How Art can make us slow down by
Slowing down by looking at Art
We are living in a quickly evolving society in which people are looking for ways to evade the velocity in which this is being executed. We want to avoid stress and the agitation in which this is happening. Pressure already starts in the first years you go to school, and you are being tested and evaluated. Is there still time to play, experience and explore? As a child this is so much easier than when adult. As soon as you have chosen your direction there is no time to be lost or idle, you have to move on. The consequence is that people get stuck in a rigid thinking pattern.
During the Master in Arts Education I conducted research on how art can contribute in becoming aware of your own judgment (or prejudices). By looking at art together and sharing your observations and interpretations during a dialogue you become aware of your own assumptions.
By conducting this conversation people become aware of their own prejudices and that of others. While looking at art you can train yourself taking time to study the details in a work of art. Looking attentively makes you be in the here and now. You slow down and you start to question your own reality.
Wieteke van Zeil points out in her book, Altijd iets te vinden (2020), how you can learn to postpone your opinion by looking at art. Of course, you can’t reduce stress just by postponing an opinion, however I do see a connection. Van Zeil makes a comparison with social media, how these forces you to make quick judgments. However due to the speed, context and how nuances are being covered up it gets harder to make a good judgement (2020, p.10). I think that with the speed in which expectations are being cultivated in for example college or in the business world you deny yourself time and space to reflect on your work and your own strength.
The method I want to use is Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). Looking at art via this method doesn’t require foreknowledge about the work of art. You do not need to know anything about the intentions of the artist, you look, interpret and share your findings with the group. How you feel and your emotions determine what we see, and so how we judge. You interpret your observations from these feelings (Van Zeil, 2020, p.15-16). To become aware of your own assumptions and thought patterns it is important to share your thoughts with others.
Art can at times give you the freedom to get to thoughts where you before could not – yet - get to (Van Zeil, 2020, p. 34). If you restrict your observation to your own personal interpretation you can miss things. We see what we want to see. Another person interprets and looks differently or is aware of other details (Herman, 2016). By opening up the conversation you can open up to the other person. The conversation could take place in a formal or informal setting. The space has influence on your sense of security. We believe that the intervention Emi will design could also influence our interpretation.
According to Herman (2016, p.149) observations are being made by all senses. When we place ourselves around a table we have to relate to each other one way or another. This is a thought Hannah Arendt formulated as follows (translated from Dutch); “everybody is unique in its own way, everybody experiences life from another perspective and that’s why we have something to offer to each other if we know how to convert these experiences in ideas and pass these on to others” (Dewey, 2011, p.184).
By looking at art for a substantial time we become aware of our presuppositions of reality. We try to clarify the concept and look for confirmation or we try to change and alter our reality. Art teaches us how to look and take perspective. By looking we can search the boundaries of our social concepts. We will be challenged to open our eyes, discover rigid patterns and open up to unknown territory. By looking at art we can stretch our thinking and make it more flexible. By looking together and talking about what you see you will be made aware of that flexibility.
From you own position (your norms, values, culture) you relate to someone else and you communicate with each other to get nearer to each other. At a table you can share stories, but also food. Eating is next to looking at art or sharing a space, a way of sharing your stories. Does eating together also influence our perception of time?
From my expertise as an arts educator I think art can help interpret and understand internal processes better. To test this we, Antoon Wellens and Emi Tsutsushio will work together. An interdisciplinary cooperation in which we want to research if this assumption is correct. A source of inspiration for this experiment is the term ‘eatscape’. This concept is derived from the thesis by Chotima Ag-ukrikul, Let’s Eat Together. Methods and Tools for Inclusive City Design Practice:
“Eatscape is a construction of eat and landscape, and defined here as a fluid landscape which is shaped by people and their performance in shared physical and social settings while the practice of commensality occurs.”
(Ag-ukrikul, 2019, p.3)
How can social aspects, action and interaction between people, and spatial aspects like form and material (Ag-ukrikul, 2019, p.2) be of influence on our experience of time. In short, we want to research how looking, smelling, tasting and experiencing can influence our mental wellbeing.
- Ag-ukrikul, C. (2019, oktober). Let’s Eat Together Methods and Tools for Inclusive City Design Practice. Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Building Design. https://research.chalmers.se/en/publication/513239
- Biesta, G. (2015). Het prachtige risico van onderwijs (4e ed.). Culemborg: Phronese.
- Dewey, J., & Berding, J. W. A. (2011). John Dewey over opvoeding, onderwijs en burgerschap: een keuze uit zijn werk. Amsterdam: SWP.
- Herman, A. E. (2016). De kunst van het observeren (1ste editie). Amsterdam: Atlas Contact, Uitgeverij.
- van Zeil, W. (2020). Altijd iets te vinden (1ste editie). Atlas Contact.