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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

02/11/22 - Nature: Arts Interconnections Conference

Nature – Arts Interconnections: Conference

2nd – 4th Nov: West University of Timisoara, Romania

Disseminating Practice: Presenting at my first conference

Just only a couple hours ago, I finished presenting at my first arts conference. This conference was in person and online, but due to my working schedule I was unable to participate in person and instead presented through an online platform. The difficulty being that this conference was based at the West University of Timisoara in Romania. PhD researcher and conference host Maria Sarbu kindly hosted my application to participate as a remote presenter.

What then was this conference about? The conference is an international gathering of artists from countries such as Belgium, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Romania and many more locations. The conference aims to look at the multidisciplinary ways in which artists involve nature in the artistic processes and their works.

Why then would I want to involve my research within this conference?

There are several reasons as to why I wanted to be involved in this conference. I saw an opportunity for progression. My research and work have been disseminated through live exhibitions, but I have never presented my work through this form or method. This method of presenting work through verbal communication to an audience who have purposefully situated themselves before you to listen to what you have to say is intriguing. I and my practice become the centre of attention and therefore an opportunity arises to clearly divulge what it is I have been working with and towards. Sharing my practice opens up opportunities for dialogue and critical analysis. Knowledge can be gained through the reflective thoughts of audience members and speaking participants. Not only am I presenting to an audience but an audience that is on an international stage and for me this is a completely new territory of disseminative practice.

With the conference listed as an approach to themes around nature, a collection of artists, researchers, academics, and audiences are gathered in one place as a collective working towards the same ideology. This brings about many positive factors, the first being that with such a gathering of people, knowledge within this field can be shared, accessed, and analysed. It is beneficial for me (and others) to visualise and understand how others are navigating this field through their own use of materials, techniques, and processes and how also they place it in a form of research practice. With this comes the opportunity to network between each other. Making new contacts within the realms of the artistic landscape is highly beneficial for making developments with moving the research to new locations, new exhibiting settings and towards other possible outlets.

As I stated earlier, this in an international conference and therefore I have obtained some form of international recognition. I have shared before my career goal and for those who have not read my earlier blogs post, my aim is to become a senior lecturer at university level. I currently lecture at FE (level 3) but to aid my career and move within the right direction to obtain a senior lecturer position, one thing that is important to securing the post via the application process, is being recognised as an applicant who has international recognition. This conference then becomes my first step to obtaining the correct experience I need to pursue my career goal.

Preparation, Planning and Presenting

This conference came at the right time within my research. During the middle stages of October, my progress monitoring one deadline was due (blog to follow soon). The PM1 submission included a document that evidenced my research, experimentations, methodology, literature review, future direction, aims, objectives and abstract. This document outlined clearly how my research journey had played out over the past seventeen months. Alongside this document, I am due to present a VIVA VOCE. The VIVA will be a twenty-minute presentation concluding my research document into a concise dialogue between researcher and an academic panel. With this submission point occurring I have put myself in a good position to be able to analyse my research in great detail. I could analyse and pick out key moments within the research journey that could be shared at the conference. I therefore used elements from the PM1 document and the VIVA presentation to formulate a working presentation that could be shared to a new audience. I did include more introductory based discussion, explaining who I am, where I study, what my role is a photography lecturer, to help audiences gain an understanding of my background.

What I wanted to deliver for this presentation was more of a live version of this blog I have kept active throughout the research. I believed it important to keep discussion light (not informal) but as a conversation and not some high academic philosophical jargon. I wanted to be able to explain clearly what it is I do, and I have been doing over the research journey. Again, I thought it important to share practice in a sensible and clear communicative manner. I decided to script my presentation, taking apart my PM1 document and writing it up into a narrative that showed progression and reflective development. I included quotes from some of the literature review, to support my theory, concepts, and outcomes. Although I did question if it looked a little ‘cringe’, I stood true as each quote tied in well with what I was presenting.

Over the day, twelve speakers were presenting in thirty-minute slots and within three panel groups. The first panel was based around feminisms role in nature, the second panel (and mine) looked at ideas of remoteness and acts of practice in landscapes, and the third panel discussed phenomena of nature. I had some technical difficulties at first trying to access the conference as I was due to register in the morning. There was also a two-hour time difference meaning an early start for myself and my presentation being at 10:30 GMT rather than 12:30 EET. After a couple of hours of nervous waiting I was able to access the conference. Around thirty audience members were present with a couple online and panellists and presenters were also situated within the room. I will be honest, I was a little nervous, this was something new after all, but with much preparation I knew and understood I was just talking about my work. I know my work better than anyone else and I am confident with speaking to audiences, but I think there is always that unknown nervous feeling of not knowing what to expect and receive. When it was my time to present, I spoke clearly, calmly and at a pace that could be understood. I believe it went well, I did receive a great round of applause and a couple of questions within the Q&A. I quite frankly enjoyed my participation within this conference. It is not over but I deemed it best to reflect on it immediately.

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