Hurry up and slow down

29 Mar

Motivation in much of my art work stems from a strong belief in trying to minimise impact on the environment, and in taking a global perspective but also noticing the wealth of details all around.   Understanding situations and taking in the view takes time.

 The environmental crises in the world will not be wholly “solved” by technology, although technology will no doubt have a significant role in our adaptation to changes.  What is needed is a radical cultural shift away from an accelerating way of life driven by the expectation of continuously growing economies and the seduction of new gadgetry with ever shorter useful life. 

 What we need to do is slow down, stop even, look around, breathe in and live in the present.  And keep doing that until we notice our surroundings, and learn to love them again.  This is not a radically new concept, and there are plenty of other people saying the same thing, but not so many acting on it.  The Slow Movement is well established, and Carl Honore’s “In Praise of Slow” is a great read, challenging the “cult of speed”.

 By environmental crises I mean climate change, water stress, reduction in biodiversity and shortages in food, energy and other natural resources.  These are all exacerbated by human population growth.  The treatment of the symptoms is just papering over the cracks until the dam really bursts and wipes us out.  And this is a chartered civil engineer talking.

 The behavioural changes needed to counteract environmental disaster on a global scale are colossal, and the secondary impacts of these changes will be unimaginable.  But the changes at an individual level, are relatively simple and could in theory happen over a short period of time.  In reality, such change, if it happens at all, will almost certainly take a long time.  Even from a personal perspective, I am all too easily sucked into the mindless whirlpool of modern life, dominated by technology – after all, what am I doing now but tapping away on a computer, wondering what is on the TV?

 But I am trying.  I know that my daughter Eliza, won’t be the cute little toddler she is for long, soon she will be off to school and then a teenager.  Her months of being a baby whizzed by in a blur of sleepless nights (these have not gone entirely) and days fluctuating between joy and frustration.  So I am acutely aware that I need to treasure these moments, good and bad, and to experience them in the moment. 

 The need to slow down and regain contact with the natural environment was the theme of the Cloud Space installation, produced by the Cloud Gallery artists’ collective for the Greenhouse Shropshire exhibition in 2008.  As a member collaborator with the Cloud Gallery, I became convinced at that time that the simple activity of walking, sometimes stopping and using our senses could play a significant role in changing people’s perspective on life.

 This is an extract from the Cloud Space statement:

 “Global warming is just one symptom of human consumption.  In the relentless drive for wealth and success, many people lead a frenzied existence with narrowed-down vision and minds caught up in an almost virtual world of electronica. 

 This installation and the associated walk allow people a moment to refocus our thoughts and regain awareness of the “here and now”.  In these spaces, we can appreciate the passing of time and see the detail and distinctiveness of the place around us.  It is a time to use all our senses, to experience being in our own bodies in this place, and consider that “being” is as important as “doing”.”

 A selection of my photos that were included in the event is shown below.  Each is a detail that might ordinarily have passed me by, but which struck my attention once I had slowed down to the pace of thought.  For that short passage of time, almost every detail seemed to present itself as a potential subject.

Grille

Grille

Stay hear

Stay hear

For the Blind

For the Blind

River

River

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