A poverty of smartness
Post #1305 • March 2, 2009, 11:46 AM • 139 Comments
Another CAA conference came and went this past weekend. While this usually affords me the opportunity to call the organization out on its myriad failings, I had actually planned to leave them alone this year. I have continued to receive mass e-mails from the CAA despite my letting my membership lapse in 2007. One of them solicited my feedback as a lapsed member and asked what might make me consider re-joining. It serves their selfish interests to do so, but even that level of responsiveness represented an increase. Later, they indicated that they were finally going to make some basic concessions to human comfort for the poor saps venturing into the conference in search of a job. The candidate center was to offer free Wi-Fi and some comfortable places to sit. Again, this sounds basic, but for the CAA it's unprecedented.
I didn't attend. I went in 2007, for the second time in ten years, and couldn't muster the will to subject myself to the malignant neglect that characterizes the CAA conference's career services. So they've recently improved them a wee bit? I'll buy in when the improvements go from 1.0 to 1.1. (In the interest of disclosure, a conversation I had at the 2007 conference resulted in my teaching job in California for the 2007-2008 academic year, although not the one for which they were soliciting applications at the time. I don't want to discuss the details out of courtesy to my former employer, but in retrospect, that informal conversation didn't establish circumstances at the college that would have contributed to the longevity of my position. I don't blame the CAA for this, but I repeat my earlier assertion that trolling the CAA for job opportunities is likely to turn out badly. Let the colleges establish a formal hiring effort and arrange an interview with you in advance of the conference if they want to speak with you. There are good reasons for the formalities.)
However, I did check in on the conference blog. Academic postmodernists tend to be a little humor-challenged, but oy gevalt.
Mary Kelly has been abducted by a rebel faction of Greenbergian formalists, and is currently MIA. An unmarked black sedan intercepted her while on her way to her office at UCLA, just after being dropped off by her husband early this morning, witnesses say. "Yes, I'm sure it was her... I saw the hair" one student said, still in shock after hearing that her Lacan seminar had been cancelled for the day. Previous reports suspected that conference proceedings may be interrupted by such traditionalists, but authorities had expected the disruption to occur at the Convention Center. The incident at the Broad Center has artists and art historians alike in a tizzy.
There's a time and a place, for Pete's sake. Micol Hebron, author of the above passage, teaches the genre of New Genres at Chapman University, works in video and installation, and is comfortably ensconced in the L.A. art scene as well as academia. I didn't save my reply to the survey mentioned above, but I responded in part by saying that I have always viewed the CAA as ideologically opposed to non-postmodernist approaches. This manifests explicitly in its publications, The Art Bulletin and Art Journal. When sentiments like the above appear on the official conference blog, it sends a message to everyone who doesn't conform to their aesthetic preferences. Imagine an abstract painter going through the trouble to attend CAA in search of teaching work, a decision that benefits the CAA monetarily, and reading the above joke at his expense on the conference blog. Thank you, Professor Hebron on behalf of the CAA, we get the message that we're not welcome.
As is typical of persons who claim to value diversity and dialogue, the CAA realized that they had made an avenue for dissent available and quickly moved to crush it.
There may be numerous ways to employ technology to make our time together more valuable and to extend the session conversations beyond the sessions themselves. The conversation about how best to this might have taken place here on this blog, unfortunately at some point (and we just found this out), the comment function was intentionally disabled. This means that the format of this blog mirrors the principle format of the sessions themselves – something rather one-way, when it seems to us the point of us being is together is rather different.
Perhaps someone took exception to the blog's various infelicities of styling. (Did you mean "embarassment of riches," dear?) I guess we'll never know. However, I have a friend who attended the conference and IMed me to say that it caps-locked SUCKED. I'll call him for details. In the meantime, I think we're being invited to interrupt next year's conference procedings in Chicago. Any suggestions?
Artblog.net's previous remarks on the CAA here and here. Here's a direct link to the 2006 CAA blog parody. Since CAA's battalion of anonymous apologists tends to show up here en masse when I go out of my way to criticize them, let me say in advance that the CAA's unwillingness to discuss its problems openly, honestly, and using real names proves that if anything, I'm probably going too easy on them.