Category Archives: conceptual

Speeding up to slow

Just last week I read an article about how over-used the word ‘busy’ has become to describe how we are to anyone who might ask. Should you be the type of person to use it frequently, it simply points to the fact you are not managing your time correctly. Whilst there is always room for improvement I always think a better question might be “are you making time to consider how you feel?” The reality is, as we know, every one is in such a constant state of rushing and with attention spans akin to a bolt of lightening, that we rarely stop to consider anything. We just ‘do’, constantly seeking the next experience.

“do-its” by Rose Finn-Kelcey. Electronic LED display sign with green fast scrolling two word phrases in green 2002. Owned by The Collective.

The Slow Art movement is not new and always strikes me as rather counter-intuitive to what the big museums and art galleries actually desire in numbers. If everyone slowed down to absorb more of each art work for a lengthened period of time how would queues be managed? How would art institutions raise the funds they need through entrance fees (where applicable) as fewer people might be admitted per day? Having spent an hour queueing to get in to the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris recently just to get through security, followed by a further queue to get a ticket, and then another to leave your bag, the very idea of ‘slow appreciation’ was hampered by the fact we had no time left to make the most of the great art works in front of us. It felt like a visitor production line and with little seating it was not conducive to slow appreciation. In fact the whole experience made me want to speed through the gallery rooms and make a rapid escape from the fifth floor.

But one experience should not put a shadow on other visits where standing in front of an artwork and observing the brush strokes and lines that make up the work set your heart racing in appreciation. Or watching attentive groups of visitors being guided round by experts who help to share all the things you might have missed. Is it a ‘style of looking‘ reserved for the more elite that requires the ability to listen and to pay attention to the minutia (or the obvious) of what is being pointed out?

Or is “Slow Art” simply ‘a way of describing the modern experience of art itself. ….. which rewards lingering, “slow” attention and thought.’

In 2001 a study by two scientists in empirical aesthetics examined visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, measuring time spent by 150 visitors looking at seven art works. The mean time recorded was 27.2 seconds per art work. In all likelihood this has not changed very much or even decreased, with Arden Reed quoting a much lower figure for US museum-goers in his more recent book.

But does it matter to the average museum-goer if what they get from those 27.2 seconds (or less) is the reward they seek? If it creates a moment in time where visual gratification combines with evoking the right emotion and understanding for the viewer, surely it doesn’t matter to the non-expert how long they spend in front of each art work? However, offering the opportunity to see it through the lens of an expert should always be a consideration should you wish to learn and understand with a more critical and knowledgable eye.  Do people visit galleries to receive visual pleasure or heightened appreciation for a world seen so differently to their own?.  Or do they visit art galleries to gain knowledge and think differently?

In his book ‘Slow Art‘ Arden Reed argues that 250 years ago there was no slow art – because ‘life was just slow in general’ whilst in today’s modern experience “Slow Art can give us the kind of consolation that everyone is looking for.” The artworks “need us to bring them to life with our attention…” or rather our slow appreciation.

But if we suppose that today’s art experience might be based more on instant gratification and a quest for continuous new experiences, perhaps the 27.2 seconds is sufficient and what’s required is more art and more innovative experiences with art? Does it need to be slow to appreciate it?  It certainly needs to be slow-er to learn more about the artist and understand the detail and circumstance.

The concept of Slow Art has been an unacknowledged concept for The Collective ever since it was first set up. But not in the sense of an hour spent per art work in a gallery, but in six months spent living with an art work.  Isn’t this slow art in the extreme

It is not the first time I have mentioned the appreciation that comes with living with art.  You see it in morning light.  You see it at night, or when a visitor asks you about it on a weekend afternoon.  You see it through a range of different emotions, through the peaks and troughs of your daily life and through the different seasons. You may have participated in its purchase, or selected it during an exchange. You may have visited the artist’s studio and understood a wealth of knowledge that brings a fresh perspective.  You may have disliked it, but found it grew on you with time.  Either way you get to immerse yourself in a way that makes the current concept of ‘slow art’ seem more akin to a flash in the pan.  And just when the works have started to become invisible through familiarity, we have an exchange that sees a whole new landscape spread across our homes. Is this the Collective way of endorsing Reed’s words when he says “artworks need us to bring them to life with our attention…. But it is also good for the observer”.  In our case a Collective good.  

If the impact of ‘slow art’ is cumulative, as Reed suggests, living with art can only help teach us more about ‘how to look‘ and ‘how to be generous with other objects’ . Ultimately it will help teach us how to enjoy individual works more fully and satisfy what we are really seeking by looking at art in the first place. Pleasure, insight and knowledge.

  Thanks 

About Ideas

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OO/HO’ Model lamp-post MDF, acrylic, 2012. by Bedwyr Williams. Owned by The Collective

The last remaining days of 2017 and a good time to think about what lies ahead in 2018.

Reflecting on The Collective year that has seen studio visits, exhibitions and of course the Collective’s own showing at Work Place Gallery, Gateshead we continue to enjoy the concept and fruits of our efforts. At the same time we try to work on ideas of where we might go next on a journey that has already lasted more years than we ever thought possible.

Recently I happened to watch the BBC’s replay of the 2016 documentary “who’s afraid of Conceptual art ,presented by Dr James Fox.  As some (though not all) of the contemporary art the Collective has purchased is “conceptual” in nature, and much of the conversation from friends and family who see the art in our homes is on this subject, it was a topic I was keen to watch.  The often heard remark “I could have done that!” or “what a rip-off” when they learn the purchase price, generally points to the fact many people flounder when it comes to the idea of “conceptual” – what it means or a largely “why bother?” attitude as there is no understandable explanation for what they are viewing.

The documentary is well worth a watch. Moving in time from the innovator Marcel Duchamp to contemporary artist Katie Patterson the documentary captures the beginnings and much of the journey conceptual art has taken over the last 100 years. The interviews with some of the current artists are particularly illuminating.

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Work No.233 by Martin Creed. Owned by the Collective: Cubitt Collection

Martin Creed, for example, an artist whose work we have in our Collection. The discreet message (fuck off) of work No.233, written in the top corner of a plain piece of copy paper and given added weight from the blank space below it is typical of Creed’s ability to make “something out of nothing“. It was a work that caused consternation and discussion for six households with children – and often quoted as their favourite work if asked!  Making things that are humorously subversive and don’t please everyone holds appeal for all generations!

In the documentary Martin Creed’s comment when asked about his paper ball work sums up what many of us feel about any artwork, contemporary, conceptual or otherwise.

Who says what is bad or what is good?, if something is exciting or feels good that is the test”

It is subjective.  The real test for us in the Collective comes when we live with a work that we may not personally have been involved in purchasing but have then selected to have in our house until the next exchange.  Deciding whether it makes you feel good or excited can be a challenge but over time can result in a change in the way you feel or what you think when you see it.  It’s about ideas.

But it was artist Robert Montgomery who uses “language”  to create text works in different but often large bright neon lights, billboard poems and woodcuts in public spaces whose comments left a notable impression on me

the point of art is to touch the hearts of strangers without the trouble of ever having to meet them“..

Whilst this is true for the most part in that for the majority of viewers there is no engagement with the artists (nor is engagement desired), but instead our enjoyment is based on how it makes us “feel”, a gut reaction, it is a different concept to how the Collective decides to buy art.  Here we actively encourage engagement with the artist as part of the purchasing process. This enables an understanding of the artist as both ‘creator’ and ‘idea generator’ – a human engagement that connects strangers with artist.  It doesn’t happen on every occasion but wherever possible we strive to make it a trouble worth having!

As Dr James Fox points out “with conceptual art we shouldn’t worry about whether it is art or not but whether it makes us think or not

It’s about ideas.

Happy New year to all!