My last entry of 6 Días in Mexico is being written on Día 7, on the train back to Cornwall from Heathrow airport. The flight back from Mexico City was very busy but thankfully shorter than the 13 hours it took to travel out. However, getting stuck at Plymouth because of a broken down train on the line somewhere in Cornwall meant I was put in a taxi to finish the trip. Another triumph for First Great Western.
Friday evening when I gave my talk at Kosmica things couldn’t have gone better. The final day took place in the Laboratorio Arte Alemeda which was a gallery with several spaces all being used by Kosmica. The main area had a stage set up in the corner with seating for about 150 people and a projector set up on the side for the presentations. Because of yesterday’s cancellation there was a full programme of short films, music, and academic talks. Once I got set up I was feeling pretty confident but was still a little concerned that my emphasis on the nuances of language and imagery to create gendered meaning might be a little esoteric. I need not have worried. The audience all seemed very engaged getting the underlying irony I attempt to assert. Some interesting questions were asked about how shifts in social context could affect identity politics in the future and various people came up afterwards to ask further questions and chat. In general everyone was in credibly generous and even thanked me just for turning up.
Going to Kosmica has only instilled my own interest in the necessity of academic public engagement and given me further inspiration and ideas about how I might do that in the future. I fancy cutting together a 20minute film on the history of Sci-Fi and narrating to it while it plays. The academic presentation is such a rigid structure a times and I think it can be utilised in a more creative way. Once my talk was done I could then relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. I had gotten to know some of the other speakers over the week and it was great to see such interesting and diverse work being discussed in one forum. I had no idea that there was such an intensely passionate space art community who are doing some extra-ordinary work that is actually integrated with both the American and Russian space programmes. I felt I had to apologise for the fact that all I know about space comes from films and books – however that was the point of my talk so it’s ok. At dinner afterwards I got a chance to speak with everyone properly as I had been somewhat anti-social in the previous days with the other work commitments I was focusing on. I was glad I got to know Nahum, the conference organiser, over the last few days. A talented and charismatic guy who has done some amazing work in the past as well as curating huge events all over the world. He would be great to get down to Falmouth for a guest lecture. The group were talking about holding Kosmica in Montreal next year – it would be really great to attend out in Canada and perhaps even try to indulge in some kind of artistically inspired talk.
Even though Saturday had been late I still got up early determined to have a full day before flying back in the evening. It was a beautiful morning and I walked out once again to Centro Historico but stopped off in the Jardin de Santiago and read some more of The Underdogs thinking that the tranquillity of the warm sunshine belied the revolutionary tale of Mexico and the protests that permeated the street only two days earlier. On a more superficial level it was nice to enjoy the weather before coming back to Blighty. I had lunch with Carrie Paterson who is an American artist and publisher who, the previous night, presented a paper on using scents to help astronauts cope psychologically with space travel. She had a really interesting background and I was flattered that she wanted me to contribute a piece to one of the magazines she publishes in the States. Such dialogues are often the most enjoyable parts of conferences – moving away from the structure of the conference itself and finding out what makes people tick. We had a long debate about the tension between the work one wants to do and the work one has to do. Both academics and artists have to trade off between the two and thinking about this made me realise that I am in a fortunate position right now where the trade off is working for me.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the liminal space between melancholia (from having to leave) and contentment (to be able to return home). Hotel lobbies and airport lounges somehow seem to psychologically amplify these feelings – they are spaces of transition where you are essentially killing time before moving on. The week has been really enlightening, enjoyable, particularly productive in terms of speaking in front of a different kind of audience at Kosmica and with the unforeseen diversion into Mexican politics. Hopefully, I will be back in Mexico at some point to further soak up the fascinating culture and society.