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I remember visiting Neil Brownsword early in 2009 in his studio and him telling me that Think Tank were going to be thinking and writing about Speed later that year. I wasn’t surprised with all the talk of Slow…so a year on and I have just found an incoming link referencing this site in a piece by Liesbeth den Besten. I would be interested to talk to the members of Think Tank about it and wonder what you all think?

I have written previously about this after having bumped into Ben Lignel last year and talking about the same Think Tank issue on speed, which he was contributing to. I posted about it in a piece called ‘Literally Slow‘. I am surprised at the amount of positioning of speed – in opposition to slow in the Think Tank members’ essays and that in some cases it is taken so literally. Lignel says at one point his essay that ‘the correlation between slow and craft can be dismissed as largely ideological’. But with all the terrain that we have covered in this site alone and that others such as the Gestures of Resistance project and sites such as SlowLab cover, there are many ideas beyond ideologies or the literal here.

There are some good thinking points too, Monica Gaspar in her own words ‘avoids ethical judgments and polarisations between fast and slow’ and Glenn Adamson has some good points about differing speeds whilst in Peter Assmann’s essay Speed Kills – But What? he shows a lovely tempered understanding of time ‘so speed is increasingly becoming more of a question of rhythm, of a conscious decision between different tempos, a bit like music’.

In one of my first posts on this site, I talked about how I work ‘fast’. When I am making – fast, slow, speed are all there and it’s not about one being better than the other, there’s no competition slow may be bad one day, fast may be good another, but there is not one way. Fast, slow are speeds and words after all and when put into action fast may feel slow, slow may feel fast…to pin a word to an action is very difficult.

Going back to den Besten – she may have needed to trawl this site to find the quote she used – a comment by a reader of the site called Brenda Boardman asking ‘Is good art measured in time?’, but missing Boardman’s other point that ‘if its a slow process is it better or judged a time waster?’ Perhaps she did not find any other thoughts or positions on the subject, such as a post by Linda Sandino in August 2008 saying:

‘…But that just shows how I’m falling into the recalcitrant binary opposition sulk; Fast=Bad; Slow=Good. Wrong! … I don’t think we should fetishize slowness…’

Fair point? We don’t need to ‘fetishize slowness’ and I for one have always been in agreement with this, but surely neither do we need to fetishize speed.

I wonder if I will always have to re-iterate the point that our thinking around the word slow is not literal here? It takes me to something that Adrian Rifkin said at a symposium called ‘Deschooling Society’ that I attended last week. It was said in the context of learning and education (in fact Rifkin preferred the word ‘learning’) – he said ‘equality is in perplexity, not in the known’.

Perhaps here I should accept my perplexity in den Besten’s seemingly binary position when she talks about the ‘Taking Time’ exhibition, but I am also interested that den Besten uses the term ‘versus’ – perhaps in this context it could be seen as being synonymous with the word against. Finally how do the words ‘revolution’ and ‘slow’ contradict each other and who says there’s any ‘conquering’ to be done here anyway?

Here is the quote from den Besten in her essay Fragments, p 17 of the 2009 ThinkTank publication Speed.

Slow versus Speed

‘From October 2009 till January 2010 the exhibition ‘taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution’ took place in (sic) at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. On the blog http//makingaslowrevolution.wordpress.com I read an interesting question: ‘Is good art measured in time?’ It made me wonder: to many people the fact that someone worked a long time on something, spent a lot of energy, thought and dedication, is a guarantee for the works quality. Slow = good. Speed, velocity =bad. In our speedy time slow has become a good quality. If things are slow, they are sustainable, human, socially concerned – at least this is what the Slow Movement is telling us. The Slow Movement would love to conquer our lives – but slow contradicts the concept of revolution and conquering’

To read the rest of her article click here

More to follow soon…

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One thought on “Slow is a Speed…

  1. Hi Helen

    Nice to read here !

    I must say it is a very concerning point on speed, actually to some point the ‘fragile’ element in slow design thinking .
    The direct connection that people make to this is speed. Everything in our consciousness is based on our time journey. The idea of how we Live, is totally connected to our time experience. We think in forward or backward in timelines. Everything what we do is experience on this flat horizontal time and distance experience. but forgetting we can also go in other dimensions then left and right. We keep on having this need for measuring our life, our road and context. Where are we, what have we done so far, what can we still do, everything is set out to time, how much time to we still have , can we create some more time, -a time out.. It’s almost as time is a treat, showing us there is a dot at the end of the line. bringing out a panic so we make most of the time we have, speeding things up to have bigger profit..

    But it’s merely a short term profit, even the thought of just linear time experience shortens the view of real meaning of time – influencing directly the real meaning of slow.

    Many people thinking so direct about slow get also restless on the topic, Is this affecting my quality of life, is this affecting the needs I have for life, not realizing the deeper meaning of slow design, enriching opening encouraging experiences that actually open up people consciousness for seeing a little larger, a little wider on the system we live in..

    Slow design isnt’ about slowing down our life system its about opening up a new system of life, being able to view in a different perspective to what we have in our hands and heads and what we do with it.
    Do we keep on living on the ‘slow’lazy’ mentality of not wanting to think bigger – that is a negative slow that is a daily brainstop for thinking New, thinking into a better quality of life.

    We think in physical, we think in time, we think in distance.. Slow design should open up this other dimension, expanding the local perspective and how can we do this. How can we make slow design in wider reach for the people.

    Our lives can experience a total new experience by taking time out of the physical ” what you see is what you get’ . Human brain and intervention our unconscious can go beyond our direct time experience.

    With the work you do , but also others like Alastair, slowlab or us on different location we are trying to inject new systems of thinking about slow , slow design , slowing down.

    but in Slow Design it is the mentality and activation change of perspective, what is a different time experience then the direct forward-backward slow-fast interpretation.

    Slow design also became a argued but popular theme, being picked up and worked through by many people, places and groups what is a great thing still we need to maintain and inject quality in the transmission of what slow design is.

    It stays alway interesting still to rethink a new term then slow as well. slow covers a wide spectrum but in itself always calls out the conversation on speed.

    Speed stays important.. but it’s about implanting slow strategies in a fast pace system.. not cutting down the speed but changing it’s course

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