Nicole thanks Semi-Permanent volunteer and attendee Natalie Perkins* for this guest post. Semi-Permanent hit Brisbane on Wednesday, and I was lucky enough to grab a ticket in return for volunteering to pack the swag bags. This gave me the opportunity to see how the event was organised, as well as participating as an audience member. I left the conference full of ideas and inspiration, but I also left carrying a semi-permanent reminder of the awful seating at the Brisbane Convention Centre!
What was good was great!
The speakers were generally fabulous and were very relevant to my own area of art/ design practice. The standout speaker for me was Timba Smits, who is an absolute juggernaut of motivation, inspiration and hard work. I did a recap of Semi-Permanent on my own blog, and went into further detail on my favourite presenters
As a volunteer and a member of the audience, I was impressed with the organisation of the whole shebang. My fellow swag packers were design students from the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, and we all worked together as some kind of fabulous packing contraption to pack over 700 bags in around 2 hours. During that time I noticed that Sasha, our humble volunteer herder and conference organiser, was busily organising all the other aspects of the day. I didn't see any dramas, everything looked under control! As a volunteer this was heartening, but as an audience member it's even more meaningful because you want to know that the conference you're attending is credible and well-oiled and valuable!
What could have been done better?
Overall, the day felt a little bit like being in a full day of lectures at uni or TAFE. It was hard on the butt for a few reasons! The speakers did go overtime which meant that our breaks were sacrificed. Obviously if you get passionate people speaking about their creative practices, they're going to go overtime. I don't know if the scarce break syndrome was due to Brisbane's Semi-Permanent being crammed into only one day, but I beg the organisers - can we graduate to a two day event next year?!
Extending the format over two days would mean that other interactive activities could be integrated - activities that alleviate the sore butt syndrome, and encourage networking and participation within the audience! I would love to see micro-activities between organiser-audience, speaker-audience, audience-audience that allow everyone to mingle and move their limbs and make connections.
Another bummer was to do with access to food/ drinks and the scarcity of time available to access those things. The convention centre has a Subway right across the road, and Melbourne St and it's various delicious edibles about 5 minutes walk away. The shortened lunch break meant that people were scrambling to get fed and watered, and liberate their bladders! Can we integrate some kind of in-house munching experience? This would also enhance networking and community-making.
My last beef is with the swag bags themselves. I was a little horrified to see the amount of useless bits of paper in the bags. Can we rethink the concept of the swag bag for next year, so it's inline with eco-design considerations? As a print designer, I'm already painfully aware of how much paper waste my practice produces. As an artist, I try to incorporate salvaged and reclaimed paper stock into my work as a way of off-setting my paper wasting ways. There are a bunch of smart and innovative people behind and around Semi-Permanent - this could be something that is solved in a really interesting way: through smarter packaging ideas, and encouraging sponsors to promote their products in more creative ways.
What downright sucked
THE SEATS. I will preface this by saying that I am fat, like a lot of people. I ended up with a bruise on my hip because of the stingy seating at the Brisbane Convention Centre. It made me think about how boring the venue choice was for such a creative industry. I absolutely abhor having to sit still for eight hours and it’s not just because I have a slamming booty. Do we need to sit in stadium seating? Is there any other way of holding a creative conference?
What I find value in
As a conference attendee, I find value in the following things:
- Networking/ rapport building amongst local industry people
- Professional development - time management, industry insider tips, etc.
- Kick-arse speakers
- Access to limited edition stuff
Semi-Permanent Brisbane met most of these criteria. I did manage to do a small amount of networking (amazing considering the amount of free time was miniscule!) and I was impressed with the speakers. I would like to see more practical topics discussed - many creative people get too caught up in the creative process and neglect the management facet of their practice so I think it would be incredibly valuable to learn how other creatives do administrative stuff in an innovative way. I will be anticipating the conference next year, if just to see how many of the issues from this year are addressed. Until then, I'll be icing my bruised hip and drawing... always with the drawing!
**Natalie is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator who doesn’t really like talking in the third person. Her personal illustrative work deals in symbolism, appropriation, the feminine, detachment and obsessive compulsion. Her proudest achievements include being on the verge of completing a double degree in visual arts and education for nearly a decade, being a housewife who can only bake cupcakes and making her debut on the Brisbane emerging arts scene this year by appearing in the Semi Permanent 2009 book and getting an invite to her first group show at KILN in July. Her work is currently showing until early May at KILN's Works on Paper exhibition.