For their first Slow Art Day The TarraWarra Museum of Art in Melbourne, Australia featured two very different artworks by Australian women artists: ‘Club Colours’ by Rosalie Gascoigne, and ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’ by Jenny Watson.
To promote the event, Elisabeth Alexander, Marketing and Events Coordinator, created a short teaser ‘slow zoom’ video of ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’, and posted image stories on Instagram and Facebook.
On April 4, participants were directed to a dedicated Slow Art Day page on the Museum’s website to look slowly at full-size images of the two paintings. Shannon Lyons, Education Coordinator, then led an online discussion via the Museum’s social media channels, where participants were encouraged to share thoughts about the artworks and their slow looking experience.
Shannon Lyons shared with us her surprise at how well it went:
From an educator’s perspective, it was interesting to see how willing people were to both delve deeper and give voice to their wonderings online. They actively questioned why aspects of the artworks appeared the way that they did, and why particular elements of the artworks seemed to dominate, hold or demand attention far more than others.
Their first Slow Art Day was a success, with over 5000 impressions and 100+ post engagements across Instagram and Facebook. Further, the average time spent on their dedicated webpage was 6 minutes – dramatically higher than the average time of under a minute for other pages on the site.
The TarraWarra Museum of Art had originally planned to host their first Slow Art Day in-person featuring their newly opened exhibition ‘Making Her Mark: Selected Works from the Collection‘, however Lyons and Alexander had to quickly re-imagine it as a virtual experience due to Covid19.
The whole Slow Art Day team has been impressed with what Elisabeth and Shannon were able to produce – given that it was not only their first Slow Art Day but, of course, also since the pandemic forced a last minute change of plans. We look forward to what they create for Slow Art Day 2021.
For their first Slow Art Day, The Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Canada, hosted an immersive virtual event with a multi-sensory focus.
On April 4, four photos of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020, were shared to social media in intervals. An event outline was also available as a downloadable PDF, which can be viewed in full here. Because their session was so well designed, we have included more detail in the excerpted prompts below.
Participants were encouraged to spend 5-10 minutes with each photo, and consider the accompanying prompts and questions:
Imagine yourself seated on the bench next to the installation. Take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you absorb what you’re seeing.
Focus on each individual element of the work. What kinds of lines and shapes do you notice?
Consider the areas of light and shadow. How does the lighting influence the mood or feel of the installation?
What do you think you’ll see as you move closer? What textures and patterns might appear?
Once again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you grasp this new perspective and information.
What do you notice now that you may not have perceived in the first image? Does this change your impression or understanding of the work?
Shift your attention to the cables. What kinds of shapes and forms do you notice in the negative space around and between the cables?
Consider the weight of the water contained in each membrane. Close your eyes and imagine that your arms are the cables holding them above the ground. What do you experience?
Again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you register the new details.
How does this perspective add to or change your interpretation of the artwork up to this point?
Close your eyes and picture yourself gently pressing a finger against the nylon membrane. Feel the weight of the water shifting. Does it remind you of a sensation you’ve experienced before?
Narrow in on the water droplets that are gathered on the membrane. Imagine poking them with your finger. How would the water feel running down your hand?
For the last time, let your eyes move slowly around the image as you take it in.
What would it feel like to run your fingers through the clay? To pick up a handful.
Close your eyes and imagine the smell of the clay, both dry and wet. What does it smell like? Is it earthy? Musty? Chalky?
Now consider the work as its own ecosystem or world. How would you describe it to a friend? How would you articulate its look, feel, and smell?
This was such a well-designed slow looking session that we hope more people who are reading this on the Slow Art Day website will take the time to go through this event themselves.
The Gardiner Museum is one of many museums that had to quickly re-think how to keep the public engaged with art during the Covid19 pandemic. By using photos and descriptive prompts of the installation from their special exhibition RAW, they successfully produced an imaginative multi-sensory experience – even with the added element of being virtual.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we absolutely love how immersive this event was. It reminded us how powerfully our minds can conjure up the real-life experiences of textures, shapes, weight, and scents.
We very much hope that The Gardiner Museum will continue hosting Slow Art Day events – and in their actual museum space in 2021.
Note: The listed prompts were selected from the original, full list of prompts provided by The Gardiner Museum.
Guidelines for the slow-looking were created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Managerat 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).
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.
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.
Participants were encouraged to choose an image, drawing or photo to look at for 5-10 minutes and find a comfortable seated position. The Fotomuseum outlined 5 stages for its meditative slow-looking activity:
“Close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath, and put one hand on your stomach to feel it. If your mind wanders, return to your breath. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 6. Repeat this 5 times.”
2) Look at your artwork
“Open your eyes and look at the artwork with the same alertness you had for your breath. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do you notice?
What colors, composition, shapes and materials do you see?
Does the artwork remind you of events from your own life?
Would anyone else notice the same things as you?
If your mind wanders, try to return to the image.”
“Close your eyes a second time, and return focus to your breathing. Take a few deep breaths so you feel the air flow deeply into your lungs, and then breathe as normal again. Pay attention to any thoughts about the artwork, but try to not lose yourself in them. Return to your breathing again.”
4) Look a second time
“Open your eyes and look at the artwork for the second time.
What stands out to you now?
Do you notice anything new?
Does the artwork take on a new meaning for you?”
“Take a moment to reflect on the exercise.
Did you notice yourself thinking or looking in a different way?
Do you have a new or different connection with the artwork?”
The original in-person event planned by the museum attracted interest from over 150 prospective attendees, and the online instructions were shared to Facebook with 50+ interactions.
At Slow Art Day HQ we have loved using these thoughtful instructions for our own slow-looking. Try them out at home for yourself!
We look forward to The Fotomuseum’s 6th Slow Art Day in 2021 ― hopefully in their actual museum.
Note: The above instructions were translated from the original Dutch.
PS – You may want to take a look at the webinar they did for Slow Art Day last year.