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[- New faces (and formats) rule!?
By TreborScholz, Section question corner
Posted on Sat Aug 30th, 2003 at 10:32:20 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
Some thoughts on conference formats in the media arts scene


[ --------------------------------------------- ]

I love conferences. They are great places to get inspired, provoked, debate, learn, make new friends, meet future collaborators, party intensely, dance. And yet a bit of a festival fatigue takes hold of the media arts scene. Recent articles in the summer issue of "metamute" address the issue looking at "Transmediale" and other festivals. Discussions in preparation for the upcoming Next5Minutes conference in Amsterdam also addressed the question of festival formats.

What are the point of discontent? Well, sometimes conferences become disintegrated and unconnected recitals of individual panelists, which are interesting, but don't focus on the questions of the conference. The one-to-many format of a speaker addressing an audience should be done away with as it turns the audience into a passive block in front of a self-promotional panel or speaker. This setup contributes to the ghettoizing of incestuous and insular networks, often either Euro or US (if not New York)-centric. What about global inclusivity? And how do the organizers get the local or regional audience to participate? The conference location is crucial in this regard as an inclusive space invites new faces, opens up the space of the conference to the city.

Rigid structure of panels and the non-communicative form of the key-note speaker feed into the celebrity system reinforcing hegemonic paradigms that get in the way of a lively exchange of ideas. Debates are mostly dominated by male participants leaving other important contributions unheard. Here are some of the existing models and others who are more experimental.

Mailing-List, Weblog (process-oriented discussion formats that lead up to the conference, prior physical meetings show useful)

Talk-Shop (making sure debates stay conceptually coherent)

Panel (reformulation, reworking, revision of outlined issues,
allowing for spontaneity, after presentation chairs get re-arranged
to include the audience)

Open Mic (very short presentations or comments, VCR / slide projector/ web projection available)

Party (drinking, dancing, drugs)

Workshop (including the creation of link lists on the theme of the workshop)

Lecture (ie. collaborative lectures, Avoiding that the participants sit bored to tears in the audience)

Artist Presentation (showing projects in process to invite people in the audience to collaborate)

Exhibition-Type Situation (settings in which to present, and browse networked artworks or web initiatives (smaller intimate spaces encouraging flesh connections)

Coffee-Break (based on the "water cooler theory")

Open Space (professionally moderated, closed door once a group has formed)

Open Mike Space(people introduce themselves very briefly, room for making contacts, meet space)

Parallel Event (making sure the events don't compete for audience, satellite events showing the outcome of the conference: ie. Collaborations)

I'm curious what your thoughts and experiences are regarding these models and which formats you found most useful.

[ --------------------------------------------- ]

New faces (and formats) rule!? | 7 comments
[new] ascetic rituals of academia? (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#6)
by Aileen on Sun Sep 14th, 2003 at 12:50:30 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

When the issue of alternative formats came up and was much discussed in conjunction with the Gender Technologies symposium we did in Linz several years ago, I found myself reminded of many discussions and my experiences in the past as a feminist theologian experimenting with women's liturgies and rituals. Obviously this is my own peculiar filter, but it still seems to me that there are interesting correlations.
This came up again in conversations last week with Nat Muller about the f0amf0od events (see Nat's announcements to the ea dobbs section). Like Gerald's comment about people being able to deal with tough arguments better after direct communication and having a beer together, Nat said that the f0am format came about because of the observation that people communicate differently sharing a meal after conventional formats, so they decided to turn the situation around and make a shared meal the format itself.
As this led to a discussion of ritual meals in different religious traditions, it occurred to me that the extreme abstraction of the ritual meal in western Christian tradition and the most extensive theorization of this abstraction was largely concurrent with the rise of universities in Europe. Maybe this is just a coincidence or possibly an over-interpretation on my part, but I find myself wondering now if "serious academic scholarship" includes a certain ascetic discipline (we discipline ourselves to sit quietly through academic discussions to be "rewarded" with a meal or a party or at least a cigarette break afterward) as a result of this tradition. It also makes me wonder if there are other traditions of learning that might be more pleasurable.

  • food as format by amy, 09/19/2003 02:13:51 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME (none / 0)
[new] conference formats crossfade (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#2)
by Anonymous Stranger on Mon Sep 1st, 2003 at 04:04:21 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME

in republicart we tried to put up a combination of three kinds of discoursive events: workshops (the closed format: three days, 15-20 persons
with 20-30 minutes inputs, much time to discuss, also strategic questions, texts of the participants finished after the workshops), symposia (open to the public, but rather narrow questions between art production and theory,
mostly lectures and moderated talks), conferences (open to the public, on broad themes, mostly combining themes of the art discourse with cultural politics).
some of my experiences:
- maybe also because of my theory backgrounds, i have to defend the lecture/one-to-many format if it is well settled within a range of possibilities to
discuss broadly: complex concepts and topics sometimes need time to be developped.
- communication in mailinglists before the event (weeks or months before) are good for technical and methodological, sometimes also for strategic
questions of coherent groups, but not for theroetical debates of people who get to know themselves only afterwards. there seems to be a need for direct communication and drinking a beer before starting the tough arguments.
- publications (both online and print) are to be carefully planned. the best version for me (like in our workshops) is two separated tasks for
participants: short inputs and discussion during the event, then writing texts (or painting pictures :)). that of course also needs to be paid.
- in some ways there is a tendency in art conference business to be "all inclusive". i like these conferences like make world or park fiction's unlikely encounters in urban space or, mixing people from all over the world and from the utmost different contexts.
but when you try to embrace the world by organizing a conference, you also have to make sure that there are formats for strong focusses in the debates, otherwise it is nothing more than affirmative talks about god and the world... and constituent practices.

[new] parrrrrrteee! (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by amy on Sat Aug 30th, 2003 at 10:40:33 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
(User Info)

i like the party and coffee break type options. i can't sit through anything. on the other hand, i'd suggest being careful of the overly-collaborative models as well. for example, the audience may not feel like collaborating on the artist's project - it's the one-to-many format reiterated, except now the audience is compelled to actually work for the speaker! :-) a danger of the current emphasis on collaborative practice, i've found - in general, not just at conferences - is just that: one or a small group of people initiate something and ask others to join in as a "collaboration" - but there's a structure in which it remains the originator(s)'s project and the others wind up working for that person.

so i say, hooray for getting away from the lecture model! but, alternative structures need careful analysis as well.

# begin amy's sig
-- Discordia is nice.
# end amy's sig

New faces (and formats) rule!? | 7 comments

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