*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
… slow art arose in the later eighteenth century when two massive cultural changes converged, changes that have grown more acute ever since. First: acceleration, as capitalism and advances in technology quickened the pace of everyday life in unprecedented ways. It’s no coincidence that Harmut Rosa links the origin of modernity to the quickening movement of money, vehicles, and communication. The pressures of acceleration created the need for psychological breathers or timeouts. But second, and simultaneously: Western society grew more and more secularized. As a result, occasions to slow one’s tempo became harder to access – like devotional practices requiring viewers to focus intensely on single works over long periods of time. Hence an increased need met decreased opportunities to address that need. Slow art came to supplement older sacred practices by creating social spaces for getting off the train. In sum, as culture sped up and sacred aesthetic practices waned, slow art came to satisfy our need for downtime by producing works that require sustained attention in order to experience them.
Arden Reed in Slow Art: The Experience of Looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell
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Q: What’s the point of all of this? Shouldn’t we be discussing how to end poverty or promote world peace? What can art do?
A: I happen to recently have read an inspiring book by Anne Bogart, the theater director. It’s called, “and then you act: making art in an unpredictable world” and she talks about such issues. I’ll quote her wise words below:
“Rather than the experience of life as a shard, art can unite and connect the strands of the universe. When you are in touch with art, borders vanish and the world opens up. Art can expand the definition of what it means to be human. So if we agree to hold ourselves to higher standards and make more rigorous demands on ourselves, then we can say in our work, ‘We have asked ourselves these questions and we are trying to answer them, and that effort earns us the right to ask you, the audience, to face these issues, too.’ Art demands action from the midst of the living and makes a space where growth can happen.
One day, particularly discouraged about the global environment, I asked my friend the playwright Charles L. Mee, Jr., ‘How are we supposed to function in these difficult times? How can we contribute anything useful in this climate?’ ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘You have a choice of two possible directions. Either you convince yourself that these are terrible times and things will never get better and so you decide to give up, or, you choose to believe that there will be a better time in the future. If that is the case, your job in these dark political and social times is to gather together everything you value and become a transport bridge. Pack up what you cherish and carry it on your back to the future.'”
“… In the United States, we are the targets of mass distraction. We are the objects of constant flattery and manufactured desire. I believe that the only possible resistance to a culture of banality is quality. To me, the world often feels unjust, vicious, and even unbearable. And yet, I know that my development as a person is directly proportional to my capacity for discomfort. I see pain, destructive behavior and blindness of the political sphere. I watch wars declared, social injustices that inhabit the streets of my hometown, and a planet in danger of pollution and genocide. I have to do something. My chosen field of action is the theater.”
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