Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Conference Season: A Recap.

Last week Yas said Taylor Tomasi Hill kinda looks like me. I carefully appraised the photos I have of her and realised that indeed, yes, we do. The similarities are striking. Let me walk you through them: we are both fake redheads, we're both women, and as far as livestock on jumpers goes... anyone remember this little treasure? Practically twins. 
All I'm saying.

Actually, that's not all I'm saying. I just spent the last month in a PhDaze (I'm not sick of this contraction yet, not even close) which partially explains why the majority of posts have been image heavy and light on, well, original content? Because my mind was being stretched in every direction except for its customary ones which include trawling Tommy Ton's slideshows for style.com and appropriating designer names into film titles (like Lagerfelds of Glory. I never said I was any good at it, guys.)

So let me talk you through the madness. First up, I flew to Auckland for POPCAANZ, the annual conference of the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand. It was rad. All of the papers were organised into categories like Fashion, Popular Design, Popular Music, and Popular Science (I kind of wanted this section to constitute of a marathon of schlocky science film classics like Weird Science and Young Einstein but, sadly, it didn't.) 
No prizes for guessing which section I was in.

My paper was a presentation of what I've been working on for most of the year so far, which will be my second chapter. It's all about the interanimation (beautiful word- thanks, Keith Basso) between clothing and the person wearing it and how this is manifested on the style blogosphere. The paper gave me a prime opportunity to enact some 'bloggerisms' (your classic outfit post poses) for the bemused audience who had perhaps never seen a knock-kneed 'I forgot my sun visor' downward stare in such close proximity before. I am here to educate, what can I say.

It was awesome hearing all of the other work presented too- there are people all over the world researching fashion, dress and clothing in various ways from really different perspectives. I heard, amongst others, a fantastic paper on Michael Jackson's empty white glove from a researcher at Central St. Martins, and a scathing indictment of the fragmentation of the image in popular culture by the London College of Fashion's Pamela Church Gibson, who took that wedding as her example. My favourite part was when she said that the media's representation of the wedding was reduced to commentary about The Dress and 'Pippa Middleton's arse.'  Pru Black and Jan Idle also presented a brilliant and personal paper about revaluing the labour of mothers who sewed their families' clothing, positioning this work as a means for them to demonstrate their love and care for their children as well as a complex struggle for self-definition as daughters and mothers tightly negotiated how the finished garments should look. All of these amongst a multitude of other engaging papers on fashion photography, The Sartorialist, Lolita cultures in both Japan and England, and many more. 
I repeat, it was rad.

I also met lots of other really lovely researchers right before I gave away the program with all of their contact details in it (idiot!) so if any of you are reading this, please drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you!

How was Auckland? Auckland was grand. And cold. And hilly. My legs didn't know what had hit them. My tip for you, gentle reader, is head to St Kevin's Arcade and make thee a home there. The coffee shop up the back (Alleluya) is tops- great coffee, mismatched sprawling wooden furniture to cluster around, and a glass window offering a panoramic view of the park leading to downtown Auckland. There are also a heap of vintage stores in there- I found a beautiful vintage gold snake chain and an amazing choker of enormous glazed ceramic beads which makes me feel either like Josephine Baker or that I am wearing a string of gumballs around my neck. 

I then spent the next two weeks tripling the (rather brief) paper into a proper journal article, adding footnotes, writing up a bibliography, adding in-text referencing, reworking my language, drafting new content, changing the footnotes to endnotes, restructuring it, proofreading it, getting feedback from my supervisor and honorary associate supervisor (hey Stell), and retweaking until I got to the point where I was agonising over whether apostrophes go before or after quotation marks. But it was worth it, utterly worth it, because now I have a lovely chunk of writing done as well as my first (impending) publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal! Which is a huge deal/honour/delight. I may or may not have loudly and excitedly exhaled in the ARC when I got the acceptance email. (Loudly exhaling is all you can get away with in the ARC before someone leaves you a passive aggressive note. We're a highly strung lot.)

So then I was off to Adelaide. I had been pulling 18 hour days to get the article done (in between starting a new job on campus and being inducted as one of the editors of a student literary journal) so hadn't really done much towards this paper before I got on the plane. I had brainstormed, had a great chat with Stella (thus why she is my honorary associate supervisor), and pulled every relevant article from the folders of research I did last year, but as of getting on the plane, my paper constituted of a few PowerPoint slides and a blathering 1000 words that spoke more of my mental exhaustion than the sociality and identity of girls on the style blogosphere (snazzy title, eh?) Luckily, I had an hour and a half of enforced sitting in that tiny JetStar seat and so wrote most of the darn thing then and there. Tweaked it on Thursday. Listened to brilliant talks all day Friday. Presented Saturday. 

The conference was Consoleing Passions, a feminist new media conference that was brilliant and lovely. There was such a friendly vibe to it, and the audiences were engaged and full of good questions for each speaker. I've heard horror stories of audience members ripping presentations to shreds, or using their "question" to talk about their own research, but that couldn't have been further from the case here. I came out feeling proud to be a feminist and proud to be a woman, and more convinced of why it is important for women to consider the ways in which who we are and what we do are represented and valued (or not valued) in the public sphere. I think this is something I need to think more about before trying to articulate, but for now let me say that if you think 'feminist' is an outdated or shameful claim to make about yourself or that "the struggle is over", let me strongly encourage you to think again.

So now I'm back in Sydney and my workload has simmered down. I'm currently writing the Benjamin-inspired beginning of my PhD for something fun before I return to the work I just did at the conferences, which will become chapters one and two  of my thesis.

In other news, I'm obsessed with tangerine coloured nail polish. I'm fairly certain that this image has everything to do with it:

 We're practically the same person.


  1. So happy that you made it to St Kevin's Arcade - that place is always my first shopping stop when I get to Auckland.

    Also, Yas is right about you and TTH - perhaps it's the similar skin tone too?

  2. O, you! I went to every place you recommended Kayla! Including that vintage shop on Ponsonby Rd and Paperbag Princess. Classic.