Sunday, February 21, 2010

In(ter)ventions - the finale

The last day began with a series of manifestos. Al Filreis, Christian Bök, Kate Pullinger, and Lance Olsen each presented their manifesto for the future of writing. i was very happy that Kate brought up issues of money and power. Both she and Al commented on the insider/outsider dichotomy of writing: the established writers, the writers supported by institutions / the writers outside the institutions, the writers who don't get grants or teaching positions, the writers at the beginning of their careers. Christian Bök did his usual pot-stirring, saying that the avant-garde presumes its own failure. Everyone was invited to write a manifesto and hand it in (maybe some of those will appear online), but there was some resistance. The audience wanted conversation.

i didn't write a manifesto; i think they are counterproductive. Writers need to be flexible and dynamic, not committed to a statement of intent. Manifestos, i think, are militant and dogmatic, argumentative rather than conversational.

Then D Kimm performed. She has great stage presence, and i liked her use of electronic sound. The sentiment of "take me how I am" was cool, though not so much the idea of a lover being "possessed."

The Closing Remarks

Erin Mouré graciously allowed me to speak instead of her. i was torn: i've been saying a lot on this blog, and i don't want to be afraid to say the same things in person. But it was also the end of the conference, and it was very hard to be critical of Steven Ross Smith and the other organizers. i do think they did a good job of running the conference, even if i didn't agree with everything that happened. i did know that others had spoken to me about my blogging, and i wanted to give a brief voice to them. A conference like this has a lot of speaking at, and very little ongoing dialogue, i feel. Twitter alleviated that a little bit, but with so many panels packed in, many important discussions were lost. i brought up class, race, and gender representation. i asked if anyone else had any words, because really, there were other audience members who i know had as much to say as i did. It was a bit unsettling to get up and speak to writers older, more experienced, and many of them smarter than i am. i don't particularly enjoy the role of agitator, but someone has to do it. And really, just as well the conference ends on an unsettling note: isn't that the purpose of innovation? To unsettle and dislodge us? i hope an ongoing conversation emerges, and i invite everyone to comment on my blog, on twitter, and maybe eventually on a forum. There were some great connections made at In(ter)ventions, and i don't want those to be lost.

Fred Wah spoke after me. He said "Why bother?"

Why bother indeed.


  1. Oh Fred, always so cranky!

    Know though, that whenever one has to act as (or has chosen to act as) agitator, there are others afraid to speak who feel the same, and who hopefully will be encouraged to be the next to speak.

    Do you know if any portion of the conference was recorded? Would be great to listen to it.

  2. It looked like the conference was filming most of the main panels (not the evening performances or open papers, though). Hopefully they'll put it online somewhere. i'll let you know if/when i find out.

  3. Hi again Claire —

    I was one of those people who agreed with your closing comments, appreciated your bravery in posing them, and — I have to say — Erin's gesture of giving you her speaking spot (and your taking it) was the most "radical/edgy" work I witnessed all weekend.

    I sat there and debated whether to say something... but I actually felt very conflicted about whether that space was capable of framing the kind of conversation that needed to be had (which I have to say wasn't helped by the surprisingly condescending way your gesture/point was skirted... I guess I thought that crowd in particular would appreciate the role of the agitator more). Anyhow, I think it was certainly important to start the conversation there... but I also think you're right in suggesting — and offering — other venues, forums, etc where it can be continued more thoughtfully.

    I would also add that I was wary of putting my thoughts out there on Sunday because my critique is largely to do with the way the conference positioned itself and its presenters as 'on the edge', and I didn't want to be seen as undervaluing any of the incredible work that was shown/read this weekend (which I don't). I didn't think I would have the space/time to communicate all that during the closing remarks.

    I'm still processing my response to this weekend... but I will say my discomfort in large part stemmed from how the conference appropriated the term 'intervention' without interrogating the positioning/processes it implies (or at least to me the interrogation felt surprisingly cursory and self-congratulatory). 'Intervention' strikes me as a pretty trendy word, carrying a similar POW-factor as 'collaboration' or 'cross-disciplinary' do these days. It's easy to get excited by it and leap past the tougher questions it implies, like INTERVENTION... into what? Why? On behalf of whom? To me these questions were not adequately addressed this weekend... because if they were I don't see how that representation/access issue couldn't have taken over the foreground conversation — rather than remaining in the behind-the-scene conversations conducted on the internet and in smaller groups.

    Anyhow, like I said, these are just my early thoughts... These, and a big thanks for "starting" the conversation on Sunday.


  4. ps: I also don't want to appear too critical as a starting point. So I would temper my above post by also saying I really appreciated comments/presentations that started to open up some of the above issues... e.g., comments made by Larissa Lai (regarding subjectivity, class/capitalism, etc), community-engaged/collaborative works presented by Fred Wah, D Kimm's discussions of her engagement with literary (and non-literary) communities in Montreal, Erin's presentation of issues related to translation and how she brought our attention to writers working in other languages, etc.

  5. Heya! Would you post your closing remarks? Would appreciate. =)

    And thnx for the rest of this. I write fiction so am particularly interested in the discussion of the sentence that occurred or didn't.

  6. Hey Claire!

    I'm glad to have participated in this conference with you, and am excited to consider how we can start implementing our own collaborative and community projects!

    My own dear father just demonstrated this evening a deep-rooted sexism I never knew existed in him, and I am tempted by this real-life kick in the box to throw up my hands and say "why bother" when misogyny is live and well in my own backyard. But we must stay strong and believe in what we're doing. Onwards!