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One of the most terrifying aspects of any class at SCAD is the critique. Even the word… yikes, it’s blunt and ends in onomatopoeia. Professors use this word as an intimidation device, disguised as a healthy and effective way to constructively criticize the work of their students. But peer critique can be even worse, as it often brings out the true colors of fellow students, allowing them to tell you that your work needs work in a supportive environment. Despite the alarming number of negatives that seemingly accompany critique, it still has at least one redeeming quality.
The more fascinating facet of the critique process is the variety of participants, and if you are a returning undergrad or a graduate student you already know them well. At the very beginning of the quarter they can often be difficult to pinpoint; hiding sheepishly in the corners, practicing ennui by staring out of the open windows, or taking copious notes at the front and center of the room. But when critique day rolls around a phenomenon occurs.
Loud Guy makes his first appearance. Yep, him again. That guy you had in class about three quarters ago but the horrors of his presence are still fresh in your mind. At every critique he would talk above the others “WELL, IT SEEMS TO ME…,” raising his voice to a decibel that hardly registers as human. He thinks that because he is able to drown out others voices that his opinion becomes that of the entire class. He’s an everyman, the Jimmy Carter of Color Theory critique, and no matter where you sit in the classroom you can and will hear him. At night, while trying to finally sleep, you hear his voice rising out of your subconscious “WELL, IT SEEMS TO ME…” The volume increases as you begin to toss and turn, unable to escape Loud Guy. Then without warning the sun is rising and you know that in three hours, again, his voice will be heard.
He often pals around with Last Word Girl. They seem like they would be mortal enemies, but somehow their symbiotic relationship makes them a critique tour de force. They treat the discussion like a volleyball play. He takes ownership of the court and sets her up for the spike, allowing her to bask in the glory of her own self-awareness. Last Word Girl always plays an active role in the discussion, but she rarely forms her own opinions, instead following another participants comment so closely that her interjection is practically seamless, “I just wanted to say…” It’s amazing. She and Loud Guy may be slightly troublesome when it comes to your level of patience, but they don’t always have something negative to say. Actually, Last Word Girl normally spends her breath trying to share her intelligence with the rest of the class. She shamelessly name drops authors names and titles of books that she read over the summer, making you feel like a lazy and underachieved dumb ass.
The negative comments, or thoughts rather, are reserved for the Person Who Cannot Be Impressed. This person is not friends with Loud Guy and Last Word Girl, as a matter of fact, this person is not friends with anyone. This person (boy, girl, androgynous shadowy figure) is so incredibly great at everything that they cannot bear the thought of sharing their excellence with another person therefore they say absolutely nothing, Typically gloomy and a self-proclaimed cynic, Person Who Cannot Be Impressed doesn’t even find it necessary to participate in written critiques. Though they never seem very busy, they fail to complete their work and project an appearance of complete and total apathy, much to the chagrin of the Conspiracy Theorist.
The Conspiracy Theorist is becoming a rarity in critique because they seem to be manifesting toward lecture classes, so if you have one in your class you should consider yourself lucky. Conspiracy Theorist is the most difficult person to follow in discussion, which also makes them the most entertaining. What starts out at point A with the rest of the class, suddenly ends up somewhere past the imaginary numbers on the number line. “I read about this on my Reuters feed this morning and seriously dude, the machine uprising is coming soon.” Oh, your project was about Gauguin’s Impressionism? Conspiracy Theorist couldn’t care less. The CT has tendency to talk in circles and overanalyze everything; a rendering of a bowl of fruit suddenly becomes racist, an unfinished pastel represents child abuse, a non-fiction essay about someone’s grandmother transforms into a story about the YOLO craze. Their brain has to be something akin to a ball of Spanish moss. If you have to talk after them in critique you’re home free, as anything you say, no matter how uninformed it may be, will still appear more intelligent and focused than the Conspiracy Theorist.
Unfortunately, the Conspiracy Theorist normally riles up the Why. The Why likely spends 90 percent of their free time pondering, wondering, questioning. Any explanation elicits a new question and that question can be better understood through another question. The parents of Why were either incredibly patient and excepting or the most cruel and secretive people on the planet because obviously Why didn’t ever mature enough to understand that questions are a luxury and should be cherished. The Why usually plays a lot of Farmville. Why? I’m not one to speculate.
Like any decent play, the main cast of characters need a slew of extras to support them. You know, the lay-low crowd. The small caches of people who gather in small packs and make the Leads stand out that much more. It’s not that these people don’t have valuable opinions or think too highly of themselves, Person Who Cannot Be Impressed already has that on lock. It’s that usually these folks are either shy and humble or outrageously gregarious.
The B-Squad are normally people who have tried to be individuals but failed, so they decided to start a collective instead. Normally a group of four to six people who sit together, don’t pay attention, and laugh inappropriately during the critique process, the B-Squad adds a certain pizazz that cannot be ignored, but shouldn’t be taken seriously. In written critique, individuals in this group choose to draw cartoons rather than use frilly language that adds up to a bunch of BS. They prefer to show rather than tell.
On the other side of the spectrum you’ve got the Sewing Circle, normally consisting of a small flock of girls and a boy who is entirely mute. They are the sunshine of the class, the people whose smiles are infectious and who believe the old adage that if there is nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. In order to find points of contention with these people you have to either hate kindness or be on steroids. Even the mute boy they decided to take under their wing was a symbol of peace-loving generosity; before he served as a creepy reminder that the quiet ones are always the most dangerous. The Sewing Circle is an idealistic example of untainted innocence and without them critique would be hell.
The SCAD critique, though often accompanied by groans, sneers, and discontent, would be entirely unbearable without the number of personalities who keep things interesting. With Fall quarter rapidly approaching it is more important than ever to remember that everyone plays a role in the process, and from the Know-It-All’s to the Who-Knows-What’s, everyone’s opinions deserve to be shared and taken for what they’re worth.