AIMAC 2017

I’m sitting in my Beijing hotel room, after a much needed swim, contemplating heading out into the smoggy, polluted, 34 degree heat of the city.  I’m doing a food tour tonight at 7pm – a wise move as the night time is much nicer than the afternoon – but I know I can’t laze around for a whole day.

There’s no reason for me to write up a report on my AIMAC 2017 experience, it’s not like I have to justify the funds received by UTS *grumble grumble*. But for a long time I saw this conference as the symbolic end to my time in academia, a good bye to the ideas of theory and the networks I’d built over the past 4 years.

Two years ago I sweated it out in 36 degree heat (with much less air conditioning than here) at AIMAC 2015.  You can read about my experiences here, here, here, here and here. (Gee I wrote a lot!)  AIMAC 2015 was a transformative experience for me, in the sense it not only introduced me to a community of academics and friends, but also exposed me to broader academic ideas and behaviours (the good and the bad.)

In some ways AIMAC 2017 could not compete, I am not as ‘young and impressionable’ academically as I was then.  The rude, hierarchical nature of the industry doesn’t surprise me, but is still just as offensive.  I had a groups of ready made friends, especially my current boss from Deakin and those I did the 2015 doctoral symposium with, so I was never without someone to talk to.

This conference for me was really about communicating my research, or a part of it, gauging a reaction and seeing where it might fit in the broader arts management constructs.  After day one I was in some ways a little flat, it didn’t excite me as I’d hoped.  I saw three leadership presentations and they were all very traditional and positivist in nature, which meant I was going to ruffle a few feathers.  It was nice, however, being able to provide advice and guidance to new researchers.  I remembered how I felt coming in two years earlier, so I made a point of offering all the support I could to those at their first academic conference.

Day two and I presented my paper.  I don’t think I presented as well as I would have liked, but it was still good.  Happily the audience loved it and I got a lot of really excellent feedback for the rest of the conference.  Importantly the facilitator, who was the editor of a journal, said he “looked forward to me book” (so do I!) and encouraged me to write up the theories of my work and potentially submit to his journal.  Also, a number of the scientific committee mentioned they had heard good things (even if they didn’t attend the paper) and had read the full submission, suggesting I was on the radar in some way.  I got excellent questions, one from a member of the scientific committee that suggested she agreed with my findings, and all in all I felt really proud.  It made me very focussed on four things: 1. not giving up about publication, 2. potentially, somehow, getting  international research opportunities to do a cross cultural analysis,  3. coming to AIMAC 2019 (which is in VENICE!) and 4. writing a really provocative paper or article on arts leadership theory and it’s need for critical expansion.

I was buoyed by that morning and the conference kicked up a notch for me then.  I saw some really good papers, particularly those that were a call to action about theoretical change. I learned the term “set jetting” as in visiting movie sets as tourism, and discussed post-series depression about the end of Harry Potter. I also met three Melbourne academics (of course) I hadn’t met before who immediately suggested they had work for me and threw business cards my way.  One was from Deakin and the others from Uni Melb, at MBS, which really interests me.

I have a feeling that my future work life might be varied and interesting. A number of opportunities, both academic and non-academic seem to be coming my way. This is exciting.  But it also highlights the role conferences like AIMAC have in building careers, and again raises issues of the economics of academia (as it is not cheap to do these things.)

While I’m not writing a travel post about Beijing on my other blog, or I haven’t planned to, I’ll mention that this has been so far a really easy experience.  I’m in a very nice hotel on the Peking University Campus, within walking distance to all we needed for the conference. All the food has been provided, and has been good to very good, and the hotel pool has been a godsend. Transport, taxis and metro, are great and relatively cheap. If only the weather/pollutions wasn’t so horrendous.

Anne and I did skip one late afternoon session to play hooky and wander through the Nanluogu Xiang, or Drum lane, one of the historical hutong areas. I might dispute it’s historical veracity as I’m pretty sure it was all rebuilt and more Disney than authentic.  But it was fun to be out in the city, get a street made jianbing for dinner and buy knick knacks.  As a group the conference also went to the 798 art district which was great, but I think we needed a day, not 2 hours.  But it’s a design store lovers paradise.

This afternoon I’m heading into Tiananmen Square to wander around, might do an audio tour I have about 1930s Peking, and then I start the eating adventure.  Tomorrow after a late checkout I’m spending my afternoon at the Summer Palace before heading to the airport and home.  (To repack for Europe on Monday!)


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