Monday, November 23, 2009

Festina Lente

I just discovered the Slow Art Movement.  Inspired by the Slow Food Movement, an attempt to return to well prepared, wholesome local foods eaten with attention and appreciation, the term "Slow Art" may have first been used by Grayson Perry, a Turner-award winning potter in his column for the London Times in 2005, where he says:
Art-world acceleration I put down to various forces. First, we are just as prone to being sucked into the idea that fast is somehow central to modernity. To be relevant is to be broadband-quick and dressed for next season. . . . As a producer of art I feel an increasing pressure to keep in step with our 24/7 culture-on-demand society, and as a consumer I am overwhelmed by a tyranny of choice. I hereby declare the launch of the Slow Art Movement (I have not hired a PR).

Well said!  Here, here! or, to be obnoxiously current, a FB "I like this."  Obviously, Slow Art has not triumphed over the mad rush for more and for more immediately, but here and there the idea has been picked up--by a museum that had attendees sign up to spend at least ten minutes looking at each work of art or by artists anxious to let their art lead rather than being driven by outside demands, including competition with other artists to produce quickly.

In the quilting world "slow" often has negative connotations that range from "uptight" and "obsessive" to "no fun."   Freedom is equated with speed. A small rush of creative optimism comes when a piece is finished, and, in pursuit of that momentary high, the process, where the furnace of creativity is stoked and made to glow, where the deep enjoyment that comes from understanding and connecting with your work can be discovered, is ignored in the rush to completion.

Part of the reasoning behind this year's experiment is to slow down, to savor, to give myself time to understand. It is not a pursuit that lends itself easily to crowds, is probably downright inimical to them, but finding a kindred spirit here and there can be reassuring when you begin to worry you might be lost in the wilderness instead of pursuing some noble path.

On the other hand--and due to my mildly dyslexic tendencies, I am always aware that there  is another hand--there is a slowness that, I almost said becomes glacial, although even the glaciers seem to have been speeded up by our cultural demands.  But there is a slowness that is a drag on the process, like a river that is being strangled by silt.   When I cannot bring myself to make that first cut in a beautiful fabric, when I put off sandwiching a piece because I don't want to have to square it up--or see how out of square my innovations have made the piece,  when I check e-mail or read just one more QuiltArt digest instead of tackling the next challenge, I am not doing Slow Quilting; I am not quilting at all.  Sometimes my dithering is indeed a sign that as in yoga, I am rocking back and forth on my toes, trying to find my balance point from which I will launch into the next phase and the more securely I am in that balance the easier that next step will be.   But  often my dithering points to a fear of failure, a fear of messing up something that I have spent a portion of my life working on.  

Balance may indeed be crucial here, as it seems to be whenever a question of importance comes up.  I think I am more comfortable with a Latin motto that became my son's favorite Latin phrase years ago when he was in his teenage trough and looking for wise excuses to avoid doing something I wanted him to: Festina lente.  It translates as "hurry slowly."   It captures my need to keep myself moving but at the same time work with attention and care, in all the senses of that word. 

I have often been quilting the last couple of weeks to the music of Arvo Part, whose music can rise to sublime heights.  I bought one of his CDs because of a piece called "When Bach Kept Bees"--his titles can be as intriguing as his music--and I discovered that another of his pieces is called "Festina Lente."   One of those validating coincidences.

I cannot picture any movement called Festina Lente so Slow Art may have to do.  It does give hope that alternatives still exist to the McArt available at a drive-through window.  And now back to quilting.


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