Long Exposure: Slow Looking Photography at FOMU

For their 6th Slow Art Day, the Foto Museum (FOMU), in Antwerp, Belgium, organized four virtual slow looking sessions featuring two photographs:

  • Lynne Cohen, Recording Studio, 1987.
  • Martine Franck, Quartier de Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, Royaume-Uni, 1977.
Recording Studio, 1987 © Lynne Cohen, Courtesy Rodolphe Janssen.
Quartier de Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, Royaume-Uni, 1977© Martine Franck / Magnum Photos.

Each virtual session opened with a warm welcome from a guide, and introductions from participants.

Without giving any details of the photographs, the guide shared each one and invited participants to look slowly and freely discuss their thoughts.

At the end of the session, all participants were guided through a mindful full-body check to reconnect to their physical surroundings.

Participants engaging with one of the photographs
Participants on Zoom

The participants enjoyed the slow looking and were eager to share their reflections, both about the pictures and the sessions.

“It’s a nice way to interact with strangers.”

Participant’s quote

“I was surprised that the time went by so quickly!”

Participant’s quote

“Nice food for thought with lots of different perspectives.”

Participant’s quote

At Slow Art Day HQ we are really impressed with FOMU’s commitment to hosting not one – but four – sessions in one day. Bookending each event with an introduction round and a mindful cooling-down activity is a great structure that we hope other museums adopt for a future Slow Art Day.

We look forward to what FOMU comes up with for their 7th Slow Art Day in 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Forest Bathing + Mindfulness at MASS MoCA

For their fourth Slow Art Day, the MASS MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), in North Adams, Massachusetts, produced a self-guide leaflet for in-person visitors and organized a virtual event for participants at home.

For visitors to MASS MoCA on April 10th, the museum offered a Slow Art Day Self-Guided Itinerary that challenged visitors to take an unhurried look at MASS MoCA’s exhibitions.

Slow Art Day Self-Guided Itinerary

Before starting their tour, visitors were invited to try a “forest bath” outside the museum. Below are the guidelines from the leaflet:

“Start your slow experience by putting your phone away; plan on going back through the museum after this tour to take photos. Settle into being at the museum by taking in a few deep breaths. As you do so, observe any tensions in your body and release them. Put on hold any distracting thoughts like ‘I have to see everything!’ or ‘What is this place?’ Next, take a few moments to engage in a forest bath to increase relaxation and awareness.

First, take 3–4 deep breaths in/out.

Stand noticing your feet touching the ground.

Look up to enjoy the sky; feel the light on your face.

Walk around slowly and take notice of the ground.

Notice the trees above, then the trees in the distance.

Notice and feel sunlight streaming through the trees and take in the smell.

If you are feeling ambitious, take a moment to move your body to mimic the
trees above. What would it be like to contort yourself the way these trees have changed to grow upside down? (One option could be to try the yoga tree and mountain poses).”

The leaflet featured five artworks from the museum, each accompanied by slow looking prompts:

1. TREE LOGIC. Natalie Jeremijenko.

2. HOW TO MOVE A LANDSCAPE. Blane De St. Croix.

3. IN THE LIGHT OF A SHADOW. Glenn Kaino.

4. DISSOLVE James Turrell.

5. IN HARMONICITY, THE TONAL WALKWAY. Julianne Swartz.

After completing the tour, participants were encouraged to discuss their observations with friends and family, especially if visiting in a group.

RS28530_PH6A2242-lpr
Natalie Jeremijenko, Tree Logic, 1999. 6 flame maple trees, 8 35 feet telephone poles, stainless steel planters and armature, aircraft table and drip irrigation system, photo: Zoran Orlic. Courtesy of MASS MoCA
Blane De St. Croix. HOW TO MOVE A LANDSCAPE. Building 4, 1st floor. Courtesy of MASS MoCA.
Glenn Kaino. IN THE LIGHT OF A SHADOW. Building 5.
Courtesy of MASS MoCA.
James Turrell. DISSOLVE. Building 6, 2nd floor. Courtesy of MASS MoCA.
Julianne Swartz. IN HARMONICITY, THE TONAL WALKWAY. Building 10, 2nd floor.

For the online event, the museum launched virtual material as part of “MASS MoCA From Home.” Resources included two art “how-to” videos, featuring projects that focused on being present with the art-making process. Watch the videos below and try the projects for yourself.

Slow virtual Art-making video: Paper Pulp Clay. This project is inspired by Louise Bourgeois’ Untitled.
Slow virtual Art-making video: Frozen Watercolors. This project is inspired by James Turrell’s Dissolve.

As the final part of the program, MASS MoCA also produced a guided meditation that focused on the painting ‘Indian Summer – Four Seasons‘ by Wendy Red Star. Watch it below.

SLOW LOOKING MEDITATION video with Wendy Red Star’s Indian Summer – Four Seasons

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the way MASS MoCA incorporated nature and mindfulness in their event for both onsite and offsite participants – giving everyone an opportunity to slow down in different ways.

We are excited for their 5th Slow Art Day in 2022!

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

National Gallery Singapore Fuses Mindfulness and Slow Looking

For their first Slow Art Day, the National Gallery Singapore, in Singapore, invited participants to join one of two events hosted by the Gallery:

Slow Art Online: a virtual 60-minute slow-looking program

Slow Art Plus: an in-person 90-minute slow-looking and mindfulness program

The Slow Art Online virtual program featured slow-looking exercises followed by discussions, facilitated by the Gallery’s docents. Started during the pandemic, this program has become so popular that it is now a regular part of the Gallery’s calendar throughout the year. For details about future sessions, reach out to community@nationalgallery.sg.

For the Slow Art Plus in-person event, visitors participated in mindfulness exercises and were invited to look slowly at a selection of artworks, including Georgette Chen’s Lotus In A Breeze (1970).

Participants engaged with artworks at Slow Art Plus.

Dr. Mabel Yap, a trained mindfulness practitioner, guided participants through mindfulness exercises that she designed to engage the senses. This was followed by a group discussion about the intersection between visual art and emotional wellness in modern Southeast Asian art. The way the mindfulness exercises slowed down the participants and helped them connect to the art explains why this approach has deservedly become a big part of Slow Art Day events around the world.

Participants taking part in mindful exercises during Slow Art Plus.
Participants involved in group dialogue at Slow Art Plus.

Interested participants snapped up free tickets to both programs rapidly, and people both new and familiar with the Gallery had positive feedback.

 “I didn’t realise how much we can observe and gain from art by being mindful. I liked that the various exercises helped to guide us and provided variety.”

Participant’s quote

“(I really enjoyed) viewing the art piece at length and noticing more details… and hearing others’ perspectives how the paintings were relevant to their experience.”

Participant’s quote

 “Fusing the concepts of mindfulness and art! Wonderful exercises with the facilitator. Very interactive.”

Participant’s quote

 “(I really enjoyed) how I’m stretched to think and look at the art piece in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Participant’s quote

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love that the National Gallery Singapore has decided to produce ongoing virtual sessions. Our mission from day one has been to use the annual event as a way to inspire regular slow looking activities throughout the year.

We were also glad to see yet another museum integrate mindfulness into their Slow Art Day.

We look forward to what the National Gallery Singapore come up with next year.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl.

P.S. You can check out the Facebook and Instagram page of National Gallery Singapore for more information about upcoming events.

Meditation on Color: Slow Art Day in Dubai

For their second Slow Art Day, the Jameel Arts Centre, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hosted an in-person slow looking and meditation event dedicated to Hiwa K’s work ‘My Father’s Colour Period.’

In April, (pre-registered) participants were invited to the centre for a free slow looking meditation event, led by Palestinian artist and designer Faissal El-Malak. The session focused on ‘My Father’s Colour Period‘, an instillation by Hiwa K, which is currently on display at Jameel Arts Centre as part of the solo exhibition: ‘Hiwa K: Do you remember what you are burning?

Hiwa K. ‘My Father’s Colour Period’, from the solo exhibition by Hiwa K. ‘Do you remember what you are burning?’ 11000×500.
Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniella Baptista.

The instillation is based on the artist’s memories:

“A rumor spread in 1979 that the state-owned television station would show a film in color despite the fact that most televisions were black and white. Unlike in cities with Arab inhabitants, the majority of the people in the Kurdish area of Iraq still didn’t have color TV sets.

So my father decided to cut a sheet of colored cellophane and stick it on the screen of our TV at home. It stayed a whole week until he switched it to another color […] After a while, I realized that my father was not the only one making his own color TV. Many other people in the Kurdish area had devised their own unique filters.”

Hiwa K. Quote taken from the artist’s website.
Hiwa K. My Father’s Colour Period’ from the solo exhibition ‘Do you remember what you are burning?’ 11000×500.
Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniella Baptista.

On April 10, participants were encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and bring yoga mats or blankets to sit on. They first looked slowly at the installation, then closed their eyes and participated in a meditation on color. Participants were guided through various steps to explore the idea of shades and nuances in color. After the meditation, participants had the opportunity to discuss their emotions and reflections on the experience.

Visitors watching the installation by Hiwa K. ‘Do you remember what you are burning?’
Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniella Baptista.

Following the meditation, participants were given a guided tour of the current exhibitions at the Centre, including the remainder of the solo exhibition.

The event was part of an ongoing series at the Centre, which focuses on promoting engagement with art as a wellness practice. The Centre had a similar theme for their first Slow Art Day in 2020, which was a virtual and guided meditation. It can still be experienced here.

If you would like to know more about events at Jameel Art Centre, you can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the way Faissal El-Malak and the team at Jameel Art Center designed their 2021 Slow Art Day. The photos of visitors watching the installation and the inclusion of meditation and yoga mats makes us wish we could have been there.

And as we look slowly at this installation, we find ourselves eagerly anticipating how future artists will help us see the Covid-19 pandemic in new ways.

We look forward to whatever the Jameel Art Centre comes up with for their third Slow Art Day in 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Open to Being Slow in Virginia

For their first Slow Art Day on April 10, 2021, Open to Being, a community-building organization based in Arlington, Virginia, hosted a virtual slow looking event and set of interactive exercises.

Theresa Esterlund, the founder of Open to Being, led a 45-minute session focused on artist Foon Sham’s outdoor sculpture ‘Ridge’ (2018), and participants were invited to join via Zoom or Facebook Live.

Foon Sham. Ridge. 2018. Public installation located in Oakland Park, Arlington, Virginia.
Photograph by Theresa Esterlund.

After looking slowly at the sculpture for 7-10 minutes, participants were invited to share and discuss their observations using the following questions and creative prompts:

Questions

  • What did the experience feel like to you?
  • What surprised you?
  • What inspired you?
  • What sparked your curiosity?
  • What do you remember the most?

Creative prompts

  • Write a 6 word story or Haiku
  • Use scraps of paper or other materials to build something
  • Take a photo
  • Design a symbol
  • Draw

Pictures and notes submitted by the participants in response to the creative prompts

The event was well received, and participants felt that the program was very accessible:

“I really appreciated the way your program unfolded. I did feel like I was transported to the park in a way, it was engaging in that we could almost compare notes with each other as guests on Zoom.”

Participant’s comment

With 25 years of experience in science, history, and art museum education, Esterlund is also an artist who now teaches yoga and meditation alongside her work with Open to Being. She sees a clear connection between slow looking at art and mindfulness:

“Looking at art slowly is an opportunity to practice mindfulness – being with everything that’s going on at any given moment and experiencing everything without judging or getting caught up in it. That kind of experience can lead to openings, which might be experienced long after the program. The emphasis was on the experience, with the artwork as a pathway and essential element of that experience, rather than on the art itself.”

Theresa Esterlund

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love it when hosts integrate slow looking, mindfulness and play. We can’t wait to see what creative design Esterlund comes up with for Slow Art Day 2022.

-Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl

PS. You can view a recording of the event, and check out the Open to Being Facebook page for more information about upcoming events.

Relax and Re-energize: Slow Art Day at Galleria l’Arte di Seta

For their first Slow Art Day, the Galleria l’Arte di Seta, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, organized a mindful Zoom session on April 10, featuring three different paintings:

  • Camille Pissarro. A Creek in St. Thomas (Virgin Islands), 1856.
  • Auguste Renoir , Jeune Espagnole jouant de la guitare, 1898.
  • Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8 (Komposition 8), 1923.
Camille Pissarro. A Creek in St. Thomas (Virgin Islands), 1856.
Oil on academy board, 24.5 x 32.2 cm, Courtesy of National Gallery, Washington.
Auguste Renoir , Jeune Espagnole jouant de la guitare, 1898.
Oil on canvas, 55.6 x 65.2 cm. Courtesy of National Gallery Washington
Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8 (Komposition 8), 1923.
Oil on canvas, 140.3 x 200.7 cm. Courtesy of Guggenheim Museum.

Participants joined the two-hour Zoom session, which included 10 minute observation of each of the three paintings, followed by discussion.

Lidija Drobež, founder of Galleria l’Arte di Seta, was positively surprised by the enthusiasm and depth of insight from the participants. In fact, to foster even deeper discussion, she said the gallery might focus on one or two pieces of art next year.

Several participants left wonderful feedback.

“When I heard the title of event I was sceptical. After the session I can say that it was not only relaxing and reenergising but it gave me a lot of insights about myself.”

Ana Tijssen – Slow Art Day participant

“I joined the session out of simple curiosity. For the first time in my life I took more time to view a painting: I discovered things which took me by surprise. What I take out of whole event, is how diverse insights participants obtained and yet our conversation was open and positive all the time.”

Monika K. – Slow Art Day participant

“The more I was focusing on the paintings, the more it made me realise how everything is connected in life. For example – much more than being fond of traveling, I am fond of living in foreign countries and during the Slow Art Day session I realised why. When I allowed myself to stop and take time to be with the painting it was only then when I could feel a deeper connection and a sense of familiarity. It is the same with foreign countries – traveling through them seems like rushing through the gallery from one famous painting to another – the experience may appear fleeting and empty. Living in a foreign country, on the contrary, is like taking time to get to know the “painting” in depth, which feels meaningful and enriching.”

Anja Humljan – Slow Art Day participant

“I really appreciated the event, because it created the possibility of valuing different ways of seeing. One was to connect with myself and rediscover the joy of personal discovery almost like a child. And, of course, last but not least, I really enjoyed the insights and comments of other participants.”

Nenad Filipovic – Slow Art Day participant

Due to the enthusiastic response to the event by participants, the Gallery plans to organize an in-person event later this year once they can re-open. Visit their Instagram account to stay updated with their work.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the passion for slow looking that Lidija Drobež and her participants show. We must admit that our original design for Slow Art Day was to have participants look for one hour at one painting, but we decided that might be too intimidating. Yet, we still know the power of even slower looking, and are thus excited to see what Lidija Drobež comes up with for 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley

Van Gogh in Mississippi for Slow Art Day 2020

For their second Slow Art Day, the Mississippi Museum of Art shared a slow-panning video of Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles” (1888).

The video featured close-ups of the painting alongside commentary by Victoria Meek, Associate Curator for Family and Studio Programs. The painting is her favorite artwork from the Mississippi Museum of Art exhibition “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Their Times,” which was postponed due to the pandemic.

Title: Art Moment | Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles,” 1888.
Artwork: Oil on canvas, 13 x 16 1/2 in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 2014.207. Copyright Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement, said that the video was well-received across social media, with 830+ views and likes on Instagram and Facebook.

One person posted a picture of roses as a thematic connection, and others praised our education staff for providing insightful interpretation of the work. We were pleased to have produced something that could allow our audience to take a closer look at one of the iconic works on view.

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement

Following the positive feedback on the video, the Museum created a new “Mindful Art Moment” video series on their Facebook page, encouraging viewers to think differently about what they see in works of art.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited to see the Museum build new programs based on the success of its Slow Art Day initiative. This is core to our mission: use the annual event to encourage museums to adopt year-round programming.

We look forward to seeing what the Mississippi Museum of Art has in store for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

‘The Approaching Storm’ with The Norton Simon

For their fifth Slow Art Day, The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, invited the public via Instagram to look slowly at Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña’s ‘The Approaching Storm.’

The event was inspired by the Norton Simon’s regular Mindful Looking sessions, where visitors focus on looking at one artwork for one hour.

Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña (French, 1807-1876), The Approaching Storm, 1870, oil on canvas, The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon.

Viewers were guided by two prompts:

  • Step inside this scene and sit under the light.
  • How does it feel? In times of uneasiness, where do you find light⁣⁣?

We’d also like to note that the museum provided an unusually good description of the artwork – not filled with jargon but instead with accessible, compelling, and even poetic words.

⁣”In the midst of an approaching storm, a beacon of light shines down through a gunmetal sky onto a rocky landscape. A lone woman by the rocks nestled in the middle of the scene reminds us that we are part of this earth. At right, a tree is bent and blasted but does not break.”⁣⁣

Description of ‘The Approaching Storm’, The Norton Simon Museum, Slow Art Day 2020.

Mariko Tu, Manager of Youth and Family Programs at the Norton Simon Museum, said that slow-looking visitors loved the experience and the post was liked 600+ times.

The Slow Art Day HQ team also participated. We imagined ourselves in this scene; felt the soft warmth of the light, and really immersed ourselves in the calm before the storm. Although the lone woman in the painting seemed small, we came to believe that she is filled with strength and courage from the light despite the dark skies.

We look forward to whatever The Norton Simon Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking Meditations with the National Gallery

During the spring 2020 Covid19 lockdown, the National Gallery in London began releasing 5-minute long art meditation videos on YouTube in order to promote mental wellbeing among the public.

5-minute Meditation: Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’, The National Gallery, YouTube

Written by Christina Bradstreet, Courses and Events Programmer at the National Gallery, the meditation videos were produced at home by members of the gallery’s digital team and promoted across social media platforms.

So far, the slow looking video-series has included meditations on:

Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’

Redon’s ‘Ophelia among the Flowers

Rosa Bonheur’s ‘The Horse Fair’

Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’

Zurbarán’s ‘A Cup of Water and a Rose’

A true slow looking pioneer, Bradstreet is a powerful advocate at the National Gallery for slow programming throughout the year. When we asked her how she first became aware of the power of slow looking, she recalled how she felt as she walked home after attending her first mindfulness class:

“I felt acutely aware of the crunch of my footsteps on the gravel, the air on my skin, the bird song – and I thought, “wow! maybe mindfulness can really help us to savour the sensory details of paintings.”

Christina Bradstreet

Her positive experience inspired her to design a range of events at the gallery, such as finding wonder in familiar paintings like Van Gogh’s ‘The Sunflowers’, mindful looking, drawing sessions, and, during the lockdown, the above meditation videos.

National Gallery visitors enjoying a slow looking activity (pre-lockdown).
Picture courtesy of the National Gallery.

The first two slow looking videos have been an enormous success, with an average of 16,000 hits each on Youtube, and a total of 260k hits and counting across the gallery’s social media platforms.

Viewers have also given strongly positive feedback:

“Well done. Please do more.”  

*Delightful*”

“Fabulous meditation! Thank you so much for these slow looks.” 

“Soul touching and relaxing with a new breath of freshness.”

“I’ve seen this painting many times but I never saw the hare, or the people at the side of the river [in Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’]. Thank you so much!” 

Participant Quotes

Bradstreet also shared with us some thoughts on the design of these 5-minute videos:

Rather than simply offering a slow looking experience, I’m interested in choosing meditation techniques that connect with the paintings content or how it was painted, so that the art and the meditation enhance one another. For example, in the video on Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair, I explore the theme of the commotion of the busy horse fair as a metaphor for the busy mind, and think about how we might stay mindful when the world is chaotic around us. Clearly, these themes can be taken much further in a longer meditation. However, we have kept these short, partly because many of our audience will be beginners at meditation, and partly because we don’t want to add to online fatigue!

Christina Bradstreet

The National Gallery has truly captured the essence of slow looking within these meditation videos, and I have loved incorporating the short art meditations into my own workday as a way to relax. I recommend that you do the same.

I and the whole Slow Art Day HQ team hope that these videos inspire more slow looking around the world. We can’t wait to see what Christina Bradstreet and the National Gallery in the UK design for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna

Slow-Looking with The ICA, Boston

For their third Slow Art Day, The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, MA, designed a slow-looking event for participants to try at home.

Guidelines for the slow-looking were created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Manager at the ICA. On April 4, they were shared to Instagram, Facebook, and the museum website, where they could also be accessed via a PDF.

Participants could choose artwork in their own home for slow-looking, or use one of the suggested artworks from the ICA’s collection such as Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall (2018).

Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 63 inches (213.4 x 160 cm). Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté Art Acquisition Fund and Anonymous Art Acquisition Fund. Courtesy the artist and Bortolami, New York. © Caitlin Keogh

The easy-to-follow instructions involved mindful breathing, slow-looking, and stream-of-consciousness note-taking which were well received across the board – with the Instagram post receiving 530+ likes. For anyone wishing to recreate the experience, the material can still be accessed on Instagram, Facebook, and the museum’s website.

Guidelines to the ICA Boston slow-looking event, created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Manager at ICA Boston. Available here.

One Instagram user commented:

“Happy Slow Art Day! I like the slow art from (artist) Caitlin Keogh very much! Thank you for sharing her work with us in slow motion during this global event, and it fits well with quarantine schedules as it invites us to slow down and enjoy the discoveries art can offer.”

The whole Slow Art Day HQ team was excited by the clear and compelling design of their slow looking instructions as well as by the decision to encourage participants to slowly look at artworks in their home.

We look forward to whatever the ICA Boston comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley