Phew. It's over. I'm sorry I didn't blog over the last two days, but I was just rushed off my feet... I can't say that I took a back seat at this conference; quite the opposite, really, for better or for worse.
On Friday, at my workshop, we had a clean paper day (we'd been messy the day before, doing monoprints) and I taught them a whole lot of sewing methods, plus shared a number of tricks & tips that always guarantee a happy group. By the end of the day we were like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, even Doug, our token bloke. All weekend we kept hugging and talking and feeling very bonded. It was lovely and warm and fuzzy.
Friday night was the opening of the Libris Awards, and the announcement of the winners. I was very happy with the winners:
Zine prize: Gracia Haby, Postcards from…A key to help make your own world visible, A vagary of impediments & a sneak of weasels, Tumble & Fall
Regional Book Artist: Sheree Kinlyside, The Reluctant Nun (this is a fab book, using linocut and letterpress. Sheree's press is called Red Rag Press, and is based in Townsville.)
Overall winner: Marion Macken, Mies van der Rohe :: built houses (a very beautiful and precise piece using laser cut paper and plastics)
I wasn't sure if we were allowed to photograph the room, but there's no catalogue or even a list of works, so I went around and took some (flashless) room-view photos and they are up at flickr. It's an absolutely stunning show, photos don't do any justice to it.
The whole weekend was spent meeting and greeting; at the opening I met two members of Book Art Object, one, Sara, I've spent time with before, but the other, Dinah, was brand new, and lovely. I'm sorry they couldn't stay for the whole conference! I went out to dinner with a group of friends who included a printmaker I've admired for a while, and who, during the course of the dinner, agreed to work with me on a book project next year. Hooray!
Then I dashed back to my serviced apartment to keep working on my conference paper. I spent both nights on it (last night I worked until 1am, just trying to get certain bits to make sense!).
The first day of the Conference seemed to be all about the boys. All the speakers were men, and many of the topics seemed to focus on conceptual and ephemeral works of the 1960s and 1970s, when books tended to be blokes telling people what to do and how to see, even though they thought they were encouraging people to think outside the square.
There were a few gorgeous papers, especially one by Perth artist Paul Uhlmann that spoke eloquently about the book as body, among other things. Glenn Barkley walked us through his amazing 2009 exhibition at the MCA, Avoiding Myth & Message, where he combined poetry and artists in a very different way.
The dinner that night was, sadly, very disappointing. The decoration was wonderful: there were huge inflatable 'tusks' that gave the impression that we were eating in the belly of a giant beast.
There was a talented musician, whom we really enjoyed, but the food was quite hit & miss. It had been an expensive dinner; as a speaker, I didn't have to pay for my meal, and I'm quite glad. Alcohol was not counted in the dinner fee, had to be paid for on top. My neighbour at the table, who was a vegetarian, had paid to be there and her main course was a bed of rice with some sweet potato and spring onions on top... while I was eating a thick slab of very tender beef with a very cloying red wine sauce. Dessert was a large glass of white choc mousse, so rich that none of us could finish it. It was a bit sad, because all the rest of the catering through the weekend was very good and very thoughtful.
One of the frustrating things about the conference was the absence of question time. I thought it was being saved for the end of the day, but there was never any time to discuss the ideas except over the (quite long) breaks, but it wasn't the same, because most people wanted to catch up or look at books in the breaks.
I'm one of those people who decides to do something about things people are unhappy about. Or I'm that person at a meeting who, when someone has said 'we really need to do this, and then an awkward silence falls as everyone looks down at their pen, goes 'Oh f**k it, I'll do it'.
So one of the reasons I sat up late last night tweaking my paper was to make it a bit firmer and less flabby so that I could finish early and insist upon question time.
So I did. The two women speaking before me (this whole day, all the speakers were women except one) had given fantastic talks, one about her work about Poland and the holocaust and the process of making a digital version of her exquisite book, and the other about her incredible second life on Second Life as an artist and book maker. The group was gobsmacked by what is happening on Second Life and the fact that Judy makes more money as a virtual artist than she does as a real artist, plus the things that virtual books can do in that environment.
So I did my talk (I'd tried to make it as entertaining as possible, and it seemed to work judging by the laughter in all the right places), and then I asked for questions; we had a good fifteen minutes of discussion about what we'd all said that morning. Susan Wood, talking after me about really interesting ideas of art group dynamics and the future of the book (not at the same time), did the same thing, and by lunchtime we were all very satisfied, having had a chance to communicate as a group.
A bunch of short artist's talks later, it was all over, and I'm quite tired. I've had a lot of good conversations, picked up lots of business cards of interesting people, bought a print, and talked up a few books I want to sell.
Oh my goodness, Mackay just put on a fireworks display that I could see from my balcony! I have no idea what the occasion is (it wouldn't be our tiny conference) but it was quite spectacular, mostly for the hundreds of shrieking parrots flying around me in a panic as the gunpowder popped and flared in the distance. Mackay is so flat the fireworks would have been seen for miles.
Tomorrow I'm going to participate in a workshop by mail art obsessive David Dellafiora who runs Field Studies Collective, and we're going to made a group book called Bound in Yellow, where we get to explore the 19th century use of yellow as a metaphor for decadence and madness. Yummy!
And then I jump on a plane and head home. Unfortunately I'm not as keen now to get home as I was earlier, because Best Beloved just rang me to tell me he's coming down with something... oh noes! Man Cold! Just what I need when I finally get a break...