Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It's that chair, on the left-hand side of the picture, that's the disturbing one. Is it where the panel chair is to sit, just slightly, discreetly apart from the main act? Is there one paper, on a panel of four, that somehow doesn't just fit? Does it stand for anxiety about one's own paper being the one that seems simplistic, irrelevant, tangential? Is a boiled sweet, so thoughtfully provided by the Marriott, going to help even the most nervous of dry mouths, stifle a bothersome cough?

Yes, of course, this is in the Lynne Cohen/Candida Hofer school of empty institutional rooms - but there's also the semblance of four headless, green baize nuns sitting here, quite demurely - the formality of the chairs' posture worked much better relatively close up, rather than showing the empty seats in front of them. There's an air of expectancy - soon to be disrupted by what was, in fact, not a panel but a divisional meeting, sorting out next year's late C19th/early C20th panels. "Old media," anyone? For surely if there's new media, there must be old media - but how old does old media have to be? What the "old media" for the telegraph? The mail? Semaphore flags? Pigeons? Photographs might seem like new media - but I guess they are the "old media" behind film. How quickly, in this period, do we think of technology as obsolescent? This could be fun - though I'm not sure how to put together a call for papers in 35 words...

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