Slow Time with Historic Murals

In Norwalk, Connecticut, participants in Slow Art Day will examine WPA murals in the city’s Maritime Aquarium. After close, leisurely looking at works by Alexander J. Rummler, docents from the Arts Commission will lead discussions of each.

Norwalk has the nation’s largest collection of WPA murals, which have been restored and are on display at the aquarium and four other sites in the city.

A report on host Susan Wallerstein’s event is here.

A Slow Art Stroll at UMD

art walk umdOnce a year students at the University of Maryland take an ArtWalk, an event they created to showcase visual arts programming on campus. This year, the walk coincides with Slow Art Day — resulting in an all-day celebration with eight participating spaces.

At their first stop ArtWalkers will pick up “passports,” which they will present at each site for a Slow Art Day stamp.

More information at

Developing the PPP

Banana Factory PPP

Painting and PPPs

By Alison Bessesdotter

The Banana Factory at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, began hosting Slow Art Day four years ago. We have 25 resident artists on three floors and we share the common spaces to hang work outside our studios. On the first floor there are two main galleries and a Banana Factory featured artist hall gallery.

On our first year of hosting, I ran a lottery to choose five works from our resident artists. Our artists also open their studios for Slow Art Day. Each year I draw a map and provide a list of the designated works located throughout the building. We repeat the process similarly each year; two years ago I added the PPP—Post-its, Pedestals, Pencils by each designated Slow Art piece.

I had the staff set up the PPPs, next to Slow Art works so that our visitors could write their observations on the post-its and paste them on the wall next to the exhibited work. It allows interaction with the art—and they express their observations—creating an interface between viewer and work. A second interface occurs when the artists see the visitors’ messages. It was popular, and visitors stood in short lines to fill out the PPPs and enjoyed talking to each other while waiting.

The response was so positive that we left the PPPs in the main hall by the April Featured Artworks. People continued to read about Slow Art and write their messages on the Post-its. There is great reward in having tangible proof of how the art impacts the adults and children who visit our center. The PPPs open the opportunity for the community not only for Slow Art Day but the entire month.

A Rare Experience

For the Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan, Alabama, Slow Art Day came at what many hosts consider an impossible time. The Wiregrass sees it as an opportunity.

Art educator Leah Lapszynski explains:

This year for Slow Art Day at WMA, we find ourselves in the unique position of being between exhibitions in the early weeks of April. Typically, museum guests are aided in their visit by object labels, wall text, and other informational panels. Participants at WMA’s Slow Art Day event will be treated to an exciting, rare experience as they slowly look and make meaning of an incomplete exhibition. We are interested in the perception of museums that people have as visitors, and how that perception is constructed in the mind from outside opinions and past experiences. How will people make meaning from an exhibition in flux? What thoughts, emotions, or past personal experiences will participants pull from?


“The 99 Turtles of Florence”

Demetria Verduci, one of our veteran Italian hosts, has organized her Slow Art Day this year to include a marvelous tribute to our trademark symbol, the turtle. Demetria is director of La Macina di San Cresci, an artists’ residence program in Greve in Chianti.

Greve - 99 Turtles

Here’s her story:

From nature to myth, from heraldry to art, from literature to esotericism, from science to superstition, the turtle is an animal full of charm and mystery. It has always been a symbol not only of proverbial slowness, but also of prudence and wisdom, of strength and longevity, of the passage of time, of strength in his indestructible armor opposed to the softness of his body.

Slow Art Day, which every year, at the same time around the world, gives life to events related to art and culture in museums, galleries and the most varied spaces, not surprisingly adopted the symbol of a turtle.

It is around the idea of this animal and its place in the collective imagination that La Macina di San Cresci has designed its Slow Art Day 2016: “The 99 Turtles of Florence,” an installation of 99 works in terracotta by the noted Florentine sculptor, Silvano Porcinai.

The installation is inspired by a true story: the rescue of 99 turtles from the fountains of Florence, and their transfer to two tanks at the Cascine Park, pending their placement in an appropriate environment.

The turtles, in this case marine, had been discussed and debated from the point of view of natural balance, security, education against the abandonment of animals by people who should care for them, and also these animals’ great strength and adaptability to the environment.

Hence the sculptor’s choice to create 99 pieces. We may therefore say that the 99 marine turtles of Florence become at La Macina di San Cresci, for the Slow Art Day, the 99 land turtles by Silvano Porcinai.

The 99 turtles will be a limited edition, handmade in terracotta by the artist, different from each other in shape and size, but the idea is that the installation last only a few hours; the intent is that they should be around, that someone will take care — as has happened for the 99 turtles of Florence — so that they can inspire, suggest, provoke new emotions, insights and thoughts in those who take them away.

Silvano Porcinai was born in 1950 in Grassina, near Florence. He was graduated from the Art Institute of Florence and was later a professor of sculpture at art schools and institutes of Tuscany. His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Italy and abroad. His most recent artwork is a Pinocchio bronze in Kyoto, Japan.


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 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.


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