There's an article in today's Toronto Star about a restaurant that runs an intellectual salon four times a year. In some ways, this is similar to conferences which have sprung up all over the place. Probably the most well-known is the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
In many ways, these things strike me as elitist and self-aggrandizing. If these people were really interested in ideas more than status, creature comforts and networking opportunities, they'd be willing to meet in a suburban high school gym and lunch on baloney sandwiches.
Within the animation field, there are conferences like Kidscreen and festivals like Ottawa that serve some of the functions. Kidscreen is very much a business conference and Ottawa very much a film festival, though it runs the Television Animation Conference as a sidebar event.
I wonder, though, if it's possible (or desirable) to run an animation salon. Perhaps it would degenerate into the same elitism and networking that plague other events ("As I was saying to Jeffrey Katzenberg before Brad Bird cut me off...") but maybe it would present an opportunity for artists to inspire and challenge each other.
Animation as a medium is constrained by the economics of film, TV, games and the internet. There's no shortage of articles and commentary on economics' effect on animation. The blogosphere is as close as we've come to an aesthetic discussion and maybe, because of the democratic nature of the net, that's the way to go. However, there's something to be said for the hothouse approach of putting a lot of people in a room and seeing if influences spread or minds get changed. Even if they don't, I still think there's some educational value there.
It may be happening in the schools. It's not happening in my classroom because I'm so focused on delivering the curriculum. Students are always declaring their likes and dislikes to each other, but are they attempting to defend their positions or just assert them?
And professionally, do these discussions lead to changes or are the economic and market constraints so tight that discussions are just a way of blowing off steam before heading back to the same old same-old?
If we're prisoners of the market, does a salon have any value? If we're prisoners of the market, maybe a salon is a way to try and get free.