I have just returned It’s been a couple of weeks since my week in New York, where I attended the College Art Association conference, and of course visited some museums. There’s so much to see and do in New York, and something intangible, something I can’t quite put my finger on, that just fills me with energy and awe every time I go back there. It’s something missing here in Hawaii, something I will more than gladly bear the cold in order to experience.
This was my first CAA conference. It was a most interesting experience. People say it’s not about the panels, and that it’s really about the networking, the dinners, the special exhibits and events outside of the conference itself.. but that’s really hard to appreciate before you’ve done it. Of course it’s about the panels, right? Well, maybe if you do Western art of certain times and places, then maybe there might be a multitude of fascinating panels for you. But for us Asianists, offerings were much more sparse. There were indeed a few, a very few, truly excellent talks, including one on contemporary Chinese calligraphy, and I imagine there’s a strong possibility that if I just picked panels at random and went to whichever ones, there could have been something really interesting and eye-opening from outside of my specialties.
But, in the end, surprise surprise, it really was all about the side events. I was graciously, generously invited to a booklaunch party for a new book on Gutai by Ming Tiampo, who turned out to be really kind, and friendly, and open. The party was at the apartment of Alexandra Munroe, super important high-up-there rock star of the “museum exhibits on Japanese modern art” world. She and Dr. Tiampo are also working on the first(?) major exhibition on Gutai in any American museum (or anywhere in the West?), to open at the Guggenheim in early 2013.
The party for the most part consisted of me standing around awkwardly, looking around for anyone I knew, or anyone who might seem approachable and open to my introducing myself into their conversation. This would be a recurring theme of the week. But, in the end, I did meet a few new people, bumped into a few I already knew, had some brief but quite good conversations, and for a brief moment felt like I was really a part of the New York Japanese Art “scene.”
Another highlight of the weekend was a special private preview tour of the “Bye Bye Kitty” exhibition at Japan Society, which is still in the process of being installed, and which is going to be altogether *awesome*. It includes works by many of my favorite contemporary Japanese artists, including Tenmyouya Hisashi, Aida Makoto, and Yamaguchi Akira, and will hopefully play a role in making a dent in Murakami’s overshadowing popularity, bringing these artists, and the phenomena or trends surrounding them, to people’s attention. I was happy to be invited along for tea and breakfast with a couple of professors after the brief tour, and as I sat there talking to them about classes, about research, about my own future academic intentions, I realized that this is what coming to a conference is really all about.
I don’t know that I’ve really made any solid super meaningful contacts this week; I don’t feel like it was an amazing good time, like I often do after conventions, or that I’ve made any one connection that’s going to be super amazingly useful and wonderful in the future, in a “omg I am so glad that I met you” kind of way. But, I handed out my cards, and shook a lot of hands, and put a lot of names to faces, and when I see people again, at the Assoc of Asian Studies conference this coming March/April here in Hawaii, or elsewhere, that first contact, that first introduction will already be behind us, and we can instead start with “how have you been, good to see you again.”