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Intriguing object found in the plant room of the university.
(Appropriated for household decoration).

he told me

he found the slops of mashed potatoes


In the morning I will attempt to give a paper/ presentation to a room full of utopian scholars. I’ll be talking about contemporary art and crowd theory, and interestingly, the other prestenters will speak about social networking and technology as potential contemporary utopian forms.
This will be quite a test for me, to see if the polyamorous (yet often illegible) field of contemporary art has a real point of contact in this interdisciplinary context.
I am nervous.

Technical crew (with Tshirts); Marietta biscuits and Lincoln Creams (also Bourbon Creams and other chocolate things); smoked glass; institutional carpets; plastic clip name tags; the reading of scripted, and sometimes poorly prepared papers; Times New Roman; office blinds; exhausting/ exhausted building. Overall, maybe not what I expected a utopian studies conference to look like, which was a bit silly of me.

There were however two individuals who caught my eye: an older gentleman who pursued his needlepoint patiently, and with good progress, through every seminar I attended with him; and a boy, maybe not quite a teenager, who stayed close by his academic father’s side, a newish Huxley clutched in his hand.

It seems utopianism is a thing to be played close to the chest – maybe it is at large within the population to a greater degree than I suspected.

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.

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July 2020