Art is a Verb
Through empathetic observation, description, analysis, we develop a critical eye and a critical language for meeting work where it is. The focus is not on whether a work is successful, good or bad, which has limited usefulness. The aim is to cleave observation from assessment, slow the instant reactions and assumptions, and stay in the rich, grey place in between. In this limimal space networks of discourses are active and in play- material, form, identity, context, historical, social, and political.

The Law of Unintended Content
Making is a collaboration, between material and process, our internal intent and imaginary, and unconscious social political structures we can't see or control. As artists, the law of unintended content generates unexpected meaning; we are not in complete control of meaning making. Through a relationship/dialogue with the work, implicit content becomes explicit and denaturalized, embedded content and unexamined assumptions become visible, while protecting the mysterious nature of the creative process.

Empathy and Dialogue
We treat the work as a verb, an autonomous meaning-maker formed through collaboration between the artist and all the associative discourses. How is the work enacting meaning in its own peculiar way? Who is it? What is it saying- and what might be explored to say more?

Discussion starts at the material and works its way out, to process, aesthetic, affect, context, and meaning. We examine the ripple effects both our discussions and our work has in our lives and the greater world. The dialogue offers tools to engage, explore, push, enlarge, minimize, and direct the myriad directions and discourses available to a work of art.

The artist gains the ability to articuate ideas both in the work and in discussion about the work, without using reductive measures of meaning or judgment. Our work is situated in the world, and needs to be self-aware; we need to articulate content, without overdirecting the work. Rather than thinking in individual works, we think about the work as a body of ideas.

In The Crit Lab we use firm language guidelines to keep conversations focused and directed.

Protecting the Creative Process
It is important to protect the inchoate nature of the creative process, for the artist's intent to be in play but not lead. Artists are often asked why? Why one subject stays with us, one material, one investigation? I ask- is why we make the work important to critique?

Instead, ask what?
What ideas do you continually revisit? What materials attract you? What do those materials say to you? What themes, images, materials keep recurring in your work? What do you care about?

What as a question does not overpsychologize or try to find personal reasons for our choices, which can be reductive and misleading. Asking what asks the question of the work instead of the artist, moving away from the subjective space of intent. This can help us critically view and understand how the work is enacting meaning.

Ask the work.‚Äč 
Ask the work - who are you? What are you about? What do you draw upon? What does materiality, image, context, reveal? What artworks and context, historical and contemporary, are you in conversation with? Each work is a complex mix of discourses between its various aspects, of material, method, history, context.

Locate these discourses physically in the work.
As Jane Bennett names them, objects are vibrant matter. Where and what in the work instigates this meaning? This analytic process not interrupt, dissect, or explain, rather it leads to an understanding of the work as an active set of ideas.

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