Digital Culture, Media Industries

Besides the Screen 2020 Online Festival

Dr Virginia Crisp

2020 was supposed to be a big year for the network I co-founded with Dr Gabriel Menotti,  Besides the Screen. To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the network, we had events planned in Brazil, China, Portugal, Italy, Germany and the UK throughout the year. We were also looking forward to the publication of the fourth edited collection to be born out of network activities, and the launch of a new multi-lingual open access online journal. Needless to say, things did not go entirely as planned.

The network has always had an international focus, starting out as an explicit attempt to build research connections between the UK and Brazil, hosting conferences alternately in both countries and producing edited collections in both English and Portuguese. Indeed, the co-founder and I have often noted our amazement that we have managed to co-ordinate the network from different sides of the world for such a long time whilst also remarking that such an endeavour would have been considerably harder even a decade before. Thus, in some ways we thought we were well-equipped to continue with some network activities online even though everything we had planned had to be radically rethought. Indeed, on the one hand, we had always heavily relied upon online technologies to facilitate the running of the network, but on the other, we needed to also enable meaningful academic interactions across time zones, differing levels of internet access, and the many extra commitments and concerns our participants might have during these difficult times.

Some things were just delayed a little, the edited collection, Practices of Projection: Histories and Technologies, was finally published in June and it contains many fantastic contributions from network colleagues from around the world. In a way, we were lucky because the collection was all set to be published in March and so there has only really been a small delay in publication. I am only sad that we have not been able to talk about the book at various events over the summer to celebrate the work of all of the chapter authors. Having said that, had there been much more work to do to get the book ready for publication, the delay would have undoubtedly been much longer. The journal too, is still happening, but those working on this project have (like so many others right now) found their lives dominated by increasing workload and stress levels (amongst many other things) meaning that all non-priority tasks are taking a back seat at the moment. Without going into too much detail on this important issue at the moment, as has been mentioned in UK publications such as the Times Higher and The Guardian, this has disproportionately affected female academics.

Indeed, the experience of lockdown is being seen to increase inequality in multiple ways. Even as a white academic working on a full-time permanent contract at an elite UK institution I am feeling these burdens acutely whilst being strongly aware that my own experiences are at the very tip of a very large iceberg.

Nonetheless, thanks to the tireless work of my network colleagues (I can personally take very little credit for all of this), the series of events we had planned became, in part, the Besides the Screen 2020 Online Festival. There was an amazing online conference from 22 – 24 July organised by my network colleagues Ana Carvalho, Inês Guerra and Célia Vieira at ISMAI, Portugal and the screening programme curated by Gabriel Menotti and intended to be hosted in Brazil in the Spring has been re-curated and organised by Menotti and is now hosted on the network’s Youtube channel.

I volunteered to write this post some time ago and many thanks to the microsite editors for being so incredibly patient with me over the last few months. The reason I have persevered with this when so many other things have had to be de-prioritised right now, is that I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate my network colleagues and the incredible work they have done in making the Besides the Screen 2020 Festival happen. If you check out the conference programme you can link through to the pre-recorded papers and see their respective abstracts or you can go straight to be YouTube Playlist. Similarly, you can see the festival screening programme on YouTube direct and/or see full details on the website. The online version of the conference exhibition was also reconfigured into a series of artists talks and links to their work.

I want to wholeheartedly thank the organisers, panellists, artists and other contributors who all played their part in bringing this year’s anniversary events online. There are some wonderful talks and artworks still available to view as part of the festival so do please check them out if you can!