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Not Belonging

ISEA 2008. I am one of the presenters. Of course I am terribly happy, not to mention proud to be here. But…

There was this art opening, artists-in-labs, this evening. Why do I have this feeling of not belonging? I do belong! I submitted a paper, which underwent a juried and competitive process, at the end of which I was accepted to be here. All fair and square. Furthermore, there are plenty of people here that I know already: Some colleagues from my PhD program, also colleagues from elsewhere, two of my PhD tutors and of course lovely Nina Czegledy, who is such a warm associate to have. It is not like I am forced to stand alone in a sea of strangers. Admittedly when I first started to do this sort of thing 3 years ago, that first time at Siggraph for instance, that was exactly what it was like… But nowadays I seem to have earned my laurels somehow. In fact, tomorrow I will be one of the moderators in the Leonardo Education Forum. So what the hell is wrong with me? Why do I feel so uncomfortable, so ill at ease, so displaced? Why am I so dreadfully unhappy in any kind of crowd that involves more people than you can seat comfortably around a medium sized table? Especially a crowd such as the one that was there tonight?

It was lovely. In this really lovely building, with a huge courtyard. There was freshly squeezed juice and a wonderful buffet dinner. And orchids. Singapore is full of them. They grow here like geraniums elsewhere. Still I left while the whole thing was in full swing. Scarpered out in sheer agony and walked back to my hotel. I went through what I guess was one of Singapore’s hip neighborhoods. Loved it. Sat in a cafe all by myself and had a Diet Coke. It was crowded of course, but as long as I don’t know any of the people, as long as I am anonymous, crowds are perfectly OK. So, I feel comfortable in a crowd of people, unknown to me, halfway across the globe, that speak a language I have no idea about? So why is it that I feel completely displaced, miserable and heart achingly lonely in a crowd of my own peers?



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