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Paradox in Granada

02 July 2010

Loosing your luggage is never a good way to start a meeting overseas but such is life. After 13 hours traveling, including a delayed flight from Heathrow, I was checking into the hotel without my bag, which was probably languishing somewhere in Madrid. What was surprising was the 'mater-of-fact'ness with which the Iberian staff in Granada treated the 6 travelers from the same flight in the same situation, as if it was only to be expected! Later that evening, during a stroll into town, I bumped into Kevin Atherton (Dublin) and Christine Pybus (Cork) - what are the chances of that in the crowed streets of a major city...

Day 1

The first meeting wasn’t scheduled until late afternoon, which gave us time to explore the town during the day. Despite our host leaving each of us a full conference-type bag of goodies at the hotel reception we still weren’t quite sure of where we were going. So meeting at reception meant at least we’d all get lost together. As it happened, Isidro Lopez-Aparico (Granada) met us half way across Fuente del Triunfo and led us to our meeting point. Juhani Jarvinen (Lahti) was already there and before too long we were joined by Maia Mancuso and Maria-Antonietta Malleo (Palermo). Sean Cummins (Nottingham) and Enrique Martinez Leal (Cuenca) and Ana Garcia Lopez (Granada) complete the steering group for this meeting … time for business.

The agenda for the first day was to focus on Paradox’s input to the Nantes biennial and the relationship between ELIA and Paradox. The second day would focus on preparations for the next Paradox conference in Cork, 2011.

A lot of discussion had taken place during the last meeting in London in March but the resultant proposal for the biennial ‘discipline session, for whatever reason, had been rejected. Disappointing … but following further discussions with coordinators in Porto at the Artesnet meeting and Basle at Art Basle will have an input to the new theme of ‘Fine Art and Curation’. And there will be a fringe session that Paradox can be fully responsible for. This will have 4 main points: to introduce Paradox to ELIA members who don’t already know it, to review the conference in Palermo (Sept 2009), to extend an invitation to the next conference in Cork (Oct 2011) and to seek active support from members for the steering group and specific roles that need filling.

It doesn’t seem much to take up 4 hours of meeting time but its surprising how much complex detail there is behind those simple points – details which I will not go into here. Suffice to say, perhaps, that Paradox is determined that conference sessions etc should not be dry presentations of research or good practice. One of the defining characteristics of Palermo was the incorporation of students and the proactive involvement of delegates. As most of us are active artists shouldn’t our meetings reflect the vibrant nature of our practices? To be visually interesting if nothing else! Watch out for interventions in Nantes.

The hospitality of the Faculty of Fine Art extended late into the night. Isidro led our little group on a long, meandering climb through the winding lanes of the old Islamic area. Breathtaking views and numerous photo opportunities. Eventually we end up at the locked gate of what seems to be a private garden. In fact it is a restaurant and we have a table on a terrace looking across to the floodlit Alahambra palace. From below rises the sound of a male voice choir entertaining other guests. Dinner tastes so much better when you’ve got your bags back and had a change of clothes J The University actually owns this restaurant … how about that for ‘diversification’ and ‘3rd stream income’?

Day 2

Building on decisions from yesterday today is all about Cork. There’s a long day ahead so we start over breakfast at the hotel for variety before returning to the boardroom of Granada University’s Quality Department. Again, lots of detailed discussion with results distilled into key points. The date is set for 9 & 10 Sep 2011 with possibly a reception on the evening of the 8th. A planning meeting is to take place over 5 & 6 next May.

One of the key issues is how to maintain and build upon the momentum of Palermo without running the risk of simply repeating that event and those discussions – we have to be able to move on productively. Nor should we forget the original Nantes proposal or what might be raised there. The theme ‘City/Education/Artist’ will be retained and neatly dovetails with education/curator theme of Nantes. What is the responsibility of the art school toward the student after graduation? What is the relationship between the art school and the city and art galleries? Like many contemporary art schools Cork now boasts a gallery space, which will be at the disposal of the conference. This will lend a specifically Cork/Irish context to the proceedings.

One of the criticisms of Palermo was that there were too many lengthy breakouts with delegates split about which to choose and the summaries didn’t do justice to the discussions. Though these will be followed up they will not be allowed to dominate the event. What should be retained is an active engagement of the delegates and their feeling of ‘ownership’ of the conference. It is hoped that a wide range of Institutions will be represented with the promotional assistance of ELIA office and the Nantes biennial.

All this was surrounded by discussion of the growing importance of art research, development of a new website, retention of the archive, email facility, steering group responsibilities and the need for a new kind of charter as opposed to a formal constitution. Phew! Somehow all of this needs to be formalized and disseminated to the wider membership. (Good luck guys!)

Of course, lunch had to take a prominent position in the afternoon. Purely by coincidence the restaurant table next to ours was occupied by a large group of children who were also in the same hotel. It turns out these a group of orphans who ‘sing’ the Spanish lottery results! I don’t about their singing but, boy, can they eat! The afternoon’s work had a logical deadline – the Spanish match against Chile in the world cup. We never did work out if the group of girls in the bar were confused by the red shirts or were they really Chile supporters. Either way, the result was secure by half-time so off we went to the late-night tour of Alhambra Place. At the palace we felt collectively under-dressed as we mingled with crowds in their Friday finery – but they were headed for an exclusive concert of music elsewhere in the palace. I’m not going to even begin to describe the palace, just go and see for yourself (but try and avoid tourist time).

And that was the end of a long, intense and productive couple of days work. If you want to know more there’s only one way … get yourself to Nantes and book a place for Cork!

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