A + E Conference at the Nevada Museum of Art: Day One

Can a thing be both cuddly and epic? So far, the A + E Conference is. For while the lecture hall at the Nevada Museum of Art is intimate, folks are friendly, and there’s that slight taste of eco-art kumbaya in the air, there’s some giant figures in the room. Chris Jordan is one of them: you’ve seen his photos everywhere. The Harrisons are two more. Greenhouse Britain sums up their combination of systemic thinking and storytelling.  Fritz Haeg and his Edible Estates. Geoff Manaugh of BldgBlog. And while you might be so familiar with the work of the presenters you could have practically done their powerpoints for them, it’s still a bit dizzying. In fact, the lights went out towards the end of the day and a backup generator kicked on. They say it was lightning but I’m betting on a joyous collective mental short-circuiting.

However epic the conference, the issued raised today were not unique. They were issues that might be discussed at a conference about Climate Change and Journalism, for instance. Or a conference about Healthy Parks and Healthy People. Or about Theater and Sustainability. I kinda know because I’ve attended conferences on all those themes in the past year. The issues being raised include: how do we comprehend the vast level of ecological disaster we are now experiencing? How do we organize information in a manner that is digestible, accessible, valid and thought-provoking? How do we culturally deconstruct the paradigms that got us here– especially when we live ‘here’? How do we move forward to create a healthier population and planet?

This speaks more to the level of disciplinary blending and silo-destroying that’s happening all over. In the meantime, there’s no shortage of voices exploring answers, not here, not this weekend. There are three floors of installations and exhibits. There are new books and archives of those exhibits. And there is a whole second day of talks still. More to come, stay tuned. Should be cuddly. And epic.

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