It’s funny how there is so much stuff about how to get into an MFA program, but once you’re here, there doesn’t seem to be much. It’s like that when you’re applying, too. “I’ll get in and…”
Part of making this post is so maybe a me in another dimension will find this in their google results, since there isn’t much else.
I’ve been thinking about this while washing dishes but am starting to lose my grip on some of the ideas I had planned on typing. Be patient with me. I might have to go back in there like I do when I’ve forgotten what I was going to say or lost something and had to retrace my steps.
Right now, I feel like I did when I was taking this video class in high school. I had this one assignment where every time I told the teacher my idea, he told me it had been done before, he was tired of seeing whatever it was, and to go back to the drawing board. Every. Time. You’d like to hear me tell you that I powered through and made the BEST. VIDEO. EVER. But I’m pretty sure I gave up and didn’t actually hand in anything. While I know it’s really unlikely, I do feel perilously close to that point right now with my practice.
I have made so many things since I got here: Rugs, stitched works, photographs, videos, giant crocheted things, altered objects, drawings, installations, collections, zines and writings. I keep waiting for someone to tell me I’m on the right track, but it’s like I’m getting ready to go to some big event and every outfit I put on is greeted with “you look fine.” Everyone knows that “fine” is never actually “fine”, and so I keep going back to the drawing board, trying to make the thing that is greeted with some kind of positive reinforcement. With my work, it’s usually “You need to push this one way or the other,” or “You have to take this all the way,” or some other thing about making something really impressive and really… not me. Or they suggest I try some other medium, like performance art, which feels like the equivalent to telling a business man it’s too bad he didn’t become a plumber because he’s just really good at taking baths.
I made this informative booklet at my last critique because I was afraid I’d have a meltdown and cry in front of everybody. A few people seemed a bit miffed, and said it was like I wasn’t allowing them to critique the work. It was a combination of having to have a critique of work I wasn’t sure of, and my social anxiety coming back to bite me again because I was so stressed out about it.
The weird thing is work that is out in the world, I am pretty confident about. Previous shows, and the work for Phantom Wing, which, since site-specific, was not able to be critiqued like that. And even comments towards it, I could handle, because I knew it was a good idea and I was proud of it. So why can’t I seem to make anything and stand by it for more than five seconds in my program? With work I make out in the world, I have enough stores of excitement and confidence in the idea that I can see them through, but here, I keep waiting for permission.
Maybe this is like what they say about Katimavik, a volunteer program I did after high school. They said that it was like you aged five years in 9 months, because you were living in compressed time. Maybe this program is like compressed time for an art practice, which is why all the ups and downs seem so much more intense than in the “real world”.
Maybe I’m waiting for the “right track” when there is no right track. Maybe I just need to make something and stand by it.