Some Thoughts from Conferencing this Year

by - Friday, February 24, 2012

So I am currently taking a momentary break from the conference to check myself and get ready for more social interaction. I think this is the hardest part of conferences; you are with people all the time! You have to be friendly all the time! I know for some people this is a really easy task, but to be honest for me it is a little exhausting into the third day.

Going to the big conference for the second year is a very different experience than the first time. I did get to see lots of cool fancy people, but it really does seem slightly less exciting that these people are actual people. I have seen a couple of really neat people and hear some great papers (including a really great panel on ephemerality and film). I also went to Octoberfest (a tribute to Krauss) yesterday, which was interesting at the very least as a closer inspection of what people at the absolute top of their field look like when they interact with each other. It also helped explain why a sort of active and vociferous support of your argument works in academic fields; if you really know you stuff you can make any argument you want, and if people can't follow it's their problem not yours. You see that trickle all the way down to seminar discussion and in some ways, you have to respect their respect (??) for their audience's ability to both follow and care. At the same time you have to wonder what possibilities of learning it forecloses.

One of the speakers offered a few lessons to be learned from Krauss's writing (as a side note, both of the biggest names at the conference this year were women! This gives me hope) and two stuck with me; say something that will change how people see the art object (if you can't find that thing, you need to find a different object) and, even more importantly, if you are countering an existing argument or episteme, don't belittle it or turn it into a straw man, but build it up and bring out it's best arguments so that you are countering the best about it. I just love this advice, and I think that I need to apply it to every conflict, not only art historical conflicts. 

I've also noticed this time around that since my dissertation proposal is on my mind, pretty much every panel makes me think of some other thing I need to incorporate into my dissertation, which has been a super exciting side effect of the thing timing out like did (the challenge of course being that I am not getting nearly any actual work done). It is neat to think about how the work I am doing could potentially fit in the larger field and to learn little lessons about approach everywhere I go. It's not as big of a "whoa! This is so amazing" as last year's trip, but now I am noticing a kind of drive building up in me. I look forward to it being a space to see people I care about instead of feeling on the absolute periphery. I also look forward to presenting papers and being a part of discourse because it does matter so much. I feel optomistic, and weirdly older than I did before.

On that note, I have to crawl back out of my little nest and back into the fray. I should have more specific thoughts on certain things later, but I haven't formulated them yet.

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