blog and or podcasts which is interesting. Another suggestion was to do sessions before the critique, which relax and or focus students (the raisin exercise being one suggestion). Lindsay suggested that an external observer could comment on the body language of the group in the space. There was a lot of talk about embodiment. I need to clarify my thoughts about this. A very helpful comment was to consider the history of the crit itself, being born of an art school culture that has been very white and patriarchal, so the legacies of the crit.
I am on the whole feeling quite positive and excited about this project. Studying the critique will in itself be rewarding, also if I can bring in the literature from my last blog post concerning the group dynamic along side new learning theory. Whatever comes of it, it feels like a very worthwhile endeavour!