ARP Reflection: What is the question?

I often circle or tip-toe around a subject.

This is a comment I feel to have received a number of times over my lifetime.

I cannot help but think of a predatory bird circling ahead, observing and watching from all angles, looking for the decisive moment.

Or in this case, the decisive question.

This has not been forthcoming, so this reflection seeks to hone in, to take a better look at the land of critique.

Critiqistan, if you like, I certainly do.

Because there is something in queering critique, decolonising and intersectionalising critique that is of deep interest.

But step back for a moment, the why of critique? I do this because I feel my own trauma has affected my studies throughout my life, in relation to tutors and peers, from primary to university and beyond.

It is this feeling of constantly being alien in a hostile environment, that I wish to quell. Or at the very least, temper.

It is my belief that for those of us with a cynical view towards the world, and therefore the institution, will often interoperate neutrality as negativity.

Perhaps they, like me, will also engage in self-sabotaging behaviours in relation to self-determination, that hinders their ability to honest with themselves and live a life with integrity consistent with their personal sense of morality and justice.

That is to say, what is not important, is to affect their journey. What is important, is to make sure they do not ‘go off piste’ or ‘off the rails’ as a result of neutral or negative criticism.

Ok, so now that’s clear(ish), how does this relate to the ARP?

The ARP is a series of questions, and so I will present a series of questions as my ARP.

I like the simplicity and self-referential nature of this creative action, fitting of Aikido or wu wei philosophy (approximately, action through inaction, flipping the question or the reverse uno card).

So the core part of ARP is action, reflection and personal practice. Now that I am clear that I wish to ‘leave no student behind’, what can I do?

To make a football analogy, I am thinking about the Belgium National Team, who are famous for their track record in developing young players. There are some useful takeaways that the Belgium Blueprint provides: a focus on education and resilience, and a desire to stop young players from slipping through the net. Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany have operated at the top level, but it is interesting that Simon Migniolet was signed by Sunderland because of his desire to balance studies alongside his playing career. There is too much focus on ‘superstars’ and that every player with the commitment and desire should be given the opportunity to develop. Given that football is one of the most competitive of competitive worlds, mental health for those that ‘don’t make it’ is a serious issue. Often these players feel isolated and cannot talk about their struggles.

Back to the ARP, I want to make sure I can account for every student in my care, and to do so in such a way that does not over-burden or overwhelm me.

The question I am asking now is, how can I develop a practice of critique that centres the student wellbeing?


How can I use trauma informed pedagogy to make sure that no student is left behind to struggle alone?


How can I create a connection with students who may be cynical towards institutions?


What information exists out there to help me best facilitate trauma-informed critique?

Thinking hollistically, I cannot check on each student individually on a weekly basis, but beyond best practice in the crit, when a challenge does arise, how can I check in a form of post-critique aftercare?

I am thinking of the student who cried in a crit adjacent to me.
I am thinking of the student who does not engage in the workshop.

I am thinking of these various opportunities that are not taken, and harm that may be caused. Some difficulty is part of the creative process, but it is not our jobs to add to the difficulty, it is our job to help students manage this challenge themselves.

Action Research Project: “Move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”

— Kodos (as Bill Clinton) (“The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VII”)

I look back on this particular series with some trepidation. At the time, like many, I watched the series constantly, it was everywhere. Its ubiquity manufactured affinity. Prevalence implied a it as a prerequisite. A ‘given’

Wading through the fog of creativity has now become somewhat of a joy. The excitement of finding solutions, or rather them finding you, stepping on a landmine propelling you to ‘the next level’.

In the case of the ARP, I am still deep within the fog of The Crit and critique more generally. There is certainly movement in this game of minesweeper. Setting flags for interesting points of investigation:

Labour. Data collection and processing is labour intensive, with much work existing already.
Analysis. Similarly, there are those more expert than I who have done this work.

I have the opportunity to speak to students about this and feel a pull towards highlighting the process element of critique. As The White Pube mention, art school is an ‘expansion pack’. (Paraphrasing) You go in, weird things happen you have to make sense of, at the end of it, you have a more expanded consciousness and are better for it…usually.

I am also beginning to think that the point is not to try and do something new per se, but to re-direct ourselves to the scholarship that already exists as being beneficial. The form of experimentation in the critique will emerge naturally through reflecting on the challenges of the crit.

I would like to encourage depth of critique through iterative interviews. In an ideal situation, students I work with a few in number and are open to interacting in as many stages as possible.
Stage 1: 1:1s
Stage 2: Focus Groups
Stage 3: Questionaire
Stage 4: Aftercare

This feels ambitious, so I want these stages to be the simplest version of themselves.

I want questionnaires to be both ‘automatic’ and ‘arresting’.
BANG. BANG. BANG. woah. <- perhaps this is the structure, 3 quick fire questions (non-binary choice but scaled) and 1 open one.

Things to develop:
Chunking and formalising actions/processes. (i.e. opening/closing crits)
Questions to cover with students
Timeline & labour considerations/allocation.
Research Question

Final thoughts on the research question.
Will this emerge through the process?
Is it in aftercare? this is a word I have used a number of times and am sure that is where my interest in critique lies. Perhaps I would like to speak to these students directly and ask:
What did you feel?
What could have been done
What could now be done
How do you feel about this in relation to your journey?
Have you noticed any adjustments/changes in light of this?
Is your process developing?
What have you taken away from this intervention?
How do you feel about the event after having this intervention?