By Laura Denning, Bath Spa University
It was a great honour to be invited to take part in the Anda VI international conference at University of Udine,19-21 april 2017: Living together on this earth – eco-sustainable narratives and environmental concerns in english literature/s. As a PhD student in Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University, in my first year of study, it was the first time I presented a paper at conference (though my work is screened often, at conferences, exhibitions and elsewhere).
Speakers and contributors had come from all over the world – many from Italy, but also others from as far afield as the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Session themes included The Ecological Disaster as a Cultural and Spiritual Crisis, Transformative Interconnections between Human and Non-Human: for an Ethics of Care, Un/Belonging to the Land: Unsettlement and Displacement, Environmental Consciousness: A Holistic Relationship with Landscape and others. My presentation was part of a session entitled Environmental In/Justice through Female Eco-narratives. I was nervous, my presentation was the very last one at the end of a full day, and so I made a last minute decision to read half my paper and screen half of my latest film – Liquid Mimesis’ – a decision that seemed to go down well. There were questions afterwards, which I hoped I answered fully but succinctly.
I learned a great deal from the experience: On a practical level, in an international context, speak slowly, clearly, and to the entire room. On a general level, even if the presentations don’t immediately marry with your own research interests, there will be insights and overlaps that will take you by surprise. And on a specific level I came away clear that it was time to ‘park’ the foundational theories I was hiding behind, to make concrete the relationships between theoretical insight and creative practice, and to de-clutter my language of terms which don’t travel.
I made some great new friends, not least two colleagues also at Bath Spa University, and had invitations for future collaborations which I shall definitely be taking up.
I trained as a painter and now use moving image. I also work with sound, and am particularly interested in site, data and sensation. All my work focuses upon water. I am the recipient of the 2016 Bath Spa University Research Centre for Environmental Humanities inaugural PhD Studentship – practice-led.