A conference is a strange thing. Months and days and hours of work goes in the planning – The setting up of an intellectual framework, the curation of a diverse speaker list, the promotion of event to solicit interest, and the almost endless logistics that is deployed to facilitate an active conversation with hundreds of people. For the folks who work behind the screen, the actual days of the conference are the culmination of their long hours of work and the meticulous moments of planning that goes into the organisation of such an event. When the last session on the last day is over, and the vote of thanks are delivered, there is a sense of completion and finitude because the conference is over.
However, it is deceptive to say that the conference is over. Because, for the delegates who prepare their talks, present their research, travel, take time out of their regular lives to belong to this cohort of knowledge makers, the conference is a beginning. At the conference they have made new connections, received and offered feedback, acquired new modes of thinking, exchanged knowledge in their own research practice, and found alliances and friendships towards their intellectual passions and interests. As the planning team enters the post-production phase, helping consolidate the documentation and the publications from the conference, the delegates who were a part of the conversation have to realise that this is where our work begins.
The 2 day conference on Art Research, which we were privileged to host at ArtEZ on the 18th and 19th November 2016, thus places me in this hinge moment, where I have the task of both announcing a journey’s end and signalling a new beginning. On the one hand, I have to offer congratulations and gratitude to the relentless efforts of a vast body of staff who worked cheerfully and persistently, to make this conference happen. For ArtEZ, it was an honour to be the host to these conversations. It gave us a chance to make our current practices of pedagogy and research transparent. It offered us an opportunity to show the future pathways that we are building for our current and prospective students. It allowed us to invite you to explore, materially, the different environments we embody. It built a platform where we could showcase not only the strength of our existing portfolios, but also the new visions that we are building towards – the inaugural lecture of our newest Professorship in Product and Interior Design by Dr Jeroen van den Eijnde, the new pathways for the graduate school, the research centres that we are building, and the communities that we collaborate with to build a resilient and robust research future.
Our visionary professors who crafted the open but definitive terms of the theme, the planning and strategy teams that worked at executing this vision, the staff, alumni and colleagues from here and abroad who participated in the conversations, the guests who helped push the boundaries of our own frameworks and offered new modes of thinking, and the students who performed, critiqued and initiated dialogues about pedagogy, practice, and research, have all helped to create a stimulating environment that has filled our familiar rooms and hallways at ArtEZ with a new buzz and excitement.
On the other hand, for all of us, who were inspired by the connections and conversations of the two days, we have a challenge to make something of this conference. Now that this has happened, and we know the immense possibilities that can emerge from these conversations, we are excited and hopeful that this conversation finds a practice. As we say goodbye to our guests, and digest the new connections that we have made, we are also gearing up to continue the dialogues and disagreements into a productive condition of working together. We have learned through these intense two days, that more than anything else, we need new vocabularies, conceptual frameworks, translation practices, pedagogic intentions, and collaborative processes of work, that can enable the ambitions we have towards the future of research in our art and design practices.
We are very fortunate to have a strong corpus of embodied and tacit knowledge in our teachers and professors at the university, and we hope that we are able to grow and continue this knowledge making in the days to come. On the behalf of all the communities at the university, I want to take this opportunity to thank you, for being a part of this beginning with us. I hope that for our guests who came here the first time, this will be the first of many more journeys to come. And for our friends and partners who continue to support us, I hope that this conference shall become a milestone in our efforts at building research and teaching blocks together. And for all of us, who had the privilege of being a part of these debates and discussions, I hope that there is a sense of collective urgency and collaborative passion that brings us together to take up the next steps that can ensure that the momentum that this conference has created will find new locations, homes, disciplines, and discourses.
With warm regards on behalf of the Executive Board,
Dean Graduate School ArtEZ University of the Arts