On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)
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Speed is an obvious facet of contemporary society, whereas slowness has often been dismissed as conservative and antimodern. Challenging a long tradition of thought, Lutz Koepnick instead proposes we understand slowness as a strategy of the contemporary―a decidedly modern practice that gazes firmly at and into the present's velocity.
As he engages with late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century art, photography, video, film, and literature, Koepnick explores slowness as a critical medium to intensify our temporal and spatial experiences. Slowness helps us register the multiple layers of time, history, and motion that constitute our present. It offers a timely (and untimely) mode of aesthetic perception and representation that emphasizes the openness of the future and undermines any conception of the present as a mere replay of the past. Discussing the photography and art of Janet Cardiff, Olafur Eliasson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Michael Wesely; the films of Peter Weir and Tom Tykwer; the video installations of Douglas Gordon, Willie Doherty, and Bill Viola; and the fiction of Don DeLillo, Koepnick shows how slowness can carve out spaces within processes of acceleration that allow us to reflect on alternate temporalities and durations.
produce aesthetic space-time as an open simultaneity of various voices and relations, pasts and presents, heres and theres. Meaning and pleasure here are being constituted through kinesthetic interventions, not through cognitive acts of distantiation or a critical deconstruction of the perceiving subject. And it is Cardiff’s invitation to engage in such a playful expansion and exploration of the sensorium, her work’s determined aim to make us experience indeterminate couplings of motion and
slowness, the real here brutally stalling the efforts of thought and contemplation. But this sense of failure, in the final analysis, might actually testify to what slowness, as a strategy of the contemporary, is all about. It confirms at the level of literary form what can be learned from watching Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho attentively, namely that slowness at its best invites the subject to recognize its own limitations while exploring the unstable space between the unique and the reproducible,
Tykwer films, 181–86 Communication: mobility as form of, 20; in Tykwer films, 169–70, 172–73; wireless, 170–71; see also Media Compensatory slowness, 35–36; temporal continuity and, 36; tradition and, 36 Compressed time, 1 Conceptual art, 216 Confessions (Rousseau), 218–19 Confessions (St. Augustine), 287–88 Conflict, slowness and, 207 Connectivity: compulsive, in speed culture, 11; contemporary demands for, 214–15; in Ghost Story, 195 Conrad, Joseph, 35 Contemporaneity: anticipatory
and unpredictable but also the need to unfetter notions of mobility and movement from a peculiarly modern privileging of the temporal over the spatial. Slowness, in this expanded sense, emerges as far more than merely speed’s inversion and modernity’s obstinate stepchild. Contrary to both our Marxist and our neoliberal critic, but contrary also to the redemptive rhetoric of many of today’s slow life missionaries, aesthetic slowness wants us to explore modes of mobility and perception that do not
chapter is to present Weir’s and Herzog’s Dream|Time cinema as a cinema of contemporaneity, not simply because it—like the prominent role of Aboriginal art on the global art market since the 1970s5 —actively participates in a contemporary creation of value, but first and foremost because it explores the contours of what contemporaneity after modernism and postmodernism is all about: to recognize the coexistence of various temporalities (whether modern, premodern, or protomodern) within the space