This post will be the first in a three part series exploring the 2009 Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) conference - Revolution - which takes place in Philadelphia May 20-23. To all readers who aren't interested in SNAG or its conference, feel free to excuse yourselves from reading.
A Short Account of my Involvement in the Lead Up to the Revolution
I first started blogging about this conference in September 2008, with a post dissecting the speaker line up. Since then I have been thinking, talking and preparing for this conference more than any of the previous three that I have attended (Cleveland 2005, Chicago 2006, Savannah 2008). It started when I was invited to submit questions from my "alternative" perspective to the organizers of the professional development seminar (no doubt based on the excellent quality of my blog post about galleries). The topic of the professional development seminar is (partly) the role galleries in the age of digital commerce. Then, around mid-February I spent a few hours on the phone with the conference chair, Doug Bucci, talking about targeted student programming and student involvement in planning the conference. My main contention was that even though students make up 35-50% of the attendees, the only programming event aimed towards them is a mixer and a portfolio review (which is not limited to students), and in general very little is done to engage them. After our conversation I was invited to help plan/ think of a theme for the pin swap, which I promptly refused after my request to open the planning to a more general pool of students was denied for time and logistic reasons. C'est la vie. Then of course I was invited just recently to blog about the conference as an "official conference blogger." Placing the words official and blogger next to each other feels very strange to me... like professional amateurism, or autocratic justice. It is strange that SNAG would affiliate themselves with my blog, especially since I made it clear that I would be brutally honest for better or worse. I feel like this has been a platform for autonomous and critical analysis, so being an official blogger bugs me out a little bit. Hopefully though the endorsement will increase my readership, which will in turn lead to more dialogue, action, change and god willing...revolution. But anyhow here I am writing my first post as an official blogger. heh.
Throughout the past few months I have felt a bit uneasy by the number of people contacting me requesting input on different projects. I am very afraid of being the token "young voice." I can't help but feel used, as if by giving my input or contributing that it validates whatever project it happens to be. It has happened a bit leading up to the conference. I wish there were more young people coming forward to be involved, or else being invited to get involved. I can hardly represent the demographic I feel people want me to. Maybe if they asked for my perspective - instead of the youth perspective - it wouldn't trouble me so much.
Some of you may be familiar with my Pro Bono Jeweler Performance Series - especially if you read American Craft Magazine. As a follow up, I started the Altruist Series, which sought to combine contemporary studio jewelry with philanthropic contributions. I proposed to make a special piece from my Altruist Series (see Altruist no. 8 below) for the SNAG Student Endowment Auction using the SNAG logo. The project was rejected on the grounds that SNAG must protect its organizational image, and using the logo could lead to the perceived endorsement of political statements or agendas. Needless to say this is not a path that SNAG wanted to go down. In my mind, I wonder who is SNAG? I thought it was the membership, rather than its regents. I have a hard time imagining that the membership would object to the use of the SNAG logo to raise funds for one of its programs (in fact isn't that what they do when they send me a letter on cool SNAG stationary asking for a donation?). However, I do understand the impulse to protect the organzation from affiliation with a known revolutionary, but wait what about the blogging? I am confused.
So besides being involved in projects and planning of a somewhat controversial nature I am also in three exhibitions this year in conjunction with the conference: Decorative Resurgence at Rowan University, Stuff:Jewelry for the People at Sub-Octo gallery, and the annual juried student exhibition, Metal Evolution at Loews Hotel. I have to admit that I tried particularly hard to make and submit controversial work. I invite readers to visit these shows and offer feedback about the work. Beyond my own work though, there will be an incredible number of exhibitions in the Philadelphia area, 25 at last count, very exciting. I can hardly wait. The SNAG conference gallery night always seems like the pinnacle showcase of jewelry and metalsmithing for the year. Great for metalsmiths and students, but this constellation of exhibitions is for us...where is the studio jewelry extravaganza for everyone else? That is neither here nor there.
The Soap Box Line Up
I know I was a bit ageist the last time I talked about the lecture line up, but I am sticking to my guns. The speakers at this years conference promise to be the best line up I have yet seen at a SNAG conference but their scope is generally not about current revolution, but past. Perhaps a more apt title for the conference should have been Once Upon a Revolution? Stanley Letchzin's talk certainly sounds like it could be titled just that. Sandra Alfoldy (as a replacement for Paul Greenhalgh) promises to be something to chew on for me at least. Dear reader you know how much I like to talk about the future of craft. I also look forward to the panel moderated by Helen Drutt: Revolution/ Evolution, although I feel the 2 hours might be better spent reading Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Myra Mimlitsch Gray and Albert Paley illuminating their own work is very good twosome in terms of interesting work, but I have never seen either of them speak, so I will hope for the best. Perhaps the dark horse of the speaker line up is Neri Oxman whose lecture, Craft by Ecology, sounds like it is right up my green alley but I can't seem to find anything that would confirm my suspicions. Her talk is not to be missed. As for Art and Sex, the lecture to be delivered by Camille Paglia, I know this country was founded by puritans, but over two hundred years later are we still going to be shocked by sex? Vito Acconci, Paul McCarthy, and the Vienna Actionists seen to fall under the once upon a revolution banner. I wait with bated breath for her examples.