Sunday, July 29, 2007

Americans in the Netherlands

I met quite a few Americans while in the Netherlands; that by itself isn't so surprising but I was startled at how many were from Californian universities, mostly the UC. At New Network Theory, Alan Liu from UC Santa Barbara spoke, and Ramesh Srinivasan from UCLA (discussed in my last post), and Warren Sack from UC Santa Cruz--there may have been others too. Then at Remediating Literature, Katherine Hayles, also from UCLA, gave a keynote. Apparently I need to go to another country to meet fellow Californian faculty. Well, I could make some kind of snide comment except I also met Nanette Wylde from California State University, Chico. She was very pleasant and is doing some very interesting work. I didn't realize it at first, but she's part of the group that created Meaning Maker, which I love. The conference edition is hilarious, and bitingly accurate. So I was actually rather thrilled to meet one of the creators, and to find out she is also at a branch of the CSU.

In addition to all the Californians, I also met Renee Turner, who originally hailed from Texas, but has been in the Netherlands for at least 10 years, I think. I mentioned her weeks ago now, but never got back to really describing her work or our meeting. Renee was making a presentation at Remediating Literature about A Seance with Guy Debord, one of the projects by De Geuzen (the three-woman artist collective of which she's a member). This was more a performance than an academic paper; I wished the panel had focused on that exclusively so we had more time for discussion. (Not that the other papers weren't interesting as well!)

Anyway, even before I saw her panel, Renee and I happened to start chatting during one of the tea breaks, and really hit it off. W e turned out to know some people in common because she has worked in the past (and will again come Sept.) for the Piet Zwart Institute and also just because she's been in the Netherlands since the early 90s. So she very kindly gave me the scoop on some people I'd met only recently on this trip, and we hung out quite a bit between sessions and during meals. I was really impressed to hear about how she balances her own artistic work with new pursuits in creative writing, along with her teaching. She doesn't have (or want) a steady connection with any of the schools at which she has taught, and that struck me, because it's so different from what I've chosen, which is is a pretty traditional journey down the tenure track. If I were single, with no kids, maybe I would feel able to take a less certain path, but Renee has a child, so I think she must be just more adventurous, or less risk-averse, or something. Anyway, I admire it.

--That's not to say I want to trade; I'm actually pretty amazed at well things are going for me at the moment. As grad student I sometimes felt I was most talented at getting in my own way, and for the past 12 months I've seemed to avoid my usual self-entrapments. I only hope I don't have a relapse!

After this conference was over, Renee and I connected again in Rotterdam, where it turns out she lives. We went to the Euromast tower, which is weird and campy, but does have a really nice view of the city. Renee was also nice enough to give me some chocoladehagl (chocolate sprinkles) to take home for my kids. These are a traditional Dutch condiment for breakfast toast, and of course the kids loved it. (And got really hyper!) So thanks to Renee for being so friendly and also interesting. I'm looking forward to doing some work with De Geuzen, related to their Female Icons project, because in addition to all the tech-y academic stuff I do, I also am a comic book fan and write about those quite a lot. More on that when it gets sorted out.

And now, off to a meeting about the next few grants I'll be writing. --It may sound boring, but it's a welcome interruption from the revisions to a book chapter I'm forcing myself through...

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