In the lecture before Peer Reviews begin, students are introduced to a 4 step process of how to approach art work by way of an in-lecture exercise. This allows me to ‘train’ students for their peer review activity, and to create a sense of trust that students have learned how to look at a work, and thus their peer’s will have something to offer them in their peer review. The activity emphasizes thoughtfulness, that students must first learn to ‘read’ the image before they can make suggestions or judgements. To start the activity, I work through the approach with Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn” work. All students are given a handout to follow along, and to refer to whenever they need.
How to Approach an Artwork Worksheet
Step #1: Describe
Describe all the formal elements and properties of the work in an objective way. Describe the subject matter in a matter-of-fact way. Pure description of the object without value judgments, analysis or interpretation. Avoid judgment words such as ‘ugly’ or ‘beautiful’.
- This is a screen-printed, graphically contrasted and brightly colored portrait of Marilyn Monroe.
Step #2: Analyze
Determine what the features suggest and decide why the artist used such features to convey specific ideas. Analysis of how the artist used subject matter, distinctive features, composition, treatment of space or time, effect of the particular medium, perception of proportion and scale.
- Marilyn Monroe’s image was heavily used and became a symbol of sex and desire.
Step #3: Interpret
You can now describe how the hidden meanings are emphasized or ignored (or whatever the case may be) through their aesthetic, material and presentation choices. Establish the broader context for this type of art. What does it mean, and how the work gives evidence of this interpretation.
- By using the repetitive method of screen-printing, lacking personal style in brush stroke and replacing it with machine-like manufacturing, the image of Marilyn Monroe was emphasized as an iconic one, taking away Monroe’s humanity and revealing her carefully constructed image.
Step #4: Decide/Judgement
In examining the first three steps, and based in their outcome, decide whether the works is successful or has merit in its aims. Try and keep personal taste out of your judgment, and instead focus on if and how the work is conveying a critical viewpoint in making meaning, and does it have evidence to support this judgement?
- Warhol’s means of production successfully reflected culture at the time. Mechanical and surface-oriented, he critically aestheticized how mass production would direct desires, intimacy and emotion in a very deliberate way.
Next, I had students get into groups of 4 or 5, in the large lecture hall. I put up a work that illustrated the project assignment specifically, and asked them to fill out a group worksheet that they would later hand in grades. The worksheet provided the 4 step prompts and left space for their answers. The second half of the lecture class consisted of 2 comparisons, therefore they dissected 4 works, to mimic the ComPAIR tool that I had chosen for the class Peer Reviews. Below is a sample of one of the comparison worksheet prompts. Worksheets were collected and graded.
Peer Review Training Worksheet
1. Which of the two projects in this comparison demonstrates a more succinct formula? Circle One.
- Which project communicated their formula better through formal (display) decisions as well as decisions in recording footage or taking the image?
- Which piece shows that the artist followed through completely on the formula and did not have any (or had less) arbitrary decisions or distractions?
- Which piece used the title to clarify, rather than distract, from the formula?
“Chewing gum until the taste ran out” “Life of Soap”
2. Which work shows greater attention to detail in its execution? Circle One.
- Which work has paid more attention to detail in cuts/clips and/or borders and cropping?
- Which work has used the identifying characteristics of its medium (still or moving) as a strength in its output?
- Which work demonstrates careful and organized craftsmanship, and uses the program properly?
“Chewing gum until the taste ran out” “Life of Soap”
3. Between the two projects, which work used the ‘formula’ in a creative and interesting way? Circle One.
- Does one project complicate or take a risk in what it is trying to find a formula for?
- Is one project using or evolving the idea of “medium specificity” in their formula, more than the other?
- Does one project allude to larger and more complex cultural/social/emotional/political issues than the other?
“Chewing gum until the taste ran out” “Life of Soap”
Feedback are for both projects provided.
Online ComPAIR Peer Critique Prompts for Project #1 – Conceptual Art
When artists work in a studio, a useful part of the environment is the ability to give peer critique, suggestions and even evaluations of how a work is functioning. In lieu of a physical studio, this component of the course and project aim to create a virtual studio that enables the same type of communication. Part 1: Upload your Project to ComPAIR To start the online peer review process, please upload a rough or complete draft of your work, and please provide a working title for the work. That is all — please do not add any other information to the box! It is a visual artwork and should communicate with the viewer visually. If the work is unfinished, you may add a description of what you still have left to do. But remember, do not add an explanation, your project should explain itself visually! Uploading your work is due February 11th at 11:59pm. At this point you should have a majority, if not all, of your documentation (depending on the timeline of the formula) and should be bringing that documentation into the program to work out formal decisions such as edit points or layouts. A rough jpeg or mp4 file (gif’s should be temporarily output as an mp4) of your project should be uploaded to ComPAIR for your peers to see and critique. No file can be more than 25MB for ComPAIR, so please reduce/compress the size of your file if it is larger than this. Part II: Online Critiques Online peer critiques will take place until February 19th 11:59pm, where you are asked to compare student projects and evaluate them. As well, you will give feedback to help your fellow colleagues improve the project. This may be possible before February 11th if there are enough projects uploaded at an earlier date, as well as you uploading your own. The online critiques will have NO BEARING on your grades, and are a tool to help you grow with the project, not count as peer grading. A review of the process is as follows:
- The peer review is set up to do two comparisons (2 projects) of peer work, twice.
- Therefore, you are to complete two sets of comparisons, viewing 4 works, writing 4 feedbacks (total of 600 words).
- For each comparison pair, you have three specific questions to answer. They are provided on the comparison form.
- After completing the three question comparison, you are able to give feedback to each student you have compared.
- This feedback box is vital! Please deliver generous and thoughtful constructive feedback so that the student may improve or understand where things may have gotten distracted. The feedback box answer will be delivered to the student who has created the work, please be tactful and appropriate in your answers. Comments are meant to be constructive and helpful for the student who receives it; understand that text can come across quite blatantly, and you are to be mindful in how it reads. All judgements are to be backed up by hard proof found in the work.
- In the feedback box, write one succinct paragraph for each work (150 words max each) telling them if you feel the goals of the conceptual art assignment were achieved. Did the artwork meet the criteria by communicating an objective and succinct formula? What is that formula? Did all formal and process decisions demonstrate a formula? Were there any decisions in execution that you felt were arbitrary? Was there a personal investment and creativity in approaching the subject matter? And finally, are there areas of the project that could have been improved, and even suggestions/examples on how they could do this.
- After you complete your peer reviews, you are asked to review your own project. Allow the lessons of viewing the other work inform your self-evaluation. Describe what you might change or reconsider adjusting before your critique date.
Part III: Read Feedback & Make Improvements You will receive feedback from your colleagues on February 20th that should help you to improve your work as well. You are allowed to change it as much as you want from the input you received, and in some cases, you may wish to start again, (as long as you learned from your previous iteration of the project what you wish to improve). After the entire peer feedback process is done, you will be able to see your peer’s comments on your work. Please read the feedback to see where there might be disjoints in how your project is functioning to a viewer. From here, you can adjust. You are allowed to make changes on your project after this peer review, that is actually the point! You are graded on your feedback to others as well as your ranking and self-critique. Critiques are anonymous and involve the entire class. Comparison Questions:
- Which of the two projects in this comparison demonstrates a more succinct formula? Which project communicated their formula better through formal (display) decisions as well as decisions in recording footage or taking the image? Which piece shows that the artist followed through completely on the formula and did not have any (or had less) arbitrary decisions or distractions? Which piece used the title to clarify, rather than distract, from the formula?
- Which work shows greater attention to detail in its execution? Which work has paid more attention to detail in cuts/clips and/or borders and cropping? Which work has used the identifying characteristics of its medium (still or moving) as a strength in its output? Which work demonstrates careful and organized craftsmanship, and uses the program properly?
- Between the two projects, which work used the idea of a ‘formula’ in a more creative and interesting way? Does one project complicate or take a risk in what it is trying to find a formula for? Is one project using or evolving the idea of “medium specificity” in their formula, more than the other? Does one project allude to larger and more complex cultural/social/emotional/political issues than the other?
ComPAIR Peer Critique Prompts for Project #2 – Appropriation
Write a one to two paragraph feedback for each work you see in your comparisons. Tell your fellow peers if you feel the goals of the appropriation project were met in their work. If not, detail why not and how they could improve the work. Did they visually communicate a clear and detailed direction in the work? Did anything distract or feel disjointed to the work that could be clarified? Were there any decisions in the work that you feel they could have tightened up, or been more succinct with? Did the project content point towards a social, cultural or political critique? Did the project take risks? Did the project have an original approach and indicate a personal investment by the artist for the content? Was the material they appropriated chosen wisely? Was the material edited/displayed in a way that brought out something interesting about the subject matter? How was this done and how did you interpret it? Finally, how did the title work in relation to the work? Remember, this is supposed to be constructive, critical feedback, but must come with thoughtful and considered reasoning. Please treat your peer’s with respect and decency, do not be scathing just to be mean, but truly think about what they are trying to do, and what is or isn’t working in relation to that thoughtfulness. Art is a vulnerable and difficult thing to do, that is why it is incredible that you are all doing it! Comparison Questions:
- Which project demonstration better purpose and precision in presentation and formal delivery decisions? Between the two works, which project was better crafted, with attention to detail and high quality to the work? Which project problem-solved working with challenging material by way of a creative and well-crafted formal execution?
- Which work was conceptually stronger? Which work demonstrated originality and/or risk, investment in their purpose? Which work utilized a conceptual framework that revealed or uncovered hidden meanings? Which work gave space for the viewer (you) to contemplate the subject matter in a new and interesting way? Which work showed intelligence about important and/or complex issues of representation and/or systemic cultural/societal codes?
- Which project did better to meet the project goals, or even surpass expectation of how one can use appropriation to reveal new meaning? Which work proved a more nuanced understanding of appropriation? Which work used the purpose of appropriation to inform their subject matter and resulting content?