Being at a conference is about much more than attending conference papers, although that is definitely the main interest. The other part of it is about meeting people you know, meeting people you've always wanted to meet and a whole bunch of other people as well; attending the peripheral talks and conference activities; and visiting exhibitions and galleries round about.
Part of the installation Carbon Copy by Marian Crawford, Susan Purdy and Rosalind Atkins, which looks at carbon sequestration and global climate change
Black Water, one of a series of prints by Bosnian artist Taida Jarasevic
Yesterday I went to two afternoon sessions but I missed out on the keynote speakers because I was too busy catching up with people in the foyer and touring round the various exhibitions lurking in the different university buildings. Sometimes it's hard to choose which sessions to go to, so you make your best guess and hope for the best! The conference papers are usually organised in 'streams' so that like conference papers are grouped together and stay in the same room.
I went to the "Print, text, semiotics and language" stream first to see three papers: Christopher Wallen (Aus), "Aura of the Semiotic Imprint"; Stephen Palmer (Aus), "Objects in the Text: Art in the Age of Documentation"; and Macushla Robinson (Aus), "Thinking through the body: transcription and its visual image: Bea Maddock's 'Being and Nothingness' by Jean-Paul Sartre". I'm pretty ignorant about semiotics but in fact this was a useful stream to see and relevant to my practice. I was fascinated in particular by Macushla Robinson's paper because of its relationship to the paper cutting I've been doing in recent work. Her paper looked at Bea Maddock's artists' book Being and Nothingness by Jean Paul Sartre, which is 27 pages of handmade paper covered with Maddock's careful transcription of Sartre's text, which are then covered in wax and placed in a clamshell box. Robinson's thesis is that transscription is an act of embodiment and can be read as an incorporation of oneself in the text, taking the space of the absent writer. Transcription implies the body of the artist and the physical present/absence of the author. She suggests that as Maddocks made the book the year after Sartre's death it can be read as an act of mourning. Robinson also references Walter Benjamin's book "One Way Street" (which I should probably read!) which apparently suggests that reading is like flying over the landscape in a small plane, whereas transcription is like walking through the landscape.
Don't worry! I don't intend to write about every conference paper I see... After the semiotics session I swapped to the wildly popular "Printmedia and the Artists' Book" stream to see Brad Haylock (Aus) talking about teaching artists' bookmaking as a way of bringing different disciplines together (he takes lucky Monash architecture/graphic design/industrial design students away to Florence each year where they consider the local environment and make low-tech artists' books); Tim Mosely talking about his research into the haptics of 'smooth' and 'striated' space and how that relates to his artists' books; and Sarah Bodman talking about Life, the universe and everything in artists' books. Sarah and Paul have brought a LOT of artists' books with them and it's been fascinating to see them.
Actually - I don't think I'm jumping the gun here... - hearing Sarah's talks and speaking to her has prompted a great suggestion for the next BAO edition! We haven't put a 'call to artists' out yet, but if you read this and you're interested then you might like to send one of us an email or put up a comment. Sarah Bodman responded to an artists' book by Kurt Johannsen (I don't think I spelled that right, sorry) and wrote 100 contemporary fairytales in a book that was buried in a Danish forest! The book is available as a free download - but only the titles, not the tales - and Sarah's said we can use it for the next project. The idea is still being worked on, but artists could take a title each and interpret it how they wish, with the thread connecting the books in the edition being Sarah's book.
Today I'm not planning to go to the conference until this afternoon. Instead I'm going to take advantage of Melbourne and go to see the Ian Potter Foundation gallery in Federation Square and Anna Schwartz's gallery in Little Flinders Street (I think). Hooray!