Home » In Praise of a Slow Art Movement

In Praise of a Slow Art Movement

One more thought on the link between religion and art, which I blogged about HERE. This comes from a fascinating CBC radio podcast with religious scholar (and 2008 TED Prize winner) Karen Armstrong. Listen to the podcast, a must for artists (I think) HERE.

Image: mimenta.com

In it, she argues that religion, in order to be successful, demands action. Specifically, it demands putting the practice of compassion – towards everyone – into our daily life.

What I found interesting is that she goes on to talk about the cave paintings in Lascaux as the first record of human ideas, and that religion’s logic is more akin to art in that it is something that must be experienced, that cannot be put into words.

Mark Lewis, still from Rush Hour, Morning and Evening, Cheapside, 2005. 35mm film. Image: fillip.ca

Compassion is when you try to put yourself into the experience of the Other, and as she says, “to dethrone yourself from the centre of your world.

This is why great art isn’t about the artist, or a conceptual joke, it’s about a feeling that is impossible to express in words.  Just like great dance, great music or great architecture. And that’s the difference between the average and the truly great.

Paul Klee, The Red Balloon, 1922. Image: artsmarttalk.com

Of course, today’s world is too fast-paced for contemplative religion. Armstrong’s point is that religious insight comes from consistent practice.  It’s a deliberate action that takes years of practice and discipline and it’s not easy.  It’s the same with art. There should be a slow art movement, the way we have a slow food movement.“Slow Food believes in recognizing the importance of pleasure connected to food. We should learn to enjoy the vast range of recipes and flavors, recognize the variety of places and people growing and producing food. We should respect the rhythms of the seasons and conviviality.”

The art world would be a better place, too if things slowed down a little.

8 Responses to “In Praise of a Slow Art Movement”

  1. CB says:

    A recent investigation into relationships between art and slowness took place at Centre A in Vancouver:


    Also a link to Lorna Brown’s Time Library, an ongoing project from this exhibition:


  2. EC says:

    You say, “today’s world is too fast for contemplative practice”……in fact today is the only time any practice works, as action happens in the present. Therefore I think there is in today’s world an enormous growing awareness of the powerful potential of the “now”, and the fantastic results that follow! EC

  3. Val Nelson says:

    Love your comment that art is “a feeling that cannot be expressed in words”. You sense when it works, and has staying power.

    Val Nelson

  4. K.I.A. says:

    Slow Is the New Fast (use pause to watch slowly & catch subtitles re:time, or watch fast & just get impressions): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3ctM5o8pJs

  5. Slow food movement, slow art movement…good movements to embrace…but don’t these movements run counter to the world of Twitter (which so many people are jumping onto)??

    Check out some of this Twitter drivel:

    “Um hello? Caffiene? Remember? The rule is i drink you and you make me feel awake? Hello?”

    or how about this from Steven D’Souza at CBC:

    “Dropped my blackberry now have white lines across the screen, can barely read anything. Reboot didn’t fix :(“

  6. kat Citroen says:

    We are probably exposed to more Art in short eye-bytes but I personally need the contemplative moment to digest and process. When I don’t have this moment I feel that I am short-changing the artist .

  7. lonnie mowers says:

    Interestingly, two very slow artists (at least in my mind), On Kawara and Yoko Ono, apparently both post the texts of their art works, date paintings and instructional pieces, on Twitter.

  8. Slow Art Day 2011 is being hosted in over 85 venues world wide on 16th April.

    Slow Art Day, a global annual event run by volunteers, celebrates the joy of looking at art slowly. It was conceived in 2009 by Phil Terry, chair of Reading Odyssey – a New York-based non-profit, in response to research that found people leave galleries tired not inspired – stopping for only 8 seconds to view each art work. The aim is to facilitate personal engagement with art … ‘if you look slowly, your experience will be transformed.’

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