“Curating in an attention deficit”

Todd Smith, Executive Director at the Tampa Museum of Art, recently filmed a video for the Tampa Bay Business Journal on what he’s observed as the change in how people view art. He compares the anachronistic way of focusing intently on one subject that is characteristic of his generation (“vertical” thinking) with the new wave of technologically-centred “horizontal” thinking. This brings to the fore a new challenge for art museums, like the Tampa Museum of Art, in how they educate visitors who are not accustomed to “vertical” or deep thinking. Smith poses the question “what does a museum experience look like, now and going forward for both my generation and older… and the younger generation?”

Smith sees this new way of thinking revolutionizing how museums curate their exhibitions, based on their observations of whether visitors take their time and look at works slowly or if they jump around and “make their own stories”. Smith foresees this adding another dimension to curating, in that “we’ll put the work up and tell our story, but we are interested in what the visitor is making of their own stories about the work,” essentially thinking of the visitor as the curator.

At Slow Art Day we, of course, advocate for a slow looking that fosters the “vertical” or deep thinking cited by Smith. Postulating the visitor as curator has the potential to foster a freer way of thinking that might lead to this kind of deeper, or “vertical”, way, vs. the merely “horizontal”. What do you think?

Host Reports: Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin

[In this series, we will be posting reports from Slow Art Day hosts around the world who held Slow Art Day events on April 27, 2013. This week, we are featuring the Slow Art Day event run by Karen Barrett-Wilt, held at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin]

Hello from Madison WI!

Highlights of our first Slow Art Day included eating lunch outside (Spring is here!), 15 participants, and a great conversation. The conversation required very little facilitating from me. A couple of people had never been to the Chazen Museum of Art, but all were still very willing to talk about their experiences. We had a spirited conversation with a lot of respectful disagreement, which is one thing that I love about art – no one is wrong! I’d like to add my thanks to the organizers – you were incredibly efficient and responsive, and made it all so easy. Thank you!

-Karen

Karen also included a couple of photographs of one of the pieces they viewed at their Slow Art Day, Beth Cavener Stichter’s L’Amante, 2012.

Stichter L'Amante 2

Stichter L'Amante 3

Host Reports: SNAP Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

[In this series, we will be posting reports from Slow Art Day hosts around the world who held Slow Art Day events on April 27, 2013. This week, we are featuring the Slow Art Day event run by blog manager Tori and her partner Chelsey from PrairieSeen, held at SNAP Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada]

Hello all!

Slow Art Day 2013 is sadly over, but we are looking forward to hosting again next year…

Our event (the first in Edmonton!) went very well. We had 12 participants signed up on Eventbrite (including the two hosts) and 18 people who joined the Facebook event. In total we ended up having 8 people altogether; a small group that worked well together in the small space that is SNAP Gallery.

group shot

In the nature of our blog/ website/ open platform whose mandate is to cultivate a discourse about local arts in Edmonton, we had a very informal Slow Art Day. Of course, we told the participants the premise of the event, but left them free to choose their own five works to look at (there are only two exhibition spaces at SNAP, with approximately 10 works in each). Participants thus looked at all of the works, but focused on their choices. We also had the chance to observe open studio at SNAP (which is a print-based gallery and studio), which was great; since printmaking is so technical it was interesting to see how the process works.

We had a really great discussion afterwards over lunch at a delicious local restaurant (of course!) where we talked about slow looking, the work in the exhibitions, arts education, art in Edmonton, working in galleries, going to galleries etc. We had great feedback, took a small album of photos, and hope to meet again in the future before the next Slow Art Day (hopefully with even more participants!)

Tori and Chelsey
PrairieSeen

Host to Host: Rachel Matthews

[Hosts around the world are introducing themselves to each other in advance of Slow Art Day. Today we’re featuring some words from Rachel Matthews, the volunteer host at the Getty Center in West Los Angeles]

Hello fellow Slow Art hosts,

My name is Rachel Mathews and I will be hosting this year’s Slow Art Day at the Getty Center in West Los Angeles. This is my first year as a host, 4th year as a participant; I’m looking forward to being a part of Slow Art Day once again! While I’m not an art scholar, I do love viewing art and Slow Art Day is a great way to expand my art horizons. The Getty Center is a wonderful museum that has a wide variety of art, which makes it difficult to pick just 5 pieces; fortunately, I was able to get a friend to make the choices (we were originally supposed to co-host, but sadly, she’ll be out of town on Saturday).

I had an incredible experience the first year I attended Slow Art Day, at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, that’s kept me coming back. A friend/co-worker was hosting and, in the viewing guide, there was a piece that I felt I was not going to enjoy. After I paid for my museum admission, I decided to head to the end of the furthest gallery and work my way back. As I walked, I spotted some of the other pieces in the viewing guide and made note where they were; suddenly, I saw a piece in the distance and was drawn to it – it was the piece I thought I wouldn’t like. But it was much larger than it looked in the guide (it ended up having an entire room to itself; I could see it about a gallery and a half away due to its size), which changed the experience completely. As I spent more and more time with this huge painting, I kept noticing more and more details about it and in it, which was intriguing. After spending 15 minutes with the piece, I absolutely loved it! After seeing all of the other pieces in the viewing guide, I decided that the first piece was my favorite. The following year, I went back to the same museum and made sure to spend time with it again.

One of my other friends wasn’t able to make the first 3 Slow Art Days, so I organized an interim Slow Art experience at the Getty last Fall for that friend and the friend who has hosted the previous Slow Art Days I attended. Since I don’t live near the Getty, I chose all of the artwork off of their website and wasn’t sure what my own reactions to the pieces I had selected would be, much less the impressions my 2 companions that day would have. I made sure to choose a couple of pieces that I wouldn’t normally be attracted to, hoping to re-enact that first year Slow Art attitude shift. Although we had to spend some time searching for the various pieces (which was part of the adventure), we all had a great time and, afterwards, had a very robust discussion about how the pieces impacted us.

I’m really looking forward to next Saturday. I wish everyone great success with their Slow Art Day events around the world!

Sincerely,
Rachel Mathews

[Make sure to check out (and register for!) Rachel’s Slow Art Day event at the Getty Centre in West Los Angeles]

Slow Art with Willa Koerner and SFMOMAslow

[Slow Art Day Social Media Manager Alie Cline recently interviewed Willa Koerner from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to chat about the museum’s new Slow Art Day inspired project, SFMOMAslow.]

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 11.40.56 PM

Slow Art Day: First, introduce yourself for us – what do you do at SFMOMA?

Willa: I’m Willa Koerner, SFMOMA’s Digital Engagement Associate. I manage SFMOMA’s social media accounts, from planning, writing, and editing posts, to documenting the goings-on of the museum, to collaborating with co-workers on digital projects and online engagement initiatives.

Slow Art Day: How did you initially hear of Slow Art Day? What sparked your interest in the project?

Willa: I heard about Slow Art Day through the social media grapevine. My interest was sparked right from the get-go, as the idea of looking/thinking slowly is fascinating when contextualized within the incredibly manic pace of the Internet.

Slow Art Day: How did the idea for SFMOMAslow initially develop, and how have you expanded on “Slow Art Day” and turned it into a larger project?

Willa: In collaboration with Suzanne Stein, SFMOMA’s Head of Community Engagement (and manager of SFMOMA’s blog, Open Space), I’ve been working on ways to get people talking with the museum in exciting, interesting ways through crowd-sourced projects hosted on a special Tumblr (SFMOMAcrowd). Hosting successful user-generated projects can be a bit difficult, and we’ve seen firsthand how challenging it can be to generate interest/response to a project prompt, no matter how interesting that prompt may seem to us within the museum. In my opinion, this is due to a simple truth: people don’t want to spend their valuable time creating something unless there is an explicit reason to participate, or a reward. Knowing this, we wanted to pursue a prompt that would ultimately lead to a rewarding and satisfying experience for all types of participants. The Slow Art Day concept fit this desire perfectly, so we decided to create a whole slew of programming, tweaking the idea so that it would be interesting to those who can visit the gallery in person as well as those who may prefer to participate remotely.

Slow Art Day: What has the response been like?

Willa: People have seemed genuinely excited about (and possibly thankful for) the idea of #SFMOMAslow/Slow Art Day. It is an invitation to relax and appreciate life, isn’t it? In terms of participation with the crowd-sourced project more people prefer to watch than to join in, I think, but those folks who have taken the leap and participated seem to have truly valued the experience. One person ended her post with, “ I feel as if [looking slowly] sharpens perception because there is a very deep meditative quality to it! Thank you!” That made me smile.

Slow Art Day: How do you think “slow” art fits into our fast-paced, modern world?

Willa: I see Slow Art Day and the challenge to truly look slowly as a bit of an intervention. People move so quickly and rush through experiences that would be much more magical when taken in at a slower, more contemplative pace. I wish I didn’t, but I too am guilty of senselessly rushing through all sorts of experiences — it’s the curse of having endless access to information and ideas, and seemingly thing after thing to rush off to. We joke about “FOMO” [Editor’s note: “fear of missing out”] but it’s a real and problematic plague for our generation! We want to see it all, do it all, and share it all. Slow looking is a way that we can re-learn how to think critically and be patient with ourselves and our minds.

Slow Art Day: We couldn’t agree more! Finally, what are you most looking forward to on Slow Art Day itself?

Willa: I’m closing my eyes and imagining Slow Art Day at SFMOMA… in my mind, I see myself smiling a lot and enjoying a rewarding day filled with compelling art, perceptive people, and intriguing conversation. Stay tuned for my tweets on that Saturday — I’ll be using the #SFMOMAslow hash tag!

And, before I sign off, I want to extend huge thanks to Alie, my interviewer, and everyone who volunteers to help spread the ideas of Slow Art Day to people around the world! You guys are doing a terrific job.

Slow Art Day: Thanks, Willa! We very much appreciate all the hard work you are putting in to spreading the idea of slow art as well.

[If you’re in the San Francisco area, make sure to check out SFMOMA’s Slow Art Day event and learn more about SFMOMAslow through their tumblr, SFMOMAcrowd]

Slow Art Day with David Faux at the University Museums at Iowa State University

[In this series, we interview hosts for Slow Art Day and get their thoughts on hosting, the art of looking, and the slow art community. Today we interview David Faux, who is hosting a Slow Art Day event at the University Museums at Iowa State University.]

Slow Art Day: Tell us a little about yourself.

David: I am a recent graduate of Iowa State University with a B.S. in history and a minor in Native American studies. I’m a new interpretation specialist here and I am responsible for working with my colleagues to develop programing that will interest the fickle and ever-changing pool of 18-24 year old students that we have on campus.

Slow Art Day: And tell us about the distinctive history and collection of the University Museums at Iowa State University.

David: Iowa State University was the very first land grant college in the nation and today Iowa State has the largest collection of public works of art on any campus in the nation. This unparalleled collection of over 2,000 works includes two grand scaled murals by Grant Wood, 12 major sculpture installations by Christian Petersen during his 21 year residency, and nearly 600 other major works of art by nationally and internationally known artists.

Slow Art Day: Why did you choose to host Slow Art Day there?

David: Far too many students  walk to and from class with their heads down oblivious to their surroundings. Programs like Slow Art Day fit right in with our other programming efforts to get people to stop, look around, and engage with all of the wonderful objects that inhabit their learning environment.

Slow Art Day: What works are you going to be viewing?

David: We are going to be looking at some of our N.C. Wyeth painting from the artist’s America in the Making series. We are fortunate to have the complete set and we are going to be loaning the works out soon, so I am giving as many ‘last chance’ exposures to the work as possible. The works are are part of the New Deal era regional works, one of our most extensive collections.

Slow Art Day: Tell us about a work of art you like.

David: The other day I represented the University Museums in rededicating The History of Dairying mural located in the courtyard of our Food Sciences department. That mural was the very first that Christian Petersen painted/sculpted for the college (as part of the PWPA) and the fountain attached to the mural has been out of service for over 20 years.  That fountain plays a crucial role in the history of our art on campus legacy, but more importantly was an important part of a lot of past Iowa Staters’ lives and memories. To share in those memories and be a part of a new and exciting chapter of that sculpture’s role on campus was an extremely humbling moment for me.

Slow Art Day: Thank you, David. Good luck with Slow Art Day!

[Make sure to check out David’s Slow Art Day event at the University Museums at Iowa State University.]

Slow Art Day with Elizabeth Markevitch at ikonoTV, Berlin

[In this series, we interview hosts for Slow Art Day and get their thoughts on hosting, the art of looking, and the slow art community. Today we interview Elizabeth Markevitch, who is a global sponsor of Slow Art Day through her interesting company, ikonoTV, Berlin.]

Slow Art Day: Let’s start with a bit of background about yourself and ikonoTV. You are the founder, right?

Elizabeth: Yes, I founded ikono in 2006.

Slow Art Day: What was your founding vision?

ElizabethDuring my long-time experience in the art world, I became more and more aware of the necessity for exploring new ways of displaying art and opening it up to a broader audience. Art needs to be seen, and the joy of seeing and experiencing art should not be restricted to a small group of art professionals or collectors.

Slow Art Day: As you know, of course, we share that vision with you. How did you get from that vision to starting ikono?

ElizabethI explored different paths.  I cofounded www.eyestorm.com in 1998 as the first online gallery at that time selling international contemporary art on a global scale. Then, some years later, the fundamental idea of making art internationally accessible found its final and strongest realization through ikono.

Slow Art Day: So why bring art to TV in this new way?

Elizabeth: I thought why not achieve for the arts with TV as radio has been achieving for music? Why not use this mass medium for bringing the entire world of arts into the homes of an international public? Over the past few years, we have established a wonderful collaboration between art historians, curators, and cameramen in working with artists and international art institutions. We are producing video clips about artworks from all time periods, movements and disciplines, highlighting single exhibitions as well as the most stunning collections and treasures of our cultural heritage.

Slow Art Day: Tell us more about how you ‘see’ art.

Elizabeth: The first encounter with art is a visual one – you just need your eyes for discovering and experiencing its richness and plurality. A certain knowledge or expertise is what comes in a second or even third step. ikono offers this very first meeting: we are building a visual bridge to the arts, encouraging you to trust your eyes, and to rely on what you see and feel.

Slow Art Day: How does this connect with your notion of time?

Elizabeth: We take the notion of time seriously by inviting you to dive into the artwork contemplatively and to become fascinated by its details. You will always discover things you have never seen or noticed before! We allow art to speak for itself, which is why we never add any sounds or narrative elements and why we avoid any interruptions from commentary or advertisement. However, in case you would like to know more, you can of course find all additional information and further links on our homepage.

Slow Art Day: You guys are planning something special for Slow Art Day – five video clips, each dedicated to a single artwork. Say more.

Elizabeth: We decided to dedicate the entire program for April 27th, 2013 to Slow Art Day. Our curators have selected some of our most beautiful video clips to be presented throughout the day: we will showcase Hans Holbein the Younger’s double portrait of The Ambassadors and the unexcelled depiction of The Tower of Babel, painted by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. We will present artworks of Caspar David Friedrich, the wonderful Eugene Delacroix, Vincent van Gogh, and the universal genius Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Viewers will also find contemporary examples, including the fascinating light installation of Kite & Laslett, our current Artists of the Month, and the Spatial Reflections series, a selection of artistic positions from Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, curated by Charlotte Bank. I do not want to reveal too much before its presentation, so please feel cordially invited to tune in for discovering more!

Slow Art Day: Can people watch ikonoTV if they are not currently in your cable footprint?

Elizabeth: At the moment you must meet certain technical requirements to watch our HDTV program. While ikonoMENASA is broadcasted in the countries of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia via satellite (ArabSat) or IPTV (du, Etisalat or Solidere IPTV Broadband Network), ikonoTV is on view in Germany and Italy via Telekom Entertain and Cubovision.

But we have very good news: In 2013 we will increase our international presence by also being on view in new countries throughout Europe. Furthermore, we have already started preparing our live web stream, which is to be launched within the upcoming months. From that very moment on, everyone around the world will be able to enjoy art and to contemplate it wherever they are-an amazing perspective! In June we will announce further details, so stop by our website or join our newsletter to stay posted. Also begin checking our blog right away, where you will find all further information about ikono’s support of Slow Art Day 2013!

Slow Art Day: Great – thanks for sponsoring Slow Art Day again this year.

[Make sure to tune into ikonoTV, Berlin, if you can!]

Slowing Down at Museo MARCO

[Slow Art Day has asked its 2013 hosts and volunteers to write short summaries of their own experiences looking slowly at artworks of their choosing.]

After looking around the Museo Marco, I chose the artwork The Fuck Off Project by Daniel Ruanova to examine patiently as part of the initiative of Slow Art Day. There were, no doubt, other pieces that called my attention, but the idea of examining this particular piece interested me the most. This artwork consists of a series of metallic rods that are assembled into a set of pointy extrusions. It almost looks like a “wire frame” (like those seen in animation programs) of the back of a porcupine.


Daniel Ruanova. The Fuck Off Project. 1976

At first glance the work certainly seemed aggressive. Although not insulting (at least until you read the title), I initially did not want to get near it. Each of the protrusions appear to be directed toward the viewer, independent of the viewing angle. Judging by the name, I thought that this was precisely the motive of the artist – i.e. to portray aggression.  That made me think of similar shaped things in nature that convey the exact same defensive idea, like pufferfish or the porcupine, and I concluded that the artist may have been inspired by such animals.

Despite my apprehension, I decided to slowly approach the piece. As I got nearer, I noticed that the feeling of aggression became stronger.  I decided to actually walk into it and that changed my experience of the piece completely. There, inside it, I felt protected. The metallic arms were no longer pointed towards me but towards everyone else. It’s as if now their sole purpose was my defense. I sat down to be able to immerse myself deeper, and, as expected, the sense of security was intensified. There, in the midst of all those metal rods, I felt comfortable.

The next thing I noticed was the facial expressions of the people in the museum when they noticed me there. Assuming they shared the feeling I had felt while looking at the sculpture from the outside, I could understand why. I sat there for awhile, watching people pass looking bewildered.

I now understand the Slow Art Day initiative in a better way and can see how slow looking can really transform the experience.  Looking slowly and taking the time to move in and around this artwork completely changed my perception – and – this insightful episode reaffirmed my decision to be a host during the Slow Art Day for Museo Marco in Monterrey on April 27.

– David Zambrano Reyes, Volunteer at MARCO

[Make sure to check out Museo MARCO’s Slow Art Day event in Monterrey, Mexico.]

Take a Slow Look, Canada

Slow Art Day has asked its 2013 hosts and volunteers to write short summaries of their own experiences looking slowly at artworks of their choosing.

The day of my assignment, I strode into the gallery with purpose; J.E.H. MacDonald’s October Shower Gleam, 1922, was the only work I was going to spend time with that day.  This work did not initially outwardly appeal to me – I felt like I was up for a challenge to see what it would be like to look at it slowly.

J.E.H. MacDonald, October Shower Gleam, 1922. Image courtesy of WikiPaintings.

I set my alarm for the proscribed 10 minutes, and set my eyes (and mind) to work. What initially made the painting unattractive to me, the garish 70s mix of close-to-neon colours with earthy greens and browns, I set my eye to first. Looking closely at what I read as autumnal trees and brush, I soon discovered a graceful patterning of organic shapes in the entirely unnatural colours of bright pink and teal, outlined in ultramarine blue, with a ground of gessoed and textured canvas showing through. As my eye traveled downwards, towards the reflection of the landscape in the still lake, I realized that MacDonald’s depiction of water consisted solely of a reflection of the patterning I had been closely studying.

What I read as “water”, in fact, didn’t contain something normally characteristic in depictions of water; namely the colour blue. MacDonald actually had painted a ground of light orange onto which he had then transcribed his reflected scenery. Sandwiching this mirrored landscape was a mass of roiling clouds, done in wavy lines of lavender and deep purple, as well as a rocky outcropping of land containing a few windswept trees in the foreground. They squished me into the landscape in such a way that I felt like my only escape was forward, toward the rolling hills and the two small “V’s” of clear sky – away from the October shower that was imminent, seen in the shiny wetness of the purple clouds.

My “introduction” to the work lasted a mere minute or two. After that, I was lost in the landscape, its patterns, shapes, colours, and texture, until my alarm rudely interrupted. Ten minutes felt like two; I could have easily spent another ten or twenty minutes immersed in the work.

Though not initially appealing to me, I grew, through this exercise, to appreciate aspects of the work that weren’t immediately apparent. Practicing slow looking with a work I wasn’t immediately attracted to in a positive way helped me remember that to “like” and “dislike” are fluid categories (and don’t always include “appreciate”). I was also reminded not to always take other people’s word for it – it is always more rewarding to see for yourself.

-Tori McNish, Slow Art Day volunteer