Articles

Talking Tech: A Report from the College Art Association Conference

by An Xiao on February 24, 2012

Want to understand the real college artistic experience? Otis College is hosting a series of public seminars for the duration of CAA at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Want to understand the real college artistic experience? Otis College is hosting a series of public seminars for the duration of CAA at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — It’s just been the first two days at the College Art Association conference, and people are talking tech. Or maybe I’m just attending the tech-oriented panels. The first panel I sat on spoke on internationalizing the practice of art history. Immediately, it felt like the voice of God was speaking, until I realized it was a man on Skype. Not one, but two participants were joining in from online.

The broader sharing of art historical information is “like a resurfacing of public life,” noted panelist Sabih Ahmad, who researches Indian art for the Asia Art Archive. “A lot of documents once had a public life,” such as in homes and institutions, before they were archived. He and other attendees discussed how digital technology can help bring a more global conversation to art and overcome what many identified as a “culture of secrecy” when it comes to art archival work.

As if to prove his point, Ahmad joined via Skype, as have many other speakers in different panels. It was surprisingly effective. I participated in a panel organized by Two Coats of Paint blogger Sharon Butler and LA Art Girls collective member Micol Hebron focused on artist collectives and collaboratives. While most of our fellow participants were from Los Angeles, Nicole Cohen from the Berlin Collective and Abbey Dubin from Our Literal Speed joined in via Skype (I’ll be blogging more about that conversaiton later).

On Thursday, I stopped by a panel on women, art and technology chaired by Rutgers professor Ferris Olin and Arizona State professor Muriel Magenta. Victoria Vesna, a media artist and professor at UCLA, noted that while young girls don’t hesitate to learn technology — she cited her own daughter’s casual use of YouTube — girls still lag behind in terms of actual science education.
She was joined on stage by Queer Technologies, a crowd favorite at the talk. Representative Zachary Blas talked about projects like their queer programming anti-language, a riff on historic code language in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community (like the famous handkerchief code) and gender changers to subvert the usual male-female binary in none other than power plugs.

Bringing in New Audiences via Tech

Ed Giardini and Microl Hebron Skype with Abbey Dubin during our panel.

Ed Giardini and Microl Hebron Skype with Abbey Dubin during our panel. (click to enlarge)

The CAA Twitter feed has been looking at how we can use new technologies to bring in new audiences and participants. The @collegeart Twitter handle been active in retweeting interesting posts and engaging in dialogue with its 6,000+ followers. Unfortunately, amongst participants, the #CAA2012 hashtag has been sparsely used. Wifi was spotty early in the event, but there are likely other issues.

I hope they do implement live feeds. The dialogues being had here are relevant for a far broader audience, not all of whom are able to attend. Whether the feeds are free or have a nominal fee to support the conference, a feed could ensure more voices are heard. They could even take a move from the TED conferences and offer the live feeds at a special rate (art bloggers exempted, of course) but offer podcasts for free afterward. That would make the hashtag even more lively and help the Skype conference calls not be as awkward.

The only missed opportunity so far? On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Convention Center hosted not just the College Art kickoff but naturalization ceremonies for some 10,000 attendees. New citizens and their families were scattered around the hall, as both groups seemed to ignore each other. As so many arts institutions and events are walled off from the general public (most panels are only open to registered attendees), it seemed like a unique opportunity for engagement. This tweet from art professor Beth Kuebler-Wolf made the retweet rounds:

Public Events: CAA Runs till Sunday

Fortunately, there are a number of CAA events open to the public, including the popular ARTspace Media Lounge, a QR code-powered exhibition of new media work. They have an opening tonight from 6 to 10 pm at the Convention Center (at the Convention Center (take the Silver Line to avoid the hefty $15 parking fee!). Also tonight is LA Re.Play’s performance exhibition, with an opening at UCLA’s DESMA Gallery. On Saturday, I plan to stop by the Feminist Art Project Symposium at MOCA. The all day project is free and open to the public as well.
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  • http://vaneeesa.com/links/ Vaneeesa Blaylock

    Thanks for this post Xiao, and especially for your participation on the panel on Wednesday — I LOVE your work!! SO inspiring, ideas are bouncing all thru my brain now!

    I wrote a bit about your panel here:
    http://vaneeesa.com/2012/02/23/college-art-association/

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