Slow Art Day 2015: The Eyes Have It in Napa, California

Three-time Slow Art Day host museum, the di Rosa in Napa, California, just sent this report on their event this year.

The most exciting part of this update is that they are considering adding a monthly Slow Art session to their museum programming. Our mission with Slow Art Day is not only to get great participation on the annual day each year, but also to encourage more museums and galleries to incorporate regular programming throughout the year.

- Phil

For the third year, the di Rosa (Napa, CA; www.dirosaart.org) participated in Slow Art Day. Again this year, the group of participants was intimate — quality trumps quantity! — giving everyone the opportunity to share observations afterward. As in previous years, we chose a mix of work — a large ceramic sculpture, two paintings, a three-dimensional work on canvas, and a kinetic sculpture. After viewing these works, we had a picnic lunch on property and a lively, energized discussion of what we had seen by looking slowly.

After last year, we thought about customizing our approach. Visitors had felt that the recommended 10 minutes of slow looking without discussing in front of the works made it difficult to recall precisely what they had observed.  As a result, we considered shortening the time spent to 7 minutes looking and then adding 3 minutes discussing in front of each work.

Ultimately, we went in yet a different direction. We adhered to the recommended 10-minute slow looking timeframe. And we added color photocopies of the five works to aid our lunchtime discussion. Those low-tech visual aids made all the difference. Participants could easily recall elements they had seen, talk about specific features of each work (color, texture, composition, etc), and share insights. And because the group included regular museum goers — even an art teacher — they had no difficulty verbalizing. At the end, participants and docents alike rated Slow Art Day 2015 a “10.” 

We’re now considering a monthly Slow Art Experience as a regular feature of our customized tours. And that would be in addition to participating in Slow Art Day 2016. In other words, di Rosa loves Slow Art Day! 

Michael McCauley
Dave Hight
co-docents for Slow Art Day 2015

Slow Art Day 2015 – in 200+ museums and galleries

Slow Art Day 2015 was a great success.

On Saturday, April 11, 2015, we had 200+ venues around the world – from Shanghai to Ghana, from Paris to Brooklyn, from a site in Russia to the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama.

View photos, write-ups, articles, and quotes from attendees here:

– Twitter – https://twitter.com/search?src=typd&q=slowartday2015
– Instagram – search for hashtag “slowartday”
– Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SlowArtDay/posts_to_page
– Google News – https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=slow+art+day&tbm=nws

Slow Art Day 2016 is Saturday, April 9, 2016.

We have a number of efforts and initiatives that we work on year-round. If you are interested in volunteering – or interning – please get in touch with us right away. We’d love your help!

– Phil Terry and the Slow Art Day team

The Art of Observation – in Art & Medicine

Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina. When Ann Grimaldi, curator of education at the Weatherspoon Art Museum and one of our 2015 global hosts, learned about Slow Art Day a few years ago, she liked its simplicity, its focus on just looking, and its connection to the “Art of Seeing” program that she runs.

“The Art of Seeing” brings together students from nursing, kinesiology, nutrition, and physical therapy to learn observation skills that can help them become better healers. Among the techniques Ann teaches: simple looking, breathing, taking it all in, not interpreting, and slowing down.

For Slow Art Day this year, Ann will borrow from her program to help participants experience a “contemplative looking practice” by pausing, observing, and reflecting. She has chosen a variety of artworks from the Weatherspoon’s contemporary collection. Often contemporary art can be challenging, Ann says, noting its “ambiguity.” She feels that learning to spend time with something that may make us uncomfortable is a skill that is important for everyone, not just her students. And we at Slow Art Day agree – in fact, we’ve found that contemporary art can be a terrific choice for slow looking.

Ann adds she’s also asked Weatherspoon docents to be involved with Slow Art Day. Interestingly, they will be acting both as timekeepers and as moderators for the discussions that follow the slow viewing.

Hoping that some of the 200 community members and students interested in Slow Food and sustainability who meet at the Weatherspoon monthly will join other participations for another “slow” experience, she’s looking forward to a good Slow Art Day in Greensboro at the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Links & Info:
Weatherspoon Art Museum – http://weatherspoon.uncg.edu
Ann Grimaldi Curator of Education | Weatherspoon Art Museum The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

– written by Linda Wiggen Kraft, Veteran Slow Art Day Host

Making time for slower digital experiences in museums

Here at Slow Art Day we focus on how visitors engage with physical works of art – how paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other media are perceived, considered, and experienced by the viewer. But in our digital age, museums are increasingly trying to deliver “snackable” digital content – short bursts of entertaining and enlightening information delivered through social media initiatives or interactive installations. In an article published by The Guardian earlier this week, Danny Birchall, Digital Manager at London’s Wellcome Collection, eloquently makes the case that digital or virtual engagements with artworks allow for the same unhurried, slow potential as physical interactions. Birchall writes, “[…] if museums can deliver snacks, why not three-course meals? Is there space in museums for slower and longer digital experiences for audiences to savour and enjoy?” Birchall uses the Wellcome Collection’s Mindcraft, an immersive and interactive tool that describes the history of hypnotism over the course of a six-chapter digital story, as a case study for his article. However, even the relatively long-form (for the digital realm) Mindcraft is only about 15 minutes long – a fraction of the length of your typical Slow Art Day event. Is this enough to ensure visitors’ full engagement with digital content? Can museums offer an immersive, engaging digital experience that avoids superficiality and truly deepens the visitor’s experience of a work of art without relying on gimmicks?

Read the article “Museums should make time for slower digital experiences” here and tell us your thoughts!

The starting point of the Wellcome Collection's "Mindcraft" story-telling experience, a virtual means of engaging the museum's audience with its collection.

The starting point of the Wellcome Collection’s “Mindcraft” story-telling experience, a virtual means of engaging the museum’s audience with its collection.

The Ancient Way of Slow Looking

When we walk into a museum or gallery nowadays, we are instantly confronted with a rather large number of artifacts which demand our attention. I always find myself pondering where to start my journey. Is it with this painting to my left? How about this wonderful African mask straight ahead? While museums and galleries are generally quiet and peaceful places, they nevertheless hold enough artifacts to potentially overwhelm the visitor.

It’s true that we don’t spend enough time actually looking at a painting anymore. In fact, we spend more time reading the description underneath it than contemplating the painting itself. Even though we attempt to return to contemplation with the help of Slow Art Day, there is nevertheless a crucial element in today’s paintings that is not always beneficial to slow looking.

When we stand in front of a painting, the whole scenery is present before us. It’s not entirely surprising that we spend little time on contemplating paintings. We think that because everything is there in laid out in front of us at one time, we don’t have to work very hard at the act of looking. It’s certainly beneficial to those always-in-haste people that today paintings are not unrolled and displayed gradually, as traditional Chinese scroll paintings were.

Hanging scrolls and hand scrolls were common features in Chinese painting, which often featured beautiful landscapes – mountains and waterfalls in particular. Painters infused their works with Taoist thoughts and beliefs such as simplicity, which was, in part, made visible in the use of monochrome textures, i.e. black and white. It finds its most extreme application in Zen painting; works famous for their black ink on white rice paper.

The often meters-long scrolls had two main goals. First was the delayed contemplation. The viewer was unable to quickly grasp the entire scenery, because the scroll had been unrolled scene after scene, so that the viewing process lasted longer than we spend on paintings (even during Slow Art Day!).  And then there was the narrative aspect, the ancient precursor of film if you will, long before photography paved the way for the development of cinema. The step-by-step unraveling of the scroll allowed for a narrative development. It thus contained not only one scenery, but several, which were linked to one another and formed a painterly entertainment for the viewers. It was a slow pleasure, in a way like a slow film, which takes its time to develop.

Scroll painting from the Chinese Sung Dynasty by Chang Tse-Twan

Scroll painting from the Chinese Sung Dynasty by Chang Tse-Twan

The above painting is a five metre long scroll from the Chinese Sung Dynasty (c. 960-1126), painted by Chang Tse-Twan. It is considered as a scroll painting that stands at the beginning of narrative development in Chinese painting. While nowadays we would see the entire scroll displayed at once, in those days viewers only saw parts of it, one after the other. It is not difficult to see how the slow unrolling of the scroll created a heightened pleasure for the audience. I often wish that painters would return to this form of painting that not only creates a work of quietness, but also generates excitement over what we will see next in the scroll; a real journey through a painting.

– Nadin

Slow Art Cinema

For years now we have been engaging in the art of slow looking. Slow Art Day is, in some ways, part of the Slow Movement, which seeks to reintroduce aspects of slowness. In many cases the “slow” values are ones that we have long lost, dating back to the introduction of mechanical time-keeping, which put time and its importance at the centre of our lives. Slow Art is but one of many other ‘slow’ activities; for example, the Slow Food movement thrives in many parts of the world. What I personally find intriguing, though, is the link between Slow Art and Slow Cinema, the subject of my on-going research. We published a brief blog entry about Slow Cinema before, which I want to expand on here.

The term ‘Slow Cinema’ was coined in 2004 by film critic Jonathan Romney. Since then it has been widely in use, although the term is somewhat limiting and derogative as ‘slow’ implies boredom for many people. The truth is that the aesthetics of Slow Cinema can be found as far back as the very beginning of cinema history, for example in long takes, which are (often mundane) events filmed in their entirety without a cut. Hungarian director Béla Tarr only cut when the reel came to an end, after about ten minutes. Lav Diaz from the Philippines, who used to be a painter but has now shifted to filmmaking, often goes as far as recording events without a single cut for as long as twenty minutes.

This, the use of an often static camera with little movement in the film frames, might remind one of paintings – only here these paintings are not hanging on a  wall, but instead are projected onto a screen. The result, however, is the same. The viewer sits in front of the visual image, studying every detail of the frame, and may find him- or herself marveling at the beautiful rural landscapes that are often found in slow films. Take Michela Occhipinti’s Letters from the Desert (2012), set in rural India. The protagonists appear as mere dots in the landscape.

Still from Michela Occhipinti's "Letters from the Desert"

Still from Michela Occhipinti’s “Letters from the Desert”

Or take Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra’s Birdsong (2008), which is not only a comedic study of the Three Kings on their way to Bethlehem but also a stunning portrayal of empty landscapes.

Still from Albert Serra's Birdsong

Still from Albert Serra’s Birdsong

Then there is also Panahbarkhoda Rezaee from Iran, whose superb Daughter…Father…Daughter (2011) shows the audience a stunning Iranian landscape we perhaps never thought existed.

Still from Panahbarkhoda Rezaee's "Daughter...Father...Daughter"

Still from Panahbarkhoda Rezaee’s “Daughter…Father…Daughter”

And there is Caspar David Friedrich’s famous Rückenfigur that appeared in Lav Diaz’s Death in the Land of Encantos (2007), an overwhelming nine-hour film set in the aftermath of a natural catastrophe that finds little likeness in the Philippines.

Caspar David Friedrich, and Lav Diaz's "Death in the Land of Encantos"

Caspar David Friedrich, and Lav Diaz’s “Death in the Land of Encantos”

There is more to the link between Slow Art and Slow Cinema than the apparent focus of traditions of landscape painting in the latter, however. For a long time I have thought and argued that slow films should be screened in galleries and museums. Locations govern our experiences; hence people tend to go to the movies to escape from reality, to see some action-laden blockbuster that puts them on a roller-coaster ride through the full spectrum of human emotions. A gallery audience has different expectations, ‘slower’ expectations, in fact, so that a projection of the fourteen-hour long Crude Oil (2008) by Wang Bing might sit much more at ease in this surrounding than it would in a cinema. And indeed, slow-film directors are more and more moving into gallery spaces, merging their work with other forms of art. Taiwan-based Tsai Ming-liang, whose superb short film Walker is available and free to see for everyone, even shot Visage (2009) in the Louvre after the museum commissioned him to do so. Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2011) won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2011, is also widely known for his gallery works, such as Photophobia. His short film Dilbar is also available for you to watch online.

It is in this light, then, that I don’t see Slow Art and Slow Cinema as being separate from one other. As mentioned before, there are several slow activities thriving around the world. We have seen everything from Slow Education to Slow Finance to Slow Parenting. But none of these are so intricately intertwined as are Slow Art and Slow Cinema.

You can find more information, thoughts, film reviews, and interviews with directors on my website, The Art(s) of Slow Cinema. Or you can get in touch via theartsofslowcinema@gmail.com. I’m always happy to have slow discussions with people!

– Nadin

Reflections from Hosts: Catherine & Jilda

How successful can Slow Art Day be? Two of our 2014 hosts, Catherine and Jilda, reflect on their experimental event in immersive engagement – digitally and by non-traditional museum audiences.

slilde-1

Catherine and Jilda document key moments and behind the scenes insight for their National Museum of Australia event.

In the discussion portion, the group marveled at the connections they found between the works.

In the discussion portion, the group marveled at the connections they found between the works.

To read more about their event, click here.

– Karen

 

 

Reflections from Hosts: The Courtauld Gallery

Looking at Claude Monet’s ‘Antibes’ during Slow Art Day (via The Courtauld Gallery blog)

Our 2014 host, Kirti Upadhaya, at The Courtauld Gallery in London, shares her reflections from the April 12th event:

The experience of both participating and hosting the Slow Art Day was very rewarding as it allowed me to spend time engaging with five beautiful paintings while also allowing me to consider the nature of this engagement.

Slow Art Day reinforces the importance of direct engagement with a work of art. Living in a world where information is readily available at the press of a button, I often forget that sometimes, the simplest way to access art is to build a relationship with it, to just look at it for a little longer.

Read more about Upadhaya’s and others’ experiences at Slow Art Day on the Courtauld Gallery’s blog here.

– Karen

 

Reflections from Hosts: Art Gallery of Algoma

Christine Campana from the Art Gallery of Algoma wrote a great summary of her Slow Art Day experience from just over a month ago:

photo 1

Walking through the Art Gallery of Algoma during Slow Art Day leisurely examining 5 pieces of art was a worthwhile experience; not only was I given the chance to really pay attention to aspects of the works that I had previously not taken the time to truly appreciate, but the experience allowed me to converse with others and discover their interpretations.

The Art Gallery of Algoma put together a handout with photographs and descriptions of the pieces chosen. The pieces were picked by 5 different locals, ranging from artists, to art advocates, to novices, who each discovered something new by engaging with the pieces for longer periods of time than they normally would have.

Regarding the Tom Benner fibreglass, paint, leather, and mixed media piece titled “African Wild Asses,” Teddy Syrette explained in his description that he chose the piece because “it is almost like it’s a grouping of animals, they’re trying to get some place better . . .They’re all different but all collective.”  As I stood at different points around the piece with various participants, it definitely became clear in how many ways this piece could be seen.

With a shorter look at the piece, one participant revealed that she found the similarities of five synthetic animals moving in the same direction to be almost unnatural, while through a longer period of observation, another participant began to notice the differences in the animals and began to assign them their roles in the pack. She also began to see a slight shift in the direction of one of the sculptures that suggested they were starting to veer off course. Her creation of a story where each of five very similar animals had a particular character based on their visual features was only possible by really taking the time to notice these distinctions.
While “African Wild Asses” was analyzed through observing the animals carefully, “A Landscape” was enjoyed thoughtfully looking up at the piece from the floor. The arts advocate who had chosen the piece stated that she had done so because the large sphere, the focal point of the piece, “draws me in.” The wood and copper work included a total of three pieces, but, as the participant who had chosen the piece also felt, people could not help but be absorbed and overwhelmed by the immensity and beauty of the copper orb.

While hints of colour were visible within the oxidized copper of “A Landscape”, colour was far more pronounced in Gabriela Benitez’ “Rojo y Blanco.” In mine as well as others’ opinions, the vivid greens and reds overlaid with white chaotic lines released emotion which was only multiplied the longer the work was viewed.

Each of these pieces as well as the other works chosen, including a multimedia piece by Cheryl L’Hirondelle and another sculpture by Tom Benner, gave me the chance to pose and answer questions and see art from new (and many more) angles. As I walked through the gallery, I was certainly able to appreciate the value of looking at art slowly and engaging with others to discover some amazing insights I never would have thought of on my own.  Taking my time with art was a positive and rewarding experience, however, I was not so successful with the food; I had a hard time treating the slow lunch served after with the same patience–it was just too delicious!

– Rachel