"How could aestheticism lead to the absolute? Can a work of art take us there? Sometimes, yes -- but only if it renounces being its own end or its own objective; only if it tends toward or reveals silence; only if it shows us, as only the greatest do, that the absolute is not an art and matters more than any and all works of art. Beauty is merely a path. Work is merely a path. Where does it all lead? To the same place as all paths lead, namely, to that place which contains all paths and is is not itself a path."

-- André Comte-Sponville

Slow Art

Posted: September 16th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: blather, slow art | No Comments »

If you’re not familiar with the Slow Food movement, it’s an organization started in Italy to counter the proliferation of fast food. From the website:

Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Here’s an excerpt from their philosophical statement:

Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

What would the equivalent movement look like in the art world? (I hesitate to use the word movement — a loaded word if there ever was one in the art world.) Let me ask it another way: what would this kind of philosophical overlay do to the art world? I would argue that a lot of contemporary art is equivalent to fast food, with the exception of the pricing. A quick fix, easily ingested, but which ultimately leaves you wanting. In the art magazines and in galleries, I see a lot of art that could easily be described as “one-liner” art. Once you “get” it, the fun is over. But fast art is not cheap — often it’s the stuff going for stratospheric prices.

Roden Crater

Without, for the time being, getting into the eco-disaster that is art materials — another day, another post for that — and without getting into fair compensation, I wonder what is art that tastes good?

I think a key differentiator is whether the work takes time to unfold as you view it — that is, you can’t comprehend everything that’s there within a few seconds — and whether an ongoing experience of the work is expansive. If, living with the work, you continue to discover new subtleties and it continues to spur thought — that might start to indicate a slow art.