The problem of interpretation

7 November 2008 | ,

So, S and I went to Research into Practice and delivered our paper. The experience of interrupting each other’s letters and engaging in an encounter with each other and our audience was, aside from seeing a lot of familiar faces and catching up, the best aspect of the conference. R2P is consistently competent but sometimes I feel it is more about form than content. Testimony to this is the beautiful abstract book (I usually get a set of photocopies, if I am lucky, on coloured paper). Having panels were the speakers themselves chair created all sorts of problems. For a start, it opened the sessions to a little panel terrorism, which S and I rejoiced in. If no one was going to keep us to time, why should we (we did not allow questions), if no one was going to encourage panel loyalty, why stay (we left after our presentation, the first in the afternoon). Good not to care too much, though. It allowed to hear who we wanted.

One plus side of the formal approach was embodied by one of the keynote speakers, who I was eager to see as I may have wanted to ask for their expertise on one aspect of my project. The thing is that the speaker, who I did not know what they may look like, appeared with the most fascinating haircut I have ever seen. I won’t describe it here as I am very diplomatic and more information would be telling. But what I can say is that it was very appropriate to the face in question, albeit being a bit scary. It changed with movement, sometimes drastically and it had me under a spell for the duration of the address. I am not sure now if I may be able to ever overcome the hair if I worked with them! Is this seduction?

Other than that, my weekend in London was spent talking to friends, catching up on food, getting rained on, catching cabs, left-right-an-centre, attending private views, being introduced to people, stepping on people’s feet with my ubiquitous wheel-y suitcase (it was Halloween) and seeing shows.

Of those, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s installation at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall deserves a mention. The premise if that you are in the Turbine Hall in 2058 (hence the title T.H 2058). It was been raining forever and this has had an effect of various sculptures, which have mysteriously grown. Living is difficult and the space in Tate has been converted into a refugee camp, with colourful bunk-beds. Some cultural artefacts have been saved too: the handful of overgrown sculptures mentioned, a few books, and bits of film footage. Here I am, trying to watch the mesmerising fragments:

It was raining outside when we went and people were up for a bit of shelter and dipping in and out of books. Despite the desolate effect, it was cosey-er than outside, so people made themselves at home. I observed them. Some were able to perch themselves in the metal frames in a way that made me wonder whether they intimately new the furniture. And then, there were the artefacts, interesting choices. My highlight was finding on the list El Mal de Montano by Vila-Matas. V for Vendetta was also there and my comprehensive and systematic search could not get hold of a copy in that space. Do they have problems with art kleptomania?

It was fascinating as it highlighted art’s power to think and to predict. What would I have saved in my end of the world piece? As much as I would like to, I think Étant Donnés would perish, wither because of the rain (or any other catastrophe), or the inability to be dismantled; so I am going to settle for this. And you, what would you rescue from eternal oubli brought about by the end of the world as we know it?

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