On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0231168322

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.

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as being produced by, rather than merely reflected on, the interviewee’s face. “Who you are, what you believe,” he explicates the project to Elster, “Other thinkers, writers, artists, nobody’s done a film like this, nothing planned, nothing rehearsed, no elaborate setup, no conclusions in advance, this is completely sort of barefaced, uncut” (53). Extreme long-take cinematography, for Finley, is to approximate Elster’s search for deep time. It promises an ideal technique in order to explore the

aesthetic strategies of slowness in the work of film directors who use their cameras to capture forms of mobility that exceed our desire merely to move from one point to another and thus to collapse or tame the tenacity and unpredictability of extended geographies (chapters 4 and 5). We will come across aesthetic slowness in contemporary video art as a powerful means to remember and rework traumatic residues and reanimate painful histories seemingly frozen in the past (chapter 6). We will face

contemporaries, precisely because they do not manage to see it; they are not able to firmly hold their gaze on it.”6 No present, Agamben continues, is ever transparent to itself; it is steeped in obscurity and an inevitable degree of unreadability. To be contemporary is to face this obscurity head on, to perceive and expose oneself to the darkness of the moment, yet also to recognize the light that—like the brilliance of a distant star voyaging for some time toward the earth—may be directed to or

the melted ice will put out the fire.”9 Though it would be inadequate to call Halperin’s Towards Heilprin Land cinematic, her hybrid multimedia installation clearly seeks both to expose and stir up the fire hidden underneath the appearance—the photographic stillness—of arctic ice and glacial formations, whereas Subin’s project is to mimic and double the seemingly photographic surface of Greenland’s landscape with the medium of photography itself, that is to say, engage the viewer in a double

contemporary speed and purposive mobility. They produce spaces in the very heart of highly accelerated actions that invite heroes and viewers alike to pause, to suspend the relentless logics of cause and effect, to recognize and yield to the copresence of different dynamics of moving through time—and precisely thus to do what aesthetic slowness as an art of radical contemporaneity is all about, namely to derail deterministic notions of movement and sovereignty and reframe what is perceptible,

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