I’m attracted to the layers of a slogan like the ‘slow revolution’. Most revolutions I can think of are about energetic movement and upheavals; even if ideas take a while to become ideologies, we don’t think of them as slow events. But the phrase also makes me think of an insistent, evenly paced, circular movement of the ‘what-goes-around-comes around’ variety which is about making connections, something that as a historian, I’m interested in. I’m interested in things that, like history, take time, and embody transformation. This is probably the main reason I’ve moved into oral history work and stopped writing about craft much of which had seemed to get stuck in what I like to call the ‘craft present’ without movement, no energy, the revolution was caught in a spoke; the wheel had stopped turning. There seemed to be no past, or future, just an endless ‘now’ whatever actual year, or even decade, we are in. In a way it’s a relief that the Chelsea Craft Fair is now at Somerset House because I can now visualize a different time/space continuum for the Craft Present.
I’m generalizing, of course; but it is true that I had stopped taking time with many craft objects. But why should we take time with objects? We spend time with them but why or how can that be transformed into ‘taking time’ with them? Aesthetic contemplation seems increasingly absurd and self-indulgent but it is perhaps still the mark of a ‘proper’ appreciation of the artwork; there was also that pseudo-Zen talk of hand made things making us behave in a better, more caring, thoughtful, all together holier way. The kind of talk that made me want to shop in a pound shop and stop off for a plastic snack. But that just shows how I’m falling into the recalcitrant binary opposition sulk; Fast=Bad; Slow=Good. Wrong!
The appeal of slow seems to be about process. Thinking is process. Even the light bulb bright idea is the result of thinking, the breakthrough moment. But if the work is about conveying a message, then Fast can be good too. Humour is a good example. We appreciate the conceit and carry it around in our heads, maybe chuckling over it, for a time. So, I don’t think we should fetishize slowness.
Much of my time, my ‘primary’ research, is interviewing people about their lives. Reflecting on what one has done, why things happened, and who one was and is, takes time both literally on the level of the actual recordings, but also allowing for thinking time. The stories people tell about themselves are in a sense ‘crafted’; made through thinking, which is what makes them so compelling. But, they are also made in the context of an interchange/exchange i.e. a conversation. People are speaking to me in a room, but because the interviews are archived, they are also speaking to future audiences who will also have to take time out to listen and to understand who they are listening to.
I suppose, I want to listen to objects more, not just look at them. Not many objects talk back to me these days but maybe that’s because I’m making room in my head for listening rather than looking?