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This was always going to be a hard year. It’s the part of the degree where the pressure is applied and therefore the weak can easily slip behind. Keeping that thought firmly in my mind I set out to tackle year 2 head on and with a determination to try to maximise the amount of time I could dedicate to my studies. Social and family life, whilst important, was kept to a minimum thanks to a very understanding wife, family and friends.

The year began with the issuing of assignments and by Christmas found us trying to develop four assignments at the same time all with close deadlines. From essay research, cut up, appropriation video, performance portrait and skill sets there was little time to breathe. As one assignment after another was submitted a new one of Creative Enterprise was pitched in, a very time intensive project to create our own exhibition. This of all the assignments became the most stressful and concluded with a presentation to the class.

Our tutor time for each assignment concluded with a final crit where the work was presented and feedback was given. Frequently students failed to turn up with work (if they turned up) perhaps in fear of the comments they might receive. I understand the need to be sometimes brutally honest about a piece of work, after all the real world will be exactly that, but the normally cheery atmosphere of the class room changed during those sessions.

The skill sets started with black and white printing (a lot of the enlargers weren’t working properly creating problems) and additionally our studio wasn’t fully ready to use until late February after our performance portrait and B/W skill set assignment had finished.

Then there was ‘Networking’ where over six weeks a ‘steps’ funding bid was painstakingly put together which then failed to be selected. Our team bid was for a coffee gallery room called the Art Cave, something that the Alexon building doesn’t have and desperately needs. The selection team of lecturers apparently stated the Alexon had already got somewhere to rest and relax and rejected the bid.

Interestingly it appears not one steps bid from the Art faculty made it through selection, and every discipline submitted several bids taking up to six weeks to develop the submission. I know many felt the session was just a attempt to address an obvious lack of funds in the department and as such the numbers of attendance dropped steadily over the weeks leading up to the bid submission. This also wasn’t helped by the lecturer not being well and missing some sessions however no replacement lecturer was put in place which additionally devalued these sessions.

The last sessions in the skill sets were dedicated to drawing. Although fun to do many sessions were very similar to drawing lessons in year one and therefore apart from practising basic drawing techniques there appeared to be little relevance to photography and video skills.

Our final submission for skill sets was a themed poster entitled ‘2025 a retrospective for a future age’. Whilst fun to do there were no ‘one to one’ tutor sessions given to this project and it wasn’t clear which tutor owned the assignment. This left many feeling that it was ‘just something to do’ to justify the amount of time dedicated to the skill set sessions. When asked if the posters submitted were going to be displayed, an evasive answer was given in reply.

Skills learnt in these sessions of black and white photography, networking and drawing I’m sure were many and varied with some taking more from some sessions than others so they were useful. On reflection the Black and White photography course was far too short, the networking workshops too long and the drawing skills perhaps in future should be offered as an optional extra.

I understand I am on an art course but there still seems very little time dedicated to expanding the photography technical knowledge of the PVA students. The course continually leans heavily towards traditional art skills which is fine if you are studying Graphics, Art and Design, Animation and Fine Art perhaps but not if you’re studying Photography and Video Art in year 2. I expected more technical sessions relevant to my discipline.

Industry Fridays are a good example of a good idea that just didn’t work. To my knowledge, (and I’ll admit I didn’t attend every session) there were only three or four sessions over the whole year that were directly related to PVA students, (and one of those was an excellent session on how to be self employed). Whilst it is possible to glean a few snippets of useful information from some of the other speakers, most speakers just presented a session dedicated to just one discipline ignoring the fact that other disciplines were present.

To be honest some Industry Friday speakers were just simply awful. Even a talk by a curator failed to provide any insight of how a curator actually decides what gets shown and how. We were treated to a talk about this persons life history and this went on for nearly three hours leaving us with the conclusion that a career in art is mostly down to luck.

Not wishing to be totally negative though one set of speakers were excellent. These were the artists talks. Each one left me inspired and encouraged. More next year please! On another positive note there were two sessions of skills that were also good. Screen printing and Green screen. Both these sessions should be repeated as they were informative, well structured and excellently presented.

This reflective blog entry may appear quite negative. With a few exceptional moments I can say the fun went out of this degree course during year 2 and the hard work needed to pass this year was tinged with moments of real frustration. Overall the course was challenging and I learned a lot especially from the Creative Enterprise assignment.

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