COLLEGE—First term essays

I’ve been a bit quiet recently, apart from some exhibition notices, because I’ve had two essays to hand in, as well as a joint presentation to present.

The essays are the first pieces of writing I’ve had to do for the various courses which make up the diploma I’m on. They aren’t assessed, but they are marked, and they are designed to judge and give us feedback on our writing without destroying our grades. For this reason they’re called ‘diagnostic essays’.

This doesn’t stop them being very stressful to do, though. I’d rather not create a bad impression at this stage through a poor piece of writing. Although you could always say that it makes the final, assessed essay that much better looking if you are mediocre at this stage.

All but one of these essays have now been done and returned so I have a pretty good idea of how I’m doing and pointers to what to improve.

CORE Course essay (2,000 words)

For the Core course I wrote a piece on the Daniel Buren show at Modern Art Oxford, starting from the premise that I was disappointed with the show and how I felt that his work was now outdated with respect to current art practices in the arena of Institutional Critique. Picking up on a specific ‘conversation’ between Buren and the artist Olafur Eliasson, and looking back at some pieces by Buren that I considered to be successful, I tried to review my disappointment and come to some conclusions for the continued relevance of Buren’s work.

My tutor (Astrid Schmetterling) was generally positive about the piece, although she pointed out that I had omitted to mention the current ‘relational’ art practices as possibly superseding Buren’s work. The major complaint against my writing was that my discussion of Buren’s critique was not thorough enough, I never really explained what it was that the pieces I described were designed to do and hence how that related.

Download essay (PDF 3.4MB)

Score: 64/100*

Framing Art essay (1,000 words)

For this (very) short essay I chose from a selection of provided questions. These were really for the longer essay that we will do at the end of the course (8,000 words) but served as a convenient starting point for this shorter one. The piece I wrote dealt with the question:

Considering the importance of the fragment in John Soane’s Museum, can one say that his house is more about the use-value of art (its function as a collectible commodity) than its aesthetic value?

and swiftly discussed fragments as a concept, various examples of them, and how Soane, his contemporaries and a present day audience perceive and make use of them.

Overall the essay was well received by the tutor, John-Paul Martinon, with its clarity being particularly praised. However criticisms included the fact that no proper argument was proposed, mainly due to the fact that I had not concentrated on one or two sources, with which I could then participate in an argument, rather than present my own personal views along with a collection of opposing views with no form of engagement with them.

This is a new concept for me and it is taking me a while to understand the significance of it and it’s practical ramifications.

The other criticism was the speed with which I dealt with the topics, which led to generalisations raising more questions than they answered. It was suggested that concentrating on a couple of objects as exemplars would have served me better.

Download the essay (PDF 36KB)

Score: 66/100*

Conclusion

I was expecting much worse and bored my colleagues endlessly about how badly I was going to do, to the extent that I promised to buy them all coffee if I got less than 65 for the Framing Art essay.

So on the whole not bad, but not good either, and certainly not good enough if I wish to apply for funding for an MA next year – for that I would need a first. Much work to do over the next term.

The next essay deadline is for the remaining course, ‘Philosophy and…’, and which is due on the 17 of January and which I will be writing over the Christmas holiday. After that it’s time to start writing the extended, assessed essays due at the end of the Spring term.

  • * A score of 70 or more is a first.

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