A cinematic approach to slow art with Nadin Mai

We just spoke with Slow Art Day 2013 host Nadin Mai, who came to the idea of slow art from the world of film and the research she has been doing on the origins and influences of what’s called “slow cinema.”

“Slow cinema,” or, as some prefer, “contemplative cinema” is characterized by long takes in which events are given time to unfold, often in real time. Slow films are minimalist – the frames are simple and straightforward and the narrative focuses on only a handful of characters or even just one, keeping the viewer’s attention on a specific action unfolding in front of his or her eyes.

Nadin is a doctoral candidate at the University of Stirling in Film Studies. Her research focuses on how slow cinema filmmakers draw from art forms that preceded the invention of photography, specifically, painting. She shared with us some of the major points of her research.

1. Focus on “reading” visual elements
Since there is little dialogue, the viewer is dependent entirely on his or her eyes more than anything else and has to “read” the visual elements of the films in the way that one does with paintings or even literature.

2. Landscape painting
The rural settings of many of these extended scenes, become vehicles for contemplation, like a landscape painting.

3. Perspective
Finally, like paintings, slow films tend to use medium to long distance shots, taking in more context than close-ups, which photography popularized.

Nadin describes slow looking as a luxury, that “actually seeing something is rare these days. Everything passes by quickly, and unless we say ‘Stop!’, it’ll go on like this.” She finds slow cinema rewarding and wants to bring the same slow mentality to the viewing of art and is hoping to use her experience with Slow Art Day to draw even more connections between slow films and paintings for her research.

Nadin’s Slow Art Day event will take place in The McManus Art Gallery & Museum in Dundee, Scotland. She chose The McManus for its well rounded collection of different types of art, including artifacts from Dundee’s history. She is interested in including some of these artifacts and hopes to trigger a slow viewing of ‘everyday’ objects as well as artwork.

If you are going to be in Dundee, Scotland in April, be sure to sign up to go to The McManus and join Nadin in experiencing a slow cinema-inspired Slow Art Day.

– Naomi Kuo, Slow Art Day intern