Last month I started my blog by praising the great work of some teachers and students – leading to fantastic artworks that I saw on screen when moderating visual arts exhibitions.

I went on to discuss some issues that might have reflected a misunderstanding of some aspects of the course, including teacher comments, the value of trauma, exhibition photographs and size and scale.

This month I am continuing this theme – outlining some ‘problem’ issues that teachers and/or students might do well to avoid.


Continuing on from number 4 we have


5 VIDEOS: don’t make a sound!there shall be NO SOUND 2d-1 there shall be NO SOUND 2_edited-1

Almost all the videos I saw had a soundtrack, which was a little puzzling.

I only heard about a second of it, because I hit ‘mute’ as soon as the sound started.

Presumably (hopefully) the soundtrack was incidental to the visual element and basically an optional ‘extra’.

The clarification document says

“Sound: any audio component used as part of an artwork will not be assessed in the visual arts course (Visual arts guide – First examinations 2016, p 11). Examiners are required to assess only the visual arts and are therefore required to ignore any audio element that candidates might have used in their art pieces. The sound should be turned off when marking/moderating the exhibition component, so that the focus remains purely on the visual creative content and there is no interference from the audio. This applies to music, dialogues and any kind of sound that might be part, for example, of a piece of video art or of an installation”.


***I know, sound is integral to many great contemporary artists and artworks. There is nothing to stop students exploring sound as part of their learning or experimentation – just don’t submit this in your exhibition!

All videos that I watched were within the 5 minute time limit.

Some worked well in conceptual terms and a few worked well visually, but I suspect that many students had not been told that sounds were not heard, which is a shame.

Videos that rely on sound for success in the visual arts programme are traveling in the wrong direction…

Relevant previous Blog links:

Sound and Vision in the Visual Arts Digital Upload


6 Collaborative artworks

I sometimes have my students work collaboratively because the shared learning experience can be really helpful and teach students a lot about themselves and each other.

But I’m not a big fan of collaborate art that is submitted for assessment (see To collaborate, or not to collaborate – that is the question! From last December)

The visual arts guide says

“The five approaches to learning (developing thinking skills, social skills, communication skills, self management skills and research skills) along with the six approaches to teaching (teaching that is inquiry based, conceptually focused, contextualized, collaborative, differentiated and informed by assessment) encompass the key values and principles that underpin IB pedagogy… Assessment tasks that require teachers to provide guidance to students or that require students to work collaboratively must be completed in full compliance with the detailed guidelines provided by the IB for the relevant subjects…Theories and practices in visual arts are dynamic and ever-changing, and connect many areas of knowledge and human experience through individual and collaborative exploration, creative production and critical interpretation”.

Some students uploaded ‘collaborative’ artworks in their final art show, thus presenting moderators with an assessment challenge – how much is yours and how much is someone else’s?

Just saying its collaborative is a start, but the moderator really needs a little more information…for example, in terms of the concept or technical competence.

I suggest you try not to submit collaborative works on behalf of groups of students, or if you do please make it clear (if possible) what areas individual students were responsible for.


7 Media, size etc: the answer is not “yes”.

The examiner needs to know details of the work submitted. In some cases he/she cannot easily detect what the artwork is made of so it’s both helpful and important for the student or teacher to provide this information.

Here are some of the things that people wrote:

  • Media used: various.
  • Media used: yes.
  • Media used: media.
  • Media used: image.
  • Media used: unconventional media
  • Medium used: montage

Yes, dear reader, I did see all these responses to the ‘media used’ question.

“Size” presented fewer silly responses, although I did get “size of the original cm/mins: 2357912”. I tried, unsuccessfully, to work out the size.

I think some teachers need to put themselves in the examiner’s shoes and perhaps step in at some point when students enter the information…


8 Depth or breadth (one medium or many)?

There are no requirements relating to how many or how few art-making forms should appear in the exhibition: there is no restriction on art-forms. Exhibitions can feature work in one or more medium/technique.

However, comments from some teachers indicated that they had asked for a variety of media from their students.

In some cases curatorial rationales stated that the “required” number of art forms had been used.

This is not necessarily a problem, although it may be that some exhibitions contained too many different media/processes. Competence may suffer if you dabble.

Some students clearly explored a large number of processes during the course. It is not a requirement that all these processes also appear in their exhibitions.

Some ‘limited media’ exhibitions  were exceptional, including a beautiful series of etchings that scored well in all criteria, a series of stunning (and conceptually intelligent) ceramic pieces and installations, and some great paintings that pushed the boundaries of size, colour and texture. One medium – great art!

(On the other hand some exhibitions showing 10 or 11 artworks all in a single medium/art-form did not really show much evidence of exploring that art form).


Look out for the final “Exhibition Issues” post next month, in August’s visual arts blog.