From the first sip of coffee on Monday morning my brain was in put into high gear and stayed there except the brief hours of sleep in between. It’s Thursday and I still feel it. Words have been difficult to find – a feeling shared by many others who attended. For me it comes from not knowing what to call something new.
This is something new
Domains was the first conference where I felt a real connection – to the people, purpose, content and in a strange way the location. Having Domains at the 21C Museum Hotel was a masterstroke. The eclectic mix of art, installation and industrial rehabilitation was an amazing backdrop to the themes, practice and issues being discussed over the two days. (I’d love someone to write a post matching the artworks to sessions if anyone needs a prompt). That deep connection across those elements is something new.
Conferences don’t usually feel like that, they don’t engage with you on that level, they don’t give you energy. They’re usually draining events – both physically and mentally. You get stuck in sessions that a boring, you try and make space for yourself by skipping out and retreating from the crowds. That wasn’t the case at Domains 17. I went to everything, I sucked up every opportunity to learn more, I felt invigorated to go back and get more the next day. Even today I’m hanging out to find out other peoples impressions, to read their reactions and responses. That is something new.
It was a great thrill for me to connect with people in person. Finally catching up with people you’ve been circling for years, connecting with new and old friends and being in the presence of such a diverse group of amazing people is worth all the time and effort to fly halfway round the world. As someone who struggles to define my role and place in the world I felt more at home professionally than ever before. That’s something new.
There was a tangible sense of community at the event too, bought about by something that I think Kate Bowles would appreciate – hospitality. There was genuine care and concern demonstrated in the practices, decisions and choices on display – from the organisers through to the presenters and attendees. The whole event kicked off with the Domains Fair – a chance for people to share their practice and with time to engage, converse and discuss. This set the scene for the whole event. We were all there to learn from each other. No one was trying to sell us anything, make us feel stupid or inadequate, pull the rug out from under us, bring up petty differences or reignite long held rivalries and arguments. There was cohesion, attention and dialogue at the heart of everything across the two days. Even the failed attempt to do Karaoke. That was new too.
I’m not sure that this “newness” is a shared phenomenon – maybe it;s just my antipodean experience and naiveté – but those that I’ve spoken to have seem to have a shred enthusiasm for it. They too have been uplifted by the event and inspired to push themselves forward – ready to adopt new ideas, work hards to make improvements and are returning home with sack full of new knowledge and ideas from some of the best practitioners on the planet. I’m just a little flummoxed about where to begin, but beginnings are often the hardest part. That part’s nothing new.
Feature Image: “Clarysse By Sofie Muller” flickr photo by cogdogblog https://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/35013345241 shared into the public domain using (CC0)