There’s really only one way to view art….and that’s slowly.
A wonderful video installation called Slow Dancing is now running at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. Five second clips of dancers in action (ballet, tap, flamenco, break dancing, capoeira, etc) have been slowed down to last between eight and 12 minutes. Because they are shot in high-definition, that means you can watch a single strand of hair fly through the air or a gesture ripple through a hand finger by finger. Some feel this creates a new art form. The dancers feel amazed, perplexed and strangely vulnerable. The curator talks about the beauty unleashed when we decelerate long enough to take in the details: “What the dancers’ being slowed down does is to reveal all of these beautiful, subtle changes in faces and bodies. This camera allows us to read moments that pass so quickly they don’t register.”
I’ve been meaning to write about the link between slowness and art for ages and this blog entry is only a very patchy first volley. I love art, and love wandering round galleries. I don’t paint or sculpt or do anything art-like myself (apart from with my children), but as a writer I know that time is an essential ingredient of the creative act. You don’t hurry Hemingway. You don’t rush Rembrandt. Many works of art can be created quickly, or at least with great dynamism – think of Jackson Pollock attacking the canvas. But others need more time, from conception through to execution. The idea of Slow is rippling through the art world at the moment. Robert Hughes, the doyen of art critics, has called for more Slow Art (clickHERE). The Royal College of Art in London is currently hosting a series of lectures on slowness (I gave one of them) and you can find out more by clickingHERE. Almost every week I hear of another exhibition somewhere in the world organized round the theme of slowness. One example is the Plymouth Arts Centre in Devon, England. A group of artists and art dealers in New York has even signed a Slow Art Manifesto. This debate raises some fascinating questions, starting with: What exactly is slow art? Sadly I don’t have time to answer that right now because I have to get back to writing my next book, but I will be returning to this theme again. And I welcome any thoughts you want to share on the subject…
Don’t be alarmed by the time on this blog entry. I am in London and it is the middle of the night but this nocturnal burst of writing is not the beginning of a descent into workaholism. I’m just jet-lagged. We returned yesterday from a long (and very happy) holiday in Canada and my body is still on Prairie time. So rather than toss and turn for hours on end, I figured I’d start on one of my resolutions for 2007: to spend more time with my blog. The first observation of the new year comes from our journey home. Two years ago I wrote a long piece about the joys of Slow for EnRoute, the inflight magazine of Air Canada. This month, EnRoute has a cover story entitled “Why Fast Is Good” or “Éloge De La Vitesse.” It’s a hymn to the joys of speed. The writer starts off lamenting that “Slow gets all the buzz” and then goes on to sing the praises of taking a high-velocity approach to everything from the arts to food to exercise. The paradox, of course, is that the whole feature is just further proof that the Slow movement is on the rise and that the forces of speed are on the defensive. And not surprisingly much of what EnRoute says makes sense. Just as there are moments that call for slowness, there are also times when switching into hare mode is the best policy. In fact, some of the pro-speed trends touted by EnRoute sound perfectly reasonable to me – high-quality fast-food and environmentally-friendly hybrid cars with a bit of oomph are two that spring to mind. Then again, others sound just downright silly. A drive-thru art exhibition, anyone?