Feedback Assignment 2

A PDF of the the full feedback can be found here: s-j field assignment 2 feedback.(click on my name & assignment) 

Below is my reflection.

Your approach to the assignment is imaginative in that it explores a range of ideas relevant to the chosen works. There is good evidence of extensive reading and sound comprehension at this level. What remains a difficulty is the writing style which needs to focus more directly on the work and adopt a more academic structure.

I was pleased to see evidence of extensive reading because I am always worried I have not read nearly enough, although in truth I do try to read often, whenever I have a moment. I am aware my chosen writing style in this assignment was not academic.  I was not asked to write a formal essay, however, and in fact thought I might be questioned because I was actually asked to make annotations. 

In addition I am not sure what is meant by focusing directly on the work. I think it might mean NOT linking personal experience and interests, which if true is a direct contradiction to advice from Peter Haveland. Please explain and give examples so I know exactly what this means.

Your chosen artists were very well suited to the assignment question and you found sufficient distinction between them to sustain the discussion. This is much the same for the spectator who relates to the artworks in a variety of ways – sometimes included, sometimes at a distance. What seemed to be lacking though was a close reading of the concept ‘appropriation’….

I found it difficult to concentrate on appropriation as opposed to the artists and used up all the time I had available to research the people/their work.  I kept wondering why we weren’t asked to concentrate on appropriation in the first place, using artists as examples rather than the other way round.  This may seem an odd argument, but for me there is a tangible difference. I wonder if I am learning more about appropriation now in A3 than I did during my research for A2  – even though I certainly did look at lots on the subject then. But it is a very big subject, informed by several other very big subjects….

….Appropriation has to be deliberate – an intention to steal – which makes it active by contrast . In thinking that through we should be able to determine what one can be influence by, and similarly what one can appropriate. The proliferation of images on the internet has made us more aware of copyright but this is always to do solely with the image. We would therefore need a further argument to show that one could appropriate something associated with the appropriated item. It helps to think of Duchamp’s ready-mades as the first works of appropriation since this illustrates the point that the term is best exemplified in the unaltered object. This simple rule removes the temptation to interpret the work since it pivots between two ‘authors’. The effect is something like an allegory where two stories are contained in the same text.

I am confused.  I don’t understand why that would remove the ‘temptation’ to interpret.  I had no idea I was not meant to try and interpret.  If that is a very real fact about appropriation then I have totally missed this point. The assignment brief asks that we should  “show how you understand the intentions of the original artist or designer and the ways in which the final image conveys a meaning to the contemporary viewer as well as what that meaning might be”.  I tried quite hard, especially to begin with to try and follow those instructions and was worried that I had veered away from that objective towards the end. I understand very well the idea of subtext.  And I am tempted to interpret the words ‘two stories are contained in the same text’ to be referring to something along those lines.  But there one can always find meaning, even if it is obscured and difficult to discover. Having read Rhetoric of the Image by Barthes and then Crimps’ The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism, and nearly all of Myth Today, also by Barthes, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m meant to have picked up that appropriation is about separating out signification from signified; the artists attempting to present Barthes denoted ‘objects’ sans any meaning that one can connect to. 

Which leads to this sentenceAll of which amounts to saying that appropriation doesn’t have content that can be interpreted rather it tends to negate content (see Craig Owens, ‘The Allegorical Impulse’).

At this moment, I simply do not understand the above sentence. I asked Peter at the recent Google Hangout about this and he said my question was not easy to answer.  I think I understood him to say that such a concept – the negation of meaning may be what appropriation artists are playing with nowadays.  But that in the 80s that is not what they were doing.  So I am left feeling even more confused. 

More’s the pity for us mortals who hanker after meaning and will read it in at a throw.

Are you saying that these artists I have looked at are above and beyond the rest of us because they’re able to communicate a load of meaningless gobbly-gook (I’m aware that is not an academic term) and instead have us all project our own fantasies onto their works? I am extremely uncomfortable with the concept of anyone being above and beyond anyone – we all die, even great artists.  I am familiar with attempts to ‘negate meaning’, not least from having experienced some of Cabaret Voltaire’s works in a reenactment, albeit a long time ago in 1994. But it is not something I got at all when looking at any of the artists I covered in A2. I would very much like to know more about this concept, and wonder if this is worth discussing in a group, either at our regular UVC Hangout or perhaps one of Peter’s if it is deemed a valid discussion point, which if this is what appropriation in the 80s is exploring, then it must be. (Especially since I missed it so catastrophically). 

The key issue is that you seem to assume the reader knows what you know, in other words you write as you might have a conversation – or indeed write a blog. First then, write an introduction gently spelling out your argument. Having identified the case to be made, give good reasons for it in subsequent (headed) paragraphs, but also challenge it with a counter argument.

I will follow this advice for A3, as there we are specifically asked to write a formal essay (or choose to annotate if we prefer, but I think under the circumstances I am best placed to make the active decision to write formally this time).

Please don’t narrate your own investigation, it merely muddies the water and obscures the argument

I will endeavour not to narrate my own investigation in the formal writing for A3, but I think it is important for me in my blog posts. This blog is a record of my own ‘voyage of discovery’ and I re-read it at times, reminding myself of what I’ve learned and concepts that I may need to revisit. My ‘investigation’ is surely the point of my presence here so seeing it narrated helps me to track my level of comprehension. I am aware you have told me not to confuse blog writing with essay writing, and that I know I  will need to demonstrate the ability to write formally for the sake of the course – see my first and previous points. 

Also try to limit the amount of speculation you make as this can overwhelm the more interesting ideas – eg once you have suggested the subject in the photo is there as a foil to the idea of appropriation then edit the remarks that say otherwise. Speculate, select, edit.

I am confused again. Since here is advice from A1 feedback: Next, avoid the first person and instead write in a neutral voice. Rather than ‘what this means to me’ say, ‘what this may mean’ and rather than ‘I would say that…’ put, ‘it could be said that.’ This will sharpen your eye for evidence – to offer your own view as your own view is to offer yourself as evidence, which is circular. Finally, do remember to use Harvard referencing – something that also alienates blog writing.

Harvard referencing  – checked. But the advice I received here, which is what I followed at times seems to lead to a speculative way of writing.  I thought that was what I was meant to do.  But perhaps that is not what is being said here.  Without any examples from my assignment to refer to I am confused about what is meant. 

You reflect wisely on your practice of writing. The self-criticism seems well thought out and understood. Clearly you acknowledge the miss-match between your chosen style and the academic style. I believe the context of writing bears heavily on the outcome and I would suggest your next assignment be outside the blog and addressed solely to me.

My reasons for not writing academically are varied but here are a few I am very aware of a) The assignment asked for annotated notes – again, I was confused about why a formal essay was expected b) It took me a long time to learn to write anything at all and I have enjoyed listening to people tell me they like my writing for the last two years c) That said, perhaps I actively avoided academic writing because better not to try rather than fail d) I tend not to like anything esoteric and exclusive which academic writing can be e) It can be very dry and stuffy and that’s not me in the slightest

I am aware that there is a lot of positive encouragement as well as constructive criticism, some of which has been hard to take on board.  I look forward to writing A3 and agree and appreciate the final suggestion about submitting it privately. 

I look forward to receiving some answers to the questions here.  And I will get on with A3 now. 



9 thoughts on “Feedback Assignment 2

    1. Thank you, Pete. Sorry to be dim – do you mean my reflection or the feedback is complex and difficult to digest? I am on a mission to always be very clear about what people might mean when I’m unsure (which is often!) 🙂


  1. I’ve read through a couple of times but every sentence sends me off somewhere else! It needs several readings and much discussion I think. If “… appropriation doesn’t have content that can be interpreted”, does this mean that the act of the appropriation is a comment on the appropriated image and/or what it represents. Alternatively, the image is appropriated because it stands as a metaphor for something other than what it represents.

    Stay with it; you’ll get there.


    1. Catherine, I suspect in some case that must be what appropriation does. But I would be surprised if it only ever did that. And in any case, I’ve not come across anyone saying so until here. Don’t worry, I have no intention of not staying with it. I’m glad you found the feedback difficult to follow though. I wondered if it was just me. I am quite good at projecting my own stuff sometimes. But I’m also fairly good at recognising certain underlying statements.


  2. Very complex feedback. Have you just commented on the bits you are not sure about? I’m sure there must have been some positive comments as well. It is easy to get overwhelmed by negatives and to lose sight of what went right.


    1. I’m pleased you see it as complex feedback. I found it very hard to understand. The full document is available at the top of my post in the first sentence. I thought I had tried to pull some of the positives out and post them in the reflection actually. And deliberately did not focus on a couple of sentences that seemed particularly difficult to me because there is positive encouragement in there. It’s just not easy to spot 🙂


  3. There is such a lot of positive comment in here and I am very sure you will reflect, in the not too distant future, how much so. From my perspective there is no right or wrong in the comprehension of these oftentimes difficult ideas, just gradations of engagement. It is your willingness to engage, to question which will be seen as a positive – perhaps especially at your current incomprehension of seemingly contradictory advice. And that is probably because there aren’t right or wrong answers (except for boring things like referencing etc), just differently referenced and considered responses to ideas to which your reflection here is testament. The more you scratch your head the more is being invested, keep going.


    1. You’re such positive and decent person, John, and it’s a fantastic testament to you that you manage to see the highlights when others, including me, struggle to – your encouragement is always enormously appreciated. As I said to Catherine, I will scratch my head for as long as I have facilities because life and descriptions of it, along with the expressions about it are as you say complex! Thank you 🙂

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