Yesterday, March 20th, we held The Erotic Cloth Colloquium at the Art Workers Guild in London. The event was a joint initiative with Alice Kettle and originally we had planned it to be an informal, low key and fairly intimate discussion forum with a maximum of 40 attendees. However the number and quality of abstracts we received from our call out ended with our selecting 16 presentations and when the booking form went live all available places were sold within a week. The venue can hold 90 people seated and so we decided to fill the venue and create a different type of 'intimacy'. The full 90 places were taken within 2 weeks with an ever growing waiting list. Registration was scheduled for 10am - 10.30am but almost everyone had arrived by before 10am and the buzz was amazing.
The abstracts sent in covered a great deal of ground and Alice and I tried to make sure the selection was as representative as possible - in terms of disciplines and notions of the erotic - from the art historical to the autobiographical, covering pedagogy, performance and the political. Presenters were drawn from art and design practice and academia. There were also stand-alone video presentations throughout the day, which allowed for a variety of texture. A full programme is at the end of this news entry.
Alice and I had programmed the presentations in groups of 3 with indicative headings to these groupings, and in the event our grouping was very revealing with each presentation throwing a different but linked perspective on the others in that group - which was a great relief for Alice and me. The level of commitment that all the presenters had given to the development of the theme within their own field of interest was remarkable and was met with an equal commitment from the audience. We had asked that people would not leave before the last presentation had been completed and almost everyone remained. And the reward was an extraordinary performance from the dancer Masako Matsushita. See video. The whole audience was absolutely silent throughout; Masako said afterwards that she had never before made this performance to an audience who held her so intensely from start to finish. As one delegate emailed afterwards: "A truly stunning finale, you could have heard a pin drop!"
There were presentations during the day that I will never forget and I am sure it is the same for all of us - and in the same way that what is considered to be erotic differs from person to person, then I imagine that we will all have different 'favourites'. However I think everyone there was totally moved by Professor Catherine Harper's outstanding paper and its delivery.
We are in discussion with a publisher and so this may only be the beginning. As one of the presenters emailed: "It was such an interesting day, with a great range of fascinating - and sometimes unexpected - perspectives on "the eroticism of cloth": long may the discussion continue!"