Well, sin uile.
I can't exactly retell how it went, because it's a blur in my mind now.
The hour beforehand was miserable; my heart raced as though I had run a mile, my chest felt tight. I sat alone in my car trying to detach myself from the situation, telling myself things like "It's just one small hour in one small day. It takes longer to drive home in rush hour, and nightmares last longer." I was trying to view it as a situation that involved little to no emotion, like a mechanical process that I had to do, similar to sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office, or in rush hour traffic. Of course this didn't work and my heart continued to race.
The first two minutes were a little rough; my hands were shaking as I held my statement and read it. I was more conscious of that than anything. My mind kept saying "damnit hands, stop this, why do you do this." As soon as I was done reading my statement / introducing the work and my faculty began to ask questions, the nerves disappeared. It was exactly what I was hoping would happen, and the other 25-30-however-many-students-and-staff were there ceased to exist and it was only me and my panel of faculty having a discussion about my work.
I don't remember the questions that were asked, save a few (paraphrasing: "Are these pornographic or are they hermetic?" "Why are they mounted to panels, how does that effect the read of the work, and why do you want that effect?" "What role do the conventions of photography play in the development of narrative and understanding of the pieces, for the viewer?" Amongst a slew of others and many about my personal criteria for the creation for the creation of the work."
Also can't tell how it went because, from my perspective, too many emotions and nerves and expectations, good and bad, were involved to judge it. I will say that it went significantly better than I expected, but that doesn't say much because I set myself up to expect the worst. The nerves and buildup of anxiety and fear beforehand was infinitely worse than the feeling of standing up there and being under the onslaught of difficult questions.
And then my panel had an awkward lull, tenish minutes before the end, where nobody asked anything; silence, and questions were opened up to students and staff (nobody asked anything then either). Never have I seen this happen at a BFA before. I was in disbelief, unsure of whether it was a good or a bad thing; was it because they then understood the work and no longer felt the need to ask questions? Was it because it was the end of the day, near the end of an incredibly long week, and they were simply getting burnt out and exhausted? Was it because I was playing dodgeball, my answers wishy-washy, and they felt defeated, that they could no longer pin me down and get meaty answers out of me to work with? Or was it because the work was merely not engaging enough to spur many questions? That last one, more than anything, made me squirm.
But then, before the silence stretched too far into an awkward abyss, one panel member asked a question, which then spurred a bigger question and discussion afterwards.
At the end there was clapping, hugs, handshakes, congratulations, and even a few "thank-you's." I was told I did fantastic, that it felt much more like a discussion and talk than a critique or intense exam. It's hard for me to agree or disagree with this because the entire thing was incredibly surreal. The only thing I can attest to was that it was much less intense and terrifying than I had led myself to believe it would be.
And I have to say that after all of that build up, all of that self-pressure and doubt and fear, shaking and sleepless nights and evenings crying on the phone with Joe and making my parents nervous for me, the end, so far, has been anticlimactic. There was no sudden rush of release, no great sigh relief was heaved. It was merely "Well, I'm done. So that's that."
That's not to say I'm not relieved; jaysus it was nice to wake up this morning without feeling tense. It was nice to sit on the patio with my parents and the dogs last night and not feel as though I were wasting time or procrastinating. And that in-itself is reward more than I can ask for.
Joe is in town this morning. We're headed to school to watch the last of our four-man band of drawing students endure her thesis-defense. I'm very excited for her because I know she's just as nervous and anxious as I was, and I can't wait for her to be done and to congratulate her. Later this evening is a public-reception at the school, and I think my dad has invited half of northeastern Ohio to it.
Tomorrow is a celebratory cookout at a faculty-member's house. Monday my thesis-binder is due. Next weekend is commencement. And there it all will end.
I'm looking forward to consuming a diet consisting of more than coffee and carbs. And I cannot wait to take Brogan on a much much much needed hike.