Week 5: June 11 – June 17, 2017
We have finally arrived at the most important week of my internship. Over 110 participants will be arriving in Belgium to participate in our 3-day conference. Also, my parents will be coming as well (but they’re mostly here for the conference).
Both of my bosses were out of the office today running errands for final preparation work so I decided to work from home. I spent the morning finalizing our website (http://www.ddtconference.org), adding participant’s biographies and proof-reading our program. Then at 16:00 (I’ve converted to the European way of time-telling) I headed to the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Antwerp, where our exhibition is located, for a debriefing meeting about the conference. The second and third day of the conference will be held within the exhibition. We discussed mostly logistics with the museum staff on what to expect, what we need, and the layout of the conference.
Today was an errand day for me. I biked around the city of Antwerp making trips to the print shop, art supplies store, and the museum. Then I spent the entire afternoon making personalized name badges for each of our participants. It was a VERY eventful day.
I spent another day running errands for the conference–I won’t bore you with the details. In the afternoon, I took a tram to the office to meet my bosses to drive to Brussels. Tonight, we are hosting a Pre-Conference dinner for participants that arrived a day early. The restaurant that we were supposed to eat at back out on their offer so we had to scramble for a new location. In the end, we had a friend cater for us in the partner-hotel’s breakfast lounge. It was great meeting all the participants that I have been emailing back and forth in real life, as well as many top experts in the field of Futures Studies. I have a feeling that the next 3 days will be a lot of fun.
The conference has begun! The first day is at a professional meeting centre in Brussels. Here we will be hosting our keynote speaker, our panelists, as well as breakout sessions where individuals can present their findings or ideas. From this point onwards, I am mostly focusing on the creative portion of the conference. Running around with my camera, I try to capture as much of the buzzing energy as I possibly can. We were extremely understaffed. When many professionals who have had experience planning big conferences, they couldn’t believe that we were only a team of 3. Therefore, I was often interrupted by participants asking questions about the conference when I really should be focusing on my video work. After what seemed like eternity, we loaded everyone onto a bus and drove to our next city, Antwerp. At night, I was finally able to catch up with my parents over dinner (I haven’t seen them in 6 months).
The advantage of hosting the second and third day of the conference in Antwerp was that the organizers lived here. I felt a lot more relaxed waking up in my own bed, biking to the museum, and grabbing a coffee on the way. However, this feeling did not last long, as I was plunged into chaos once I arrived at the museum. It was easier to document the event at the museum because, having our exhibition here, I was already familiar with the layout and the personnels. I was even given an access badge to enter the museum’s office areas which was extremely helpful. We had to
start the event late because too many of our participants wandered off into our exhibition. They were extremely intrigued by the work that we did and wanted to learn more about it right away. The rest of the day ran very smoothly and many of us decided to have dinner together. At the dinner, I was really able to connect with the participants for (hopefully) future collaborations.
The final day of the conference. The third day of the program consists of only 7 presentations. This is because today was sectioned off as an open space time where participants can explore the exhibition, speak with the artists, or ttend workshops. I caught many of the participants and regular museum-goers taking pictures of my artwork. It was the perfect opportunity for me to get feedback on my work. This past week, it felt like time slowed down and dragged on for a long time. However, at the farewell party, the entire conference felt like a blur and there were still so many participants that I wanted to connect with. We (my bosses and I) got a lot of positive feedback on this new approach to a conference by combining it with the exhibition and creating a hybrid. But I’m still very much looking forward to having the next few days off.