Peer Review

How do you know if your work is any good? Where do you get feedback from your work? Talking with fellow artists and friends is a good way of getting feedback before a performance or public presentation of your work. Host a semi-private work-in-progress showing of your work where you can get feedback from friends and peers. Have an open discussion or critique and ask questions. The internet is a good way of presenting your work to the public. Send people your website or post it on your blog. Get involved in creative communities online where people can view and discuss your work. There are a number of online communities and forums for sharing work and ideas.

Following an event or public presentation of your work, published reviews can be a good indication of how the community considers your work. Collecting press clippings is useful in promoting your work. Get feedback from people you collaborate with or people who are familiar with your work, including other artists, academic supervisors, partners and funders.

Making Music
Making Music represents and supports amateur and semi-professional music groups of all genres throughout the United Kingdom. Connect with some groups in your community and share your work and ideas.

See how others have founded and started their own peer-review groups.

Case Study: Junto:Mentor

Louisa Martin, founder Junto

What is Junto and why and how did you start?

Junto is a group of London based artists, curators and producers working with live art, visual art and sound art. I began the group to satisfy a desire for more opportunities for critical discussion of work, particularly live and performance-based work. Initially I got in touch with an artist-run project space, thinking that if I had a space, people would come. What I found was that actually it was very easy to find others who felt the same needs. After meeting a few friends of friends over a pint and forming as a group of seven to start with, we started meeting without a confirmed regular venue. My interest in discussion but also education meant I had the energy to facilitate a group approach that suited everyone, and organise a meeting once a month.

What do you believe is important about forming these groups and getting peer review?

Getting an outside in-depth view on your work is, I think, vital in the development of one’s artistic practice, and a peer group can provide a forum for that to happen regularly. But it’s also about getting used to having your ideas discussed or even challenged, and building confidence in showing work to others. One of the main benefits has been the level of mutual support between members, and the formation of a loosely defined artistic community (the group had no name until 2009). After graduating, the way ahead can seem somewhat lonely and undefined – a peer group helps. The lack of support at this stage has also informed our off-shoot project Junto:Mentor.

How do you run them and how do you keep them going? How has the project developed and grown?

In the beginning (Mar 2008) and for two years, I facilitated meetings, organising dates, and different venues. At each meeting two people would have a 'crit' or critical feedback session on their work. Earlier this year I stepped down from this role and the group decided on a rotating leadership and twice as many meetings - each month a different artist would arrange one crit and one 'salon' - choosing their preferred topic of discussion. Although I have taken a break from attending the
meetings, I collaborate with some members as part of Junto:Mentor - a mentoring project for recent graduates, and more recently Junto:Projects - a gallery education collaboration between three members.

How has it helped the people in the group? What kind of opportunities does it bring?

Aside from the regular critical discussion, I think that the main benefit has been mutual support - the knowledge that there are people you can chat to in-depth about your work, your fears, opportunities, sharing knowledge. In addition, as everyone's practice has moved forward people have been able to offer each other opportunities; some of the members are also producers or have had curatorial positions. There have also been artistic collaborations.

How do you start a peer review group? Do you have any advice for people just graduating or starting out with their own group?

I think the main thing is to realise that there will be lots of people out there who will want to join a peer group, so it's about starting with your own needs - what do you want it to be - then find one or two people to start with. I began by wanting to meet more artists who were interested in live/performance work. Artquest has an excellent guide to starting peer groups that can be adapted to suit your own vision. I think commitment is a big element - I have heard about other peer groups that were very casual or too big (I think 12 is really the limit) and so people wouldn't turn up regularly or would see it as a purely social thing. Having an element of exclusivity creates that necessary commitment. Also, I know of some groups that meet for a whole day, once a month - this seems to be a good model. Funding for this sort of thing is hard to come by, but if you can get a gallery or other venue to host your meetings then you have more of a chance to invite guest speakers, although this is something we never pursued. I think the organiser has to be prepared to put a lot of energy into it and be prepared to take the lead. Also, it’s important that if an artist is getting feedback, that they define what sort of feedback that can be. There are some good models - Liz Lerman’s ‘critical response process’ is one we have used but it doesn’t suit everyone. Lastly, I would encourage anyone thinking of starting a group to just go for it! It may seem daunting but it’s certainly worth the time and effort. Junto has ultimately provided me with countless opportunities for the critical development of my work, but also an invaluable support network. And as with many things, the more you put into it, the more you benefit.

About Junto

Junto is a group of artists, curators and producers who formed in 2008 in order to provide a space for critical discussion, feedback and support for emerging practitioners working mainly with live art, visual art and sound art. Louisa Martin initiated Junto in 2008, and continued to facilitate and chair Junto meetings until Dec 2009. Since then Junto operates with a rotating leadership and meets twice monthly for critical feedback sessions and salons. Long-standing members include; Chloe Cooper, Phoebe Davies, Emma Leach, Jieun Lee, Daniel Oliver, Natasha Vikars. Junto has been supported by various art organisations including Artsadmin, Gasworks, and Whitechapel Gallery (The Street Project). The
name Junto is taken from the club of the same name, established in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin for mutual improvement in Philadelphia, also known as the Leather Apron Club.

Louisa Martin is a London-based artist working with sound, performance, video and drawing. Louisa’s work has been shown in London and nationally including Auto Italia South East, David Roberts Art Foundation, East End Collaborations, Sonic Arts Network Expo, Cube Bristol, Café Oto and Shunt Space. Louisa has worked regularly with Benedict Drew and Rhodri Davies; a vinyl release with Davies is out on Fourier Transform. Louisa also works as an artist educator, and collaborates with Chloe Cooper and Phoebe Davies as Junto:Projects – recently commissioned as Whitechapel Gallery Schools Artists in Residence for 2010/11.

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