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Translator's Box (in the arch) at ex-Platform Garanti building, Istanbul.
Images: ruined shopping mall outside the university; pyrite [fool's gold] at the university geology museum. Photographs by/ copyright Sarah Browne, with the kind co-operation of the Utopian Studies Society. 10th International conference of the Utopian Studies Society, Europe, at the University of Porto, Portugal, July 2009.
(Unrelated) image held here
Bergen Biennial Conference, Norway
17th – 20th of September 2009
The Bergen Biennial Conference will bring together an international group of curators, critics, artists and art historians so as to benefit from their discussions of their findings, and create the occasion to reflect collectively about the practice and potential of biennials as institutions. Based on an earlier Call for Biennial Knowledge the organizers of the conference have identified and explored existing knowledge from different regions of the world. The conference will be made up of lectures as well as seminar style workshops with young and leading experts in the field. It will be complemented with an extensive publication, The Biennial Reader, aiming to be an important resource, and including existing seminal texts on biennials from around the world as well as newly commissioned essays.
As scholars and curators have acknowledged, the history of exhibitions is both one of the most vital and, paradoxically, ignored narratives of our cultural history. And given the increasing role of biennials and other perennial exhibitions of contemporary art in contemporary culture, it seems all the more necessary to critically examine them today. The impetus to do so now comes in response to the Bergen City Council’s plans to establish a biennial for contemporary art in Bergen, for which the Bergen Kunsthall has taken up the task of organizing an international conference and think tank to study and discuss the status of the biennial as an exhibition model, and also to launch a debate concerning the plans for a biennial in Bergen.
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The effects of changing funding
conditions for contemporary art
A symposium at Stockholms Stadsteater,
Lilla scenen, Stockholm, 7-8 November 2009
Conditions for funding of contemporary art have changed rapidly, but we are rarely aware of exactly how. Lack of knowledge and misconceptions about these issues abound, making constructive discussions difficult. The purpose of this symposium is to find out where the land lies in terms of public and private funding for contemporary art, mainly within a European context, and what repercussions this has on art production itself.
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Some surprising things about visiting the US:
1. Seriffed fonts are much more popular than I’m used to; here in Portland it’s letterpress this and letterpress that.
2. The difference between A4 and ‘letter’ sized paper is one of the most subtle, and jarring, translations.
3. You can allay homesickness with all the American TV that’s on – just like at home (not being facetious; it’s true).
I’ve justed checked in to the Holiday Inn in Portland, Maine. For the next few days I will be attending a utopian studies conference here.
On the freeway from the airport, a sign read Welcome to Maine: the way life should be.
It was dark outside so there wasn’t much to see other than the neon signs of various franchises. I watched the DVD that was playing on the bus: it was set in the seventies (the heavy yellow colouring was a giveaway)and Mark Wahlberg played a part time barman from Philly who ended up playing in the NFL. He even scored a touchdown at the end. It felt different to watch this kind of film in the states, it made more sense somehow.
I’ve seen city buses covered in the legend Believe in Something Better (purple and spearmint; apparently not politically affiliated).
Election day is Tuesday. It’s an interesting time.
A new piece written for the new Travelogue zine. Issue one also features contributions by Garrett Phelan, Tim Stott, Dominque Hurth, Dennis McNulty and Jessica Foley. This is a new zine edited by Ciaran Walsh, and distributed in print form in Dublin and Berlin. Available as a pdf for download here
I like to go to conferences. I find comfort in the conflicting senses of community and anonymity that they provide, and I find the feeling of floating between bubbles pleasing. Sometimes I flirt with different disciplines; economics and comparative literature most recently (contemporary art is my home turf, though of late the nomenclature of such conferences have been scattered with the prefixes ‘multi’, ‘inter’ and ‘trans’). Moving between the bubbles can be difficult to do elegantly though, and there are sometimes awkward moments where feet get stood on.
1. Aesop’s Fable of The Bat, the Bird and the Beasts,* retold for The Surfer Academic
Location: Conference addressing themes of art, geography and ‘place’ (Western Europe)
Once at a conference there was an unusual looking academic. He bore select stylistic badges of both academia (in memory he has a tweed jacket with elbow patches) and something more visibly ‘alternative’ (long blondish hair in a scraggly ponytail). His physique, broad of shoulder and tan of face, also defied the anaemic academic stereotype. Clearly, here was an individual who did not wish to be pigeonholed.
This impression was reinforced, slowly and painfully, by the paper delivered by the Surfer Academic, as I came to think of him. The paper was concerned with spaces of in-betweeness, the gap between high and low tides, if you will. Images accompanying the initial part of the presentation were personal photographs of waves, unidentifiable as waves.
The Surfer Academic discussed the liminal areas between sea and seaside; wet and dry; hospitable and inhospitable; and (of course) nature and culture. He referred to Derrida’s example of the picture frame as a thing that resides in the place between such categories (art and the rest of the world). These were related to certain artworks, though these relationships were not that clear.
There was also some discussion of surf culture, particularly its commercial imagery and linguistic terminology. The enthusiasm of the Surfer Academic was apparent. He referred to Barthes, for whom the sea was semiotically blank, and to Burke’s notion of the sublime.
The presentation was very drawn out. The Surfer Academic was taking far too long – he was late starting and maybe twenty minutes over his running time by now – and he was delivering his paper with difficulty as his audience shifted in our seats. Perplexed though I was, I felt sympathetic towards the Surfer Academic: he was clearly a passionate, and very conflicted, individual, trying sincerely to vanquish some old Cartesian ghosts. He should have just quit the guilt and hit the beach, though I suspect he was actually a terrible surfer anyway.