Studio Mad Lib #1: How to Survive an Art School Critique

Studio Mad Lib #1: How to Survive an Art School Critique

Studio Mad Lib #1: How to Survive an Art School Critique is a mad lib created from found text—a WikiHow article of the same name. Mad libs are a common word game played by people of all ages, commonly used for both recreation and education, as well as a vehicle for social criticism and satire. As texts, mad libs challenge modern notions of authorship and confound the ‘language games’ that depend on ‘sense’ to exercise power.

WikiHow is a wiki focused on instructions and tutorials. As with any wiki, the article was written by multiple authors—who, in this case, are anonymous. From the style, one might infer that they are 2nd or 3rd year undergraduates who recently became comfortable with the challenging new pedagogic form and wanted to help others through it. Mad libs are a style of phrasal template word game; sentences with missing words are supplied for players, who are directed to fill-in-the-blanks with the specified parts of speech. Studio Mad Lib directly reproduced the wiki’s text (minus the selection of playable words), including spelling and grammatical errors.

Studio Mad Lib posed real questions that loomed large in my mind as a new art student. In a critique with a group of students, which voices should a person listen to? What constitutes ‘good’ advice, and from where might it come? Does a cacophony of voices produce garbled nonsense, or might something new and amazing emerge — possibly by accident? What new forms of reading could we use to understand such a nonsensical text?

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