Thursday, February 11, 2010

On slowing down




My wife, Patty, teaches in the fiction writing department at Columbia College Chicago. I am co-teaching a specialty class with her called Journal + Sketchbook: Ways of Seeing, and quite often in the classes Patty tells the students to slow down. The students are required regularly to read aloud from their journals, and if they are reading too fast, Patty says: "S-l-o-o-o-o-o-w, down!" If they ask whether they can use their laptops to produce work, Patty tells them that it's better if they write longhand, in their journals. Why? Because this forces them to s-l-o-o-o-o-w down, to think more about what they are writing, to feel more connected to their process.

In the drawing and sketchbook part of the class, I generally start the students off with quick, gestural drawing, beginning with 10-second drawings and only gradually working towards giving them more time. But I agree with the order to s-l-o-o-o-o-w down. Making visual art can be about the quick, spontaneous gesture, but many interesting things can come about just by patiently adding one thing to another thing over days and weeks.

In a recent interview in Art in America, performance artist Marina Abramovic said:

"The most important thing artists can do now is to stretch the present moment. Life is becoming faster and faster, and so we have to absolutely make art slower and slower."

She was talking about her own time-based medium, but it could be applied to any art.

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