30 January 2006

chat on the chat

written 25 Janury 2006

my talk was very well received at Baroda, which was gratifying on many levels. I was a bit worried about the audience, as they are very knowledgeable and in some ways in the midst of this material and so it was very different to be speaking to them when my audience for the book project is very much an audience not as knowledgeable about 20th c. Indian art.

Jyoti Bhatt, Nilima Sheikh, Gulammohammed Sheikh, and several other prominent artists and art historians were in the audience, which was great, but again, added to my stress a bit. Only a bit, though. Perhaps I'm growing, but rather than seeing this as an insurmountable challenge (of course they know more than me! of course they are in some sort of more "authentic" position to read this stuff as they are not only Indian, but Indian artists, and they knew these people personally!) I instead took it as an opportunity. how amazing to have these people listening to my work! what a chance to get some real, concrete feedback! so I opened myself up to the experience rather than worrying about it. and frankly, it's not that I don't care about what this audience thinks--quite the opposite, in fact--it's that I'm growing such that my work isn't me--it's my work. it should be in dialogue with others who disagree. and it's okay if they do. we may never agree on certain things, and as long as I keep that in mind, it's fine.

the audience was very receptive to the work, which was great, and we had a good discussion. there were interesting differences which I'm finally getting confident/arrogant enough to see right through: the centrality of the artist critique (for which I dropped the words "post-structuralist" "author" and "Foucault" and managed to get nods from elsewhere in the audience), the mistaking of my subversive reading of the work for something not-so-subversive, which is linked to the author thing (the artist never said anything about that so how can you say it's there in the work? was he really being subversive in this way? how do you know?), and some very interesting discussion about my use of the term "ruin" in relation to one of these modernist buildings, which I think rubbed some in the audience the wrong way. So an interesting discussion all around. so I have some good notes for the rewriting.

And a milestone for me in terms of presenting my work: I realize that I'm finally over the graduate school worries about questions, challenges, and critiques. to steal from our lovely president: bring it on. except I actually have a sense of both the battlefield and the potential attacks, and, I might (somewhat arrogantly) add, I have a plan for both attack and polite, well-timed withdrawal...


Transient Gadfly said...

I recently had a blog-related nightmare related to this kind of thing; I was supposed to be presenting things from my blog to some kind of panel, and I was standing at the podium or whatever and realized that absolutely everything I had ever written was pretty much bullshit, and everybody in the audience knew it.

I don't usually have anxiety dreams like this (usually it's that I'm in school and never go to class), but I gather this feeling must be pretty universal and it apparently doesn't go away once you have earned a PhD and published. Which is weird because, crap, all ideas are bullshit in somebody's book.

I have no idea what my point was here.

Rebecca said...

yes, I think that you finally get used to the feeling (after a long long while) that people will disagree with you, even vehemently, but that doesn't make your ideas wrong, or their ideas more right, just that they aren't buying your bullshit and they're more attached to their own. For, as you say, we are pretty much all making it up much of the time....