Kathryn Cutler-Mackenzie, who is in 4th year of the Fine Art - MAFA programme at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), was invited to speak at the International Euroacademia Conference in Venice in January 2020. The conference, now in its 8th year, was originally founded in Vienna, Paris, Lucca and Brussels, and aims to become a hub for academic interaction on and about Europe.

In this article, Kathryn tells us about the experience of visiting Venice to present the research.

In December I applied to the 8th International Euroacademia Conference, not really expecting to be accepted, as they were running a panel on Art History and Identity Making Practices. This was a topic that I was writing about for one of my courses. When I received confirmation later that month that I had been accepted, I was excited and a bit nervous to present my ideas to an audience of developed thinkers in my field and beyond.

My paper was entitled ‘The Monstrous Woman Goes Grey: Film, Performance and Feminism’, and looked at the role that cinema has played in constructing an idealised female identity over the last century. I focussed on two performance artists, the International Institute for Important Items and Suzanne Lacy, who both use the image of the monstrous woman to offer new ways of understanding ageing, time and identity as multiplicity.

Overall the conference was very diverse, allowing free-flowing thinking across disciplines, but I found it to be a bit of an endurance test. We listened, questioned and conversed from 8:30am to 7pm for two full days…exhausting! I particularly enjoyed meeting thinkers who were also using cinema to approach historic narratives, as this isn’t a part of my course at Edinburgh, but I also enjoyed being challenged because this helped to solidify my own beliefs.

Unfortunately I was a bit pushed for time, because the conference took place during the second week of term, but I did get to visit Saint Mark’s Square and to eat my fair share of pasta. Walking the city was great fuel for my art practice.

Overall, I felt very confident leaving the conference because I realised that a lot of the daunting aura surrounding academia is down to the nerves and adrenaline that fuel the conference in the daytime. It was quite a macho environment, so I reckon that I will be a bit more choosy in the future about events and conferences that I attend, but at the core I think that most people just wanted to try out ideas and get some new perspectives on their topic.

Next time, I think that I will be more of a story teller. My favourite papers were the presentations where we got lost in the narrative of the historian - critical and perceptive but acutely aware of the specificity and obscurity of their topic outside of their discipline. They really set the scene, a skill that I can develop in my future writing.

In brief, totally worth it but a full body commitment.

Are you interested in studying Fine Art - MA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art?