Thursday, February 26, 2009

Testing the Waters

tantalizing glimpse of Spring and palm trees just outside my reach, from inside the airless convention center


Day Two of the Gathering of the Nerds

In trying to find a way to justify spending a few minutes in the hot tub-after months of numbing cold and grey skies-intellectually at least, is not easy. But thanks to a brain-storming session with fellow nerds including one that left the field but still experiences Stockholm Syndrome, we came up with the idea to hold a panel at the hotel's hot tub. Papers could address issues such as optical versus haptic drives, phenomenology, or entropy, and a panel could have a title such as: Performing 1970s conviviality: the liminal space of the hot tub as a site of relational aesthetics, or better perhaps might be Testing the Waters: (Re) envisioning submerged histories of global relational practices.  

But breakfast awaited. My friend/colleague/roomate/comrade ventured out early and we decided we have to do a Joan Rivers/Melissa Rivers Nerd Red Carpet report on the fashion. One constant besides the black clothing, and the aggressively hip eyeglass frames on many, is the footwear. Many of the women (and let's face it, in my field, it's mostly women) of a certain age and clearly income level, wear the French squishy yet geometric comfort shoes in bright hues produced by Arche. A hipper version of Aerosoles, they project a discordant note of color in academics' normally funereal attire. A friend commented that these shoes are Birkenstocks of art historians. GENIUS! 

Another trend is the "ethnic" wear. Women donning squarish Japanese, African, or Chinese jackets. Also popular are the "ethnic" scarves, another area of adventure - often Indian paisley, Mexican rebozo shawls, or perhaps if one gets lucky at a sample sale, a Miyake pleated geometric number. Later in the day once we got sucked into the airless convention center, we noted as well the courduroy paisley patterned ones, and the appliqued, quilted ones with subtle Bedazzling (perhaps hand made?). 

The artists are a different thing altogether, they can be more informal and they also tend to go more into the "ethnic" fashion route. There are also clogs and other comfort garments. Maybe even courdoroy.

There are also the middle-aged or older lady museum workers, who tend to wear one color squarish suits in unflattering ambiguous hem lengths with Aerosoles loafer type shoes. Here there is a bizarre intersection between dog breeders who show dogs at Westminster in buisness attire versus eveningwear, and people in the arts. 

Oddly, the Convention Center was host to an unlikely coupling perhaps as jarring as the Computer Nerds - Porn Industry folks one that I described in an earlier post. New US Citizens were sworn in (is this the term, it has a kind of policing connotation) and so one saw a disparate group of people from all over the world, with families in tow, tiny American flags in their hands. One sign gave the name of the meeting for the Nerds, the other said "CITIZENS." Appropos perhaps since we too are citizens, in our case of an imaginary land of academic freedom, "original" artworks or arguments, poorly read publications, bi-coastal/trans-atlantic relationships with peers or lovers, fleeting encounters at these conferences assuring us that we "exist" in some broader universe of sense. And we get discounts on books. 

Speaking of books, I love how every year there is a trend in publishing. So two years ago it was "Visual Culture" and this year it's Digital this, Gaming that, Facebook too, Game Theory and internet art, New media. Also John Cage. How so many people can write books about the same thing fascinates me, but why should it, a zillion books about Renaissance art have been published, why not half a dozen or so on gaming? This book publishing mimeticism reminds me of my favorite theory about dogs as pets. I believe that one can may "date" a dog by species. Much like old school connoisseurs can date a picture by something in the line, brushwork, or signature, I can date dogs by the breed after living in a big city for twenty years. I should say, gay dog breed. So if I see a Daschound, I know it's probably 6 years old, and an Italian Greyhound, ten. A French bulldog is probably two. So years from now a student approaching the library stacks might not realize that the book on Cage is from 2009, but I would. 

1 comment:

Tito said...

Three things:

1) There's a growing trend towards smocks on art historiennes that I've seen in the UK. It is despicable.

2) I remember finding it really interesting, when first doing art theory 101-type reading, how so many important art historians feel the need to try their thoughts out on the Italian Renaissance, often in book form. It's this crucible of theory which I think is self-sustaining, in a way: at some point, because Fried or Baxandall or Berger or whoever you want to name - it's easier to find examples than counter-examples - has written about Michaelangelo, writing about Michaelangelo is the easiest way to not write about Michaelangelo. By which I mean, the Italian Renaissance is all mushed-up and malleable, and forms a common putty that's well-understood enough that we can immediately jump to the second-order ramifications of theoretical texts, rather than worrying about the first-order facts of the thing. It kinda sucks if you don't care about the art, though.

3) Portuguese water dogs are now two.