- The Aesthetics and Politics of Slowness:A Conversation
In order to approach the concept of slowness in its relationality, we invited KEVIN HAMILTON and LUTZ KOEPNICK to engage with us in an open conversation to explore where scholarship on the topic is—or should be—headed. While this conversation is the first in which all four of us engage in the topic together, it is also a continuation of a long-term academic exchange that started in 2007 when both KATJA and KEVIN were invited for the final critiques of the MFA student projects of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Digital + Media Department, and—ending up in the same hotel in Providence—took a long walk along the coastline together. When KATJA was asked to participate in a summer school on the topic of "The Arts and the Future" at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich in 2012, she invited KEVIN over to co-teach a class on slowness. KEVIN and KATJA presented and published their thoughts on what they called slow media art at the Media Art Histories conference in Riga in 2013 and at the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in 2015.1 As they had been using LUTZ'S book during their conversation, they took the 2017 ASAP/9 conference in Berkeley/Oakland as a chance to organize a panel on slowness.2 In parallel, KATJA approached ERIN with the suggestion to organize an ASAP symposium on the topic of slowness at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2018. [End Page 467]
Our various backgrounds—Kevin, a fine arts scholar and practitioner, Lutz, a media arts scholar and aesthetic theorist, Katja, an art historian, and Erin, a comics studies and literary scholar—led us on quite a meandering path in our conversation, which productively allowed us to unpack the multiple dimensions of slowness, and the potential of the concept to highlight the relationality of speed, in an interdisciplinary exchange. Starting with the advent of the slow movements, we proceed with a consideration of slowness as an aesthetic and phenomenological concept—as a means to experience the present in all its spatial and temporal complexity. In questioning what slow means, as well as what it means in different contexts—whether cultural, economic, racial, and/or gendered—we examine various situated moments of individual and collective slowness. Taking as examples the politics of border crossings and social mobility, as well as our own agency within academia, we consider the political implications of instrumentalizing slowness as a potential means of protest and, contrarily, oppression. Moving back to media aesthetics, we connect these political concerns to the various mediums that help negotiate our understanding of slowness. In looking closely at digital media, we question how human perceptions of slowness need reexamination in light of discourse on the Anthropocene, deep time, nuclear time, and planetary time—as well as media archaeological time, which finally leads us back to question our own practices as scholars and institutional policymakers.—Erin La Cour and Katja Kwastek
We'd like to start our conversation with what the majority of Western audiences from the cultural sector will probably first associate with the notion of slowness: the slow movements. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Slow Food movement that was inaugurated in 1980s Italy to counter the accelerating global food culture by promoting local food production and calling attention to the actual processes of producing and consuming food. This was followed by several other slow movements, among which is the Slow City movement. As the slow movements are so widely known, we want to start by asking both of you to introduce your own interest in slowness, relating it to this more general notion of slowness as a cultural movement.
In my work on questions of slowness in contemporary art, I have seen various slow movements over the last few decades as important points of departure. However, my hope was to develop slowness as an aesthetic category, not an existential one, nor as a question of lifestyle. Moreover, in my work I want to highlight certain blind spots in...