Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Conference in Review

I had high hopes of blogging throughout the conference, but I was too busy enjoying the conference and the surrounding landscape of Cape Breton to be on the computer!! I know a "highlights" post after the fact isn't quite the same, but here goes.

The conference kicked off with Thursday afternoon field trips. We selected to go on a tour of the Syndey Tar ponds reclamation site and found it quite interesting. It was fascinating to get a first-hand look at the site and to hear about the clean-up efforts. Seeing the site up close really helped me to get a handle on the scale of the operation. The site, the debate around the clean-up efforts and the different perpectives about both in the community kept resonating through my mind for the rest of the conference.

Thursday evening was a fantastic amount of fun and a chance to both catch-up with old friends and to meet some new ones. The literary evening has been blogged about below, but I wanted to echo Richard's comments about the richness and diversity presented through the readings. Fascinating stuff! I also really appreciated the music of Ken Chisholm and could have happily listened to at least one more set that evening at the Syndey Yacht Club.

The sessions on Friday and Saturday dealt with a wide range of subjects -- I heard so many great papers throughout the weekend and can't possibly blog about them all. Some highlights for me included:

-the "Ecological Art" panel which included Heather Davis's paper on the Spiral Garden at Bloorview and Linda Revie's paper on Hetty Kimber and Louise McClennan, two artists who were part of the Sydney Painters Club. I was especially taken with Tia McLennan's presentation on the Woodhaven EcoArt Project that she and Nancy Holmes worked on with their students at UBC Okanagan. Ever since that presentation I've been thinking about how a similar project could be set up in the Niagara region.

-the "Generating Story Through Place" panel. In this panel Edie Steiner talked about how photography can be used as a tool of auto-ethnography, Elizabeth Giddens discussed the often-contradictory uses of image and text in the campaign to create Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Wanda Baxter made a very compelling case for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as a form of ecocriticism through her discussion of the EIAs that were recently completed in Digby Neck. I absolutely loved her point about how the Humanities have such a crucial role in these kinds of processes, helping communities tell and frame their stories. In the case of Digby Neck, Baxter argued that by coming together in this way the community was able to successfully resist a mine development and have, instead, focused on making environment of the region a priority.

-I am also still thinking about Jenny Kerber's paper on Jim Lynch's Border Songs. I've not yet had the opportunity to read this book, but after hearing this presentation it is on the top of my "must read" list for the fall.

-Andrew Mark's paper on "The Shock Doctrine of Bob Wiseman" is another one that keeps running through my mind. I am most familiar with Wiseman's work when he was with Blue Rodeo, but haven't kept up with it in recent years. It seems I've really been missing out! During his presentation Andrew showed us the short film made to accompany Wiseman's song, Uranium. Andrew was careful not to give too much away when he talked about this film before he showed it to us and I'm going to follow suit. All I will say is I'd encourage you to take a moment to watch it.

In short, a wonderful conference and I was delighted to be able to travel to Cape Breton to participate in it. Big thanks are due to all the organizers and, in particular, our local hosts, Afra Kavanagh and Sheila Christie.

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