TAG - a sketchy retrospective
TAG already seems like it was an actual year ago, not just two weeks past. It was its usual self - hectic, social, invigorating and intense. There was the usual mix of hearditbefore and wowthatsdifferent, with a particularly refreshing twist this year due to the amount of artists present (and presenting) as well as archaeologists who don't usually consider themselves as being theoretically engaged.
My session with Kim, Visualising Words, was on the middle day, in the afternoon, pre-party; which gave us all a chance to meet and settle in to the flow of things as well as time afterwards to recover a little and answer the plethora of questions that came our way post-papers
(see previous blog post for abstracts).
Fifty percent of our presentations had films, from various corners of the world. Rather than talking about digital humanities, we were doing it. Wales was well represented between Cardiff, Lampeter and Aber universities and many languages were in translation back and forth. We had a small room and a small screen; but that didn't stop the audience from cramming in to overflowing. Many people came half an hour in advance to secure a seat, the less organised were unable to get in, still others sat on the floor or stood at the door. Discussion was lively, it took as read what is already known and strove for thinking something new. It was warm, it was fresh, it was an honour to chair.
Our speakers all did Mark proud, with research that was unobtrusively situated in his work whilst also being distinctively different. There was no pathos, instead there was an understanding. I was weighed down by the messages from friends and colleagues who were unable to attend but who wished to acknowledge his legacy. Archaeological theory's royalty had been filling my inbox for weeks. Then when I began to speak, I looked out and saw faces I haven't seen for many years; it was... meaningful. Thank you all.
Regarding the TAG world outside of our cave, the atmosphere was bright and coloured by pencil crayons and exhibited work. Considering that the
film I was showing was called 'Layers', I was amused to note that a general theme of layering was prevalent throughout the conference. Undoubtedly my favourite part was the Sightations Cafe; with performance art and comics, workshops and short papers, lego, cake and the playing of games. This is not to denigrate any of the other sessions (where I encountered a scattering of superb papers, which will hopefully have upped the game for future years);
but it was bliss to be mostly free of the usual intellectual angst without loss of standard, to be free of giggling entitlement and just laugh, to be surrounded by art such that it felt like being actively inside an installation
rather than being a cold and distant observer as is the standard academic fare.
I could go on - but I won't.
Overall, I think that the Soton experience was a great three days and whilst I did attempt to sketch a;; the speakers I heard, please accept my apologies if you're not in this mini gallery I have peppered my commentary with
- and my apologies if you are!