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On Slow Art: Introduction

I did something crazy—although it only came to look crazy in retrospect. Without initially intending to, I spent roughly eight years dwelling with the same painting—whether in person or in my imagination. A simple looking painting at that, Edouard Manet’s Young Lady in 1866.

The Eyes of Statues

Statues have a tendency to flicker between the quick and the dead. Lucian of Samosata describes a young man who spent his days before the Venus of Praxiteles, his sight fixed uninterruptedly upon her.

The Quick Hello vs. The Long Goodbye

A discussion of slow art as an antidote to the speedy assimilation of imagery can begin with the embrace of an aesthetic of instantaneous impact characteristic of American art of the Sixties.

Darwin's Slow Time

We can begin to grasp just how long a timescale Darwin’s theory requires when we consider the only illustration that he offers in the Origin of Species, which shows species differentiation over time.

Before the Click

Early cameras were wooden boxes, each with a small hole, eventually equipped with a lens. The lens had no shutter. There was no click, no moment captured.

On Time

How can time manifest in performance, object, or environment? How, through the use of structure, can time be altered, shifted, transcended, and understood in our shared experience?

Speed Living

Perhaps today’s fascination with speed follows in part from the torrent of information pouring through our always-on devices.  Keeping up means speeding up. Anxiety results from knowing that no matter how fast we go, we’ll never be able to listen to, see, and read it all.

Andy Warhol, Sleep (1963)

From the beginning, some observers—even some Warhol fans; even (sometimes) Warhol himself—have claimed that his durational movies were conceptual works whose essence lay in their premises, not in the experience of seeing them.

La Chambre Clair

The question of movement in the twentieth century usually leads to the answer of speed. But in his mid-1950s essay “The Jet-man,” Roland Barthes dropped an enigma in speed’s path.


There is an infinitely long time which is that of history... Then we have an infinitely short time, which is that of technology’s billionth of seconds. I think the present finds us squarely between these two times.

Sublime Boredom and the Drowsy Reader

I can’t remember who first observed that Kafka’s novel The Castle was capable of inducing an effect of “sublime boredom,” but many other novels and stories in the 19th and 20th centuries have evoked a curious condition that lies somewhere between consciousness and sleep, a twilight state in which we are only half-awake and dimly conscious of what is happening, or, more often, not happening, on the page.

Two Slowness-es of Democracy

At the end of his presidency, Obama worried that people were becoming “impatient with the slowness of democracy,” explaining that “the less effective Congress works, the more likely people are to start giving up on the core values and basic institutions that have helped us to weather a lot of storms.”

Slowly Repairing Our Relationship with Art Itself

Great art situates itself on the edge of discourse, half within its reach and half outside. Although we may grasp many aspects of an artwork through language and criticism, art’s totality exceeds conceptual thought.

Picasso, Braque, and Early Film in Cubism

As the old century closed, the movies promised the “annihilation of time and space” and eventually revolutionized beholders’ experience of the world. Among the very first patrons of the nascent cinema in Europe were the painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.


My grandfather was a slow driver. A very slow driver. Trips from his apartment in the Bronx back to my family’s house upstate, a distance of 100 miles, took three hours minimum.

Reflections on Slowness and Art

Can art be meaningfully described as slow or fast? Or to put the question differently, is speed an attribute of artistic experience?

The Slow Onset of Catastrophe in the Russian Summer

In their seminal work on literary plot, the Russian Formalists described the device of “retardation”—slowing the action by means of digressions, twists, nature descriptions and the like. The plots of all of Chekhov’s great plays retard time excessively before a catastrophic end—following the shape of Russian summers.

On the Weaponization of Sight

A weapon improves when it applies lethal force more quickly to its target. Since the era of modern warfare—ushered in by the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb—military research has worked to produce faster and faster weapons.

Cinema, Fast and Slow

Cemetery of Splendor is anything but an action picture, and shares little with the multimillion dollar blockbusters that can make billions for their franchises. But here, at least, Weerasethakul seems to indulge a moment of kinetic pleasure in a film where almost everyone moves slowly if they move at all.

Luminist Paintings at the National Gallery

Slowly the nineteenth century is turning into dusk


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2017

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