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Talk Slow

Brave new world. How will art look like after COVID-19? An interview with Diana Lelonek

Brave new world. How will art look like after COVID-19? An Interview with Diana Lelonek by Jan Elantkowski

How will the coronavirus pandemic affect your artistic practice and your daily life?

I have anxiety disorders so coronavirus is not an easy time for me. I’m really worried about my family and the future. Staying in a small, rented apartment in the centre of Warsaw during the quarantine has been really hard for me.

I live next to the parliament building where there was a strong police presence; they checked everyone. I spent almost three months in one room that I share with my boyfriend. We don’t have a balcony so I started to squat a small garden which I found next to our apartment building. It is a private area so it was possible to go there even during the lockdown. Nobody has used it for years. I decided to start growing some plants and flowers there. I met a cat that lives there and I started to feed him. I think this garden and the cat helped me survive this difficult time.

The political situation in Poland during the COVID-19 crisis is scary. On 15 April, during the quarantine and in the middle of the pandemic, the Polish government decided to vote for introducing a complete abortion ban. Normally, every time when they try to push this horrible law through the parliament, thousands of people go out in the streets to protest against it. But this time, during lockdown, any kind of protest is illegal. Regardless, women found some legal loopholes and tried to protest anyway. For example, protesting in cars, or holding banners while waiting in a long queue in front of the shop next to the parliament, etc.

For me, the most important thing at demonstrations is shouting together, but it was not possible as gathering is banned. That is why I decided to invite women to gather online, so that our shouting could sound together anyway. I received about one hundred recordings of women, men, and children chanting the sentence: “Fight the virus, not women” [“Walczcie z wirusem, nie z kobietami”] and a few other slogans that we usually shout at protests outside the parliament.

Together with my friend, artist Edka Jarząb, we edited a track of the assembled recordings. In this way, a recording of a demonstration that never took place in a physical form was created. The day the parliament voted for the law, the recording of protesters shouting was played from windows and balconies, from cars, on the way to the shop (also next to the parliament building). And thanks to that we could all shout together and our voice was heard. I think that such a “speaker protest” can be an effective tool for protesting when gathering is prohibited.

A few days ago, I left Warsaw for the first time since the beginning of March. I am currently at a friend’s house in the countryside and I finally feel that the stress and tension associated with the current situation are starting to fade away.

 

Do you think you will have a different attitude to life and art when this crisis is over?

I don’t know yet how this pandemic will affect my life. It is difficult to say anything at the moment. I have both negative and positive thoughts on the potential effects. Certainly, this virus emerged at a time when the world dramatically needed a change. We lived in such a terrible rush and overproduction that sooner or later something had to happen to stop it. Last year in climate change movements, we postulated a reduction in consumption and a reduction in flights. Now all this has stopped – not by the will of people, but through the “decision” of a microorganism. My solo show in Rome called Buona Fortuna has been closed for 3 months because of the coronavirus. Next week, it will at last be open again. I have a strange feeling when I think of this show, which talks about the disaster caused by our arrogant approach to the planet through a series of “Zoe-Therapy” works in which bacteria take revenge for human dominancy… and finally comes a real virus unexpectedly and the show gets closed for 3 months… When we discussed the title with curator Kuba Gawkowski a few weeks before the opening, this irony of Buona Fortuna was as important for us as the hope visible in the exhibition. I feel that this virus is the last call for change. We can’t miss it. The world as it was will probably not come back. The question is in what ways it will change. It can change for the better – a pandemic can be a chance to look for and implement new economic solutions and models. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the first real effect, which will soon emerge, will be a radical deepening of class differences. I’m also worried about our freedom and the future of democracy.

Diana Lelonek, kiállítási enteriőr/exhibition view: “Buona Fortuna”, Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, Róma/Rome, 2020. Fotó/photo: Andrea Veneri

When it comes to art – well, I think it will be difficult. Virtually almost all exhibitions, conferences, debates and festivals I planned for this year have been cancelled. Artists received practically no support from the state. Post-pandemic public funding of the arts and culture is likely to be much poorer. Institutions are already experiencing cuts to their funding, and this can result in the lack of salaries for artists. The many years we spent trying to receive a fair payment for our labour and ensuring exhibition fees might get lost. Recently, I heard an interview in which a well-known Polish actor (a very well-off person) said that artists would manage because “a hungry artist is a prolific artist.” Unfortunately, this myth still persists within our society.

The second issue – employees in the cultural sector are to a large extent employed on a zero-hour contract or contracts that pay little and provide neither stability nor social security (civil law contracts used in a pathological way); they are currently deprived of income, and this will not revert to the previous state even after the restrictions are removed – it may get worse for cultural workers than it ever was.

Diana Lelonek, kiállítási enteriőr/exhibition view: “Buona Fortuna”, Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, Róma/Rome, 2020. Fotó/photo: Andrea Veneri

In what way do you think this virus has fundamentally changed our lives? Has it changed our lives at all? What can we learn from the pandemic?

As I mentioned earlier, I think that our lives will change mainly due to economic crisis – the coronavirus effect.

Following the pandemic, most people will suffer from poverty, the loss of their jobs or homes, debt, (it is already expected that many people will fall behind with their mortgage payments within the next three months), so the level of housing loss and unemployment will increase. Personally, I have a problem with people who emanate positive visions of a wonderful post-pandemic world; these are usually privileged people who own their flats and spend the quarantine practicing yoga on spacious patios and “travel deep” within themselves. On social media, many middle class people talk about how the quarantine has allowed them to see the real, meaningful values in life… To be honest, I cannot listen to this type of statements anymore. Real life looks like this: In Poland, most people are cramped in tiny, mortgaged apartments, or in apartments rented privately at a very high cost. I do hope that as a result of the coronavirus the real estate bubble will burst.

The pandemic may certainly provide the chance to introduce changes that would not have taken place otherwise. The world has stopped and it should not return to the way it worked before. We now have the chance to introduce other economic models. Models that would put an end to the exploitation of planetary ecosystems, of industrial farming, increasing the importance of small farms, locality, cooperation, reducing production, and slowing down life. However, this all sounds too utopian. And I don’t think it will happen. Ecosystems had a moment to breathe before soon recovering to return to how it was before. Meanwhile, a bigger crisis is awaiting around the corner – the climate crisis. In the long run, this will be much more threatening than the pandemic.

Diana Lelonek, Motherboard Nature, “Center for Living Things” sorozatból / From the series “Center For Living Things”, 2017

Do you think that art has the means to effect social change? And if so, then in what ways?

I think that art has such a potential, but it doesn’t really have the power to break through on a larger scale. Such tools are available to politicians, not artists. We can continue our grassroots activities, do engaged, political art. Our voice is important. Certainly, art provides tools that can help us come up with alternatives. This is already on its way, think tanks that include both theoreticians and artists are already being formed. Nevertheless, these are still micro-scale activities. According to public opinion, art is superfluous and something that is not worth our support during the crisis, and is the first thing that can disappear as an unnecessary luxury.

When it comes to art to provide a response to the current political and social reality, I think that it has great potential in the current situation. However, I am afraid of repressions of the kind that artists have recently experienced in Warsaw. A week ago, a group of Polish artists performed a happening near the parliament building as a commentary on the government’s actions regarding the organization of the presidential elections during the pandemic (more here). The artists were doing their job – it was a performative action, they obeyed the current laws (keeping the appropriate distance and wearing masks). Regardless of this, they were punished with high fines for doing art, which was a critical commentary on reality.

Warsaw – Budapest, May 2020

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Talk Slow

Interview with curator Zsuzska Petró on the Ludwig Múzeum blog (Hungarian only)

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Talk Slow

Interview with curator Petra Csizek (Hungarian only)


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Talk Slow

Interview with curator Krisztina Üveges on the Ludwig Múzeum blog

(Click on the picture. Hungarian only)

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Slow Motion

Diana Lelonek’s slow sounds (audio)

In her work chosen for the exhibition Slow Life – Radical Practices of the Everyday, Diana Lelonek investigates the relationship of humankind and nature. In the Center for the Living Things she explores new forms of life, a consequence of human overproduction. The products of this overproduction are becoming a natural habitat for these organisms.

Among Diana Lelonek’s other works there are several audio projects. One of them is a sound installation Melting Gallery, which she aimed at raising awareness about global warming by the means of the sound of melting glaciers. Endling is a compilation of archival audio recordings of birds, from which some species are already considered to be extinct. Nightingale Concert (Luscinia luscinia) invites us to look around and to find the beauty even in the most crowded places of our big cities. All these sound installations encourage us to slow down and to immerse ourselves in these sounds of nature, to contemplate our own relationship to the world around us. (J.E.)

SoundCloud links are the courtesy of the artist

All texts below by Diana Lelonek

 

 

Diana Lelonek/ Denim Szram, Melting Gallery, 2019

 

The sound installation prepared in collaboration with the Swiss sound artist and composer, Denim Szram, was created during Diana Lelonek’s residency as part of the Culturescapes festival in Basel. The recordings created by the artist on three melting Alpine glaciers: du Rhone, Aletsch and Morteratsch composed into a song by Denim Szram are a kind of symphony of disappearing glaciers. The sound of a slowly trickling catastrophe, whose arrival is hardly spectacular, is blurred, present everywhere and nowhere, and gives rise to anxiety and is lined with fear. Alpine glaciers are disappearing very quickly; some of them have already gone forever. A trip to the glacier, listening to the ubiquitous sounds of uniform dripping, resembles a countdown. The sound is a direct sign of irretrievable loss.

The multi-channel sound installation presented in an empty exhibition space, fills the room with sound, while the classic ‘white cube’ form has not been filled with objects. The emptiness is a kind of manifesto but also a question: what is the place of art in the climate crisis? It is also a question about the overproduction of objects within the process of production art, the art world being a market that constantly craves new projects, trends and works. The production race sometimes lacks the space for us to stop and feel.

 

Concept/records: Diana Lelonek

Composition: Denim Szram

 

 

Endling

(Composition from the audio installation, solo show at Labirynt Gallery, Lublin, PL), 2019

 

 

The exhibition refers to the problem of the inevitable extinction of species caused primarily by human activity. “Endling”, which is the title of the exhibition, stands for the last member of species. The term was first used in the “Nature” journal in April 1996. It reappeared in 2001 in the National Museum of Australia at the exhibition presenting skin of the last Tasmanian tiger.

The artist created a sound installation of bird voices recorded by scientists. The composition includes voices of birds that are considered to be extinct. This poignant piece is the final call with no answer. It is an act of regret and an attempt to depict the irreversible degradation of the natural environment. Dark empty gallery space became physical representation of nothingness, a hostile spectre of the future that has already begun even though we tend not to see it.

 

Composed in collaboration with Marcin Lenarczyk

labirynt.com/en/diana-lelonek-endling/

Archive records from the collection of Cornell Lab of Ornithology and www.xenocanto.com

 

 

Nightingale Concert (Luscinia luscinia)

June 2019, action in the urban space

 

There is a nightingale living in the centre of Warsaw. The bird, which usually doesn’t like crowded and noisy spaces, chose as its shelter a rose bush on Patelnia – the “Frying Pan”, the patio at the south entrance to the Centrum station of the Warsaw Metro.

Apparently, it has been living there for several years. Every year in May and early June, in the evening, at night, and in the morning, one can hear its song. Experts say that it is a phenomenon that it chose this location. After all, the “Frying Pan” is one of the busiest spots in the city, located at the intersection of busy transport routes and always swarming with people.

Nightingales like to be heard. The one from Warsaw city centre must sing louder than its relatives in the suburban areas – it is not easy to drown out the passing trams. Still, hardly anyone stops to listen to its song.

*

As part of the exhibition “City Squares. An Instruction Manual” that took place at the Zodiak Warsaw Pavilion of Architecture in June 2019, I invited people to listen to the nightingale’s concert together. The space of a busy square in the city centre has become a space for listening, being together, and awareness. After a two-hour wait, the nightingale began its performance.

In the rhythm of the nightingale’s song, the “Frying Pan” has become a space worth stopping at, a space to listen together, to be with each other, experience time in a different way, and shape the sense of an interspecies intimacy. This concert was the beginning of a series of events during which we collectively listened to seasonal concerts performed by: frogs, crickets, birds, and other creatures.

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Talk Slow

A slow is a kind of attitude to our lives so that we notice the world around us. Interview with Zsuzska Petró

(Click on the picture. Hungarian only)

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Talk Slow

Zsuzska Petró and Krisztina Üveges in Tilos Rádió

Zsuzska Petró and Krisztina Üveges on “Slow life” exhibition in a live broadcast in Tilos Rádió (May 5th 2020)

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Programs

Ludwig Live | Fenyvesi x Sirokai x Závada: The poems of the slow-down

Ludwig Live broadcast with poets Orsolya Fenyvesi, Mátyás Sirokai and Péter Závada (Hungarian only)

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Talk Slow

Interview with curator Krisztina Üveges on Fidelio

Click on the picture. Hungarian only

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Talk Slow

We are all longing for a slow life. Interview with curator Viktória Popovics on Fidelio

Click on the picture. Hungarian only

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Talk Slow

A work of art in the age of digital publicity. Interview with curator József Készman

(Click on the picture. Hungarian only)

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Talk Slow

Brave new world – How will art look like after COVID-19? An Interview with artist Judit Flóra Schuller

How does the corona virus pandemic effect your artistic practice and your daily life?

In addition to the Slow Life exhibition, I was invited to participate in an exhibition dedicated to Pesach at 2B Gallery organized by László Böröcz, which would have opened on the same day, April 8th. As there was no way to postpone the exhibition due to its theme, unfortunately it was cancelled. And in the first half of May, I was to take part in a two-week residency program at the Balassi Institute in Rome, which I received as part of the MODEM award I won in the autumn of 2018. Unfortunately, last year I couldn’t go, and I won’t be able to leave this year either. I hope that in autumn I will be able to make up for it. To earn a living, I work in a museum, so a lot of everyday work is being reorganized now. I am fortunate not to work as a freelancer at the moment and to have received the Derkovits Scholarship this year. However, beyond everyday security of existence, this uncertainty is obviously worrying. I feel it basically harder to concentrate, since my mind is busy all the time, and I’m worried about my family – my parents working in healthcare – and people in general. Meanwhile we’re flooded with a huge wave of information, despite the confinement, there are a lot of online stimuli. It is more difficult for me to think about new works now, to slow down to be able to pick up the threads, but in the long run, something new may emerge from these wandering thoughts and feelings. On the level of everyday life, however, I managed to create an intimate bubble, which I really enjoy. My appointment book has never been so empty, while a lot of internal processes are going on inside me right now.

 

Do you think you will have a different attitude to life and art when this crisis is over?

This is hard to predict on the basis of the current situation. I basically think that yes, many things will change for a good while. It’s hard to say how long it will take for things to get back to their pre-corona virus state. Considering previous collective changes and traumas, normalcy may return to our lives relatively soon on a daily basis, but we will need more time and distance to reflect on what happened.

 

In what way do you think this virus has fundamentally changed our lives or has it changed it at all? What can we learn from it?

I wouldn’t like to make “big” statements about this. A lot has changed and is changing now around us over the last few months. No one can get away from this, everyone experiences it on a private level, but from now on it is inevitable that we, as individuals, will concern about the bigger whole. Our currently reduced living space and activity is likely to lead many people to a more minimalist lifestyle.

 

Do you think that art has the means to effect social changes? And if so, then in what ways?

Art has always reflected on life. Whether this reflection is provocative, loud, far-reaching, critical, or just “quiet”, it depends on the artist, the work accomplished, and the medium or channel of mediation. When something is so close to us in time and, in this case, physically, too, I always find it difficult to approach it through art – even as a viewer. I think this in many cases takes some time and distance.

Schuller Judit Flóra: Towards Nothingness (Walks), részlet a Memory Theatre sorozatból / from the series Memory Theatre, 2017.
Fotó/Photo: Bíró Dávid

Judit Flóra Schuller is one of the artists taking part in our exhibition. More about her here.

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Talk Slow

An exhibition that looks in the future and touches upon present. Interview with Viktória Popovics

In the interview Viktória Popovics talks about the exhibition Slow Life. A Radical Practices of the Everyday (Hungarian only)

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Programs

“Extreme Sleeping 2020” by Endre Koronczi at the virtual exhibition opening


“Extreme Sleeping” – exhibition opening virtual performance by Endre Koronczi, April 8th, 2020

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Programs

Music impressions by József Csató for the virtual exhibition opening of “Slow Life. Radical Practices of the Everyday”

Music performance by József Csató for the virtual opening of the exhibition “Slow life. Radical Practices of the Everyday”. April 8th, 2020

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Programs

Virtual exhibition opening greetings by József Készman

Greetings by curator József Készman on the occasion of the virtual exhibition opening of the “Slow Life. Radical Practices of the Everyday”, April 8th, 2020 (Hungarian only)

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Programs

ÖSSZEKÖTVE – Noémi Orvos-Tóth in a talk show by Könyves Magazin


ÖSSZEKÖTVE – Noémi Orvos-Tóth in a talk show by Könyves Magazin

László Valuska talks with Noémi Orvos-Tóth on the occasion of the International Slow Art Day, April 4th, 2020 (Hungarian only)

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Programs

iamyank’s living room concert – International Slow Art Day

The living room concert by iamyank on the occasion of the International Slow Art Day (April 4th, 2020)

Ludwig Live | Music Inspirations for the exhibition “Slow Life. Radical Practices of the Everyday”

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Slow Knowledge

criticism of capitalism

Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which a country’s trade, industry, and profits are controlled by private companies, instead of by the people whose time and labor powers those companies. Criticism of capitalism ranges from expressing disagreement with the general principles of capitalism in its entirety to expressing disagreement with its particular outcomes. In the foreground of critiques concerning capitalism are accusations that it is inherently exploitative, that it creates economic inequality: critics argue that capitalism is associated with the unfair distribution of wealth and power. 

One of the claims of the criticism of capitalism is that it is anti-democratic and a serious threat for human rights and that it incentivizes imperialist expansion and war. Free markets are supposed to strengthen free societies. Instead, todaypumped-up global economy is eroding the power of the people in democracies around the globe. 

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Slow Knowledge

slow work

In the times marked by a constant pressure of time, stress, and working overtime the slow work model seems to be necessary. Slow work’s assumption is to move through life more consciously, taking the time for the little pleasures of everyday life and dealing with mind and body spiritually – on the level of a workplace. It gives time for reflection, putting away materialism and the pursuit of more money, more success or more achievement. Instead, its objective is to create the work-life balance, taking active measures against burn-out, taking the stress out of the workplace, sometimes implementing flexible working-time models: all this to give a chance for a long-term mental and physical well being. 

Slow work is about being more productive: by slowing down the work, one gives themselves the opportunity to regenerate. The general stress level also drops as the concentration and creativity rise up. In this way people have more energy resources and performance over the long term. Slow work doesn’t literally mean one works slower, but that one performs more mindful and thus also more concentrated, which one can achieve without time pressure or hassle. Finally, the idea of slow work encourages people to break with the willingness to be more, faster, bigger, and instead to bring more peace to the working world. Although this method might sound not easy (or even impossible) to implement, by trying to follow it we give a chance to a more healthy and efficient society. 

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Slow Knowledge

local and global (exploitation of local resources)

The popular slogan “Think global, act local” urges people to consider the well-being of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities. Long before governments began actively enforcing environmental laws, individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. These efforts, referred to as grassroots effort, often occur on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers. Although originally present only at the grassroots level, these transformed into global concept with high importance, including not only local communities, but also corporations, governments, and education system.

Besides environmental issues concerning local versus global there are also crucial economic viewpoints. These include reinforcement of the local economy by supporting local businesses, farms, for example buying local fruits and vegetables instead of imported ones. Buying local is not only better for the planet but one also gets to help supporting one’s neighbors and strengthening the local economy.

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Slow Knowledge

community thinking

Community thinking is a social endeavouthat considers the good of the community a priority, sometimes at the cost of the individual’s interest. Instead of granting privileges to certain individuals, it attempts to look for solutions and actions that meet everyone’s demands, treating the good of the community as a long-term project stabilizing common good. 

Community thinking means to take care of each other, to do what is good for others, too, not only for one personThis however is not to be confused with charity, to the contrary, community thinking can be a win-win situation for all parties, for example exchanging services between community members – be it walking someone else’s dog, or repairing the zipper osomeone’s jacket etc.    

Community gardens are good examples of community activities undertaken in cities. Another good initiative might be by local governments, to plant herbs and fruit trees in public spaces instead of flowers, so that the poorer are able to use and eat them.  

On the level of decision making there are more and more human rights movements that follow a policy of letting the community make the decisions instead of delegating it to leadersSimilarly, in many cities and local communities around the world, decisions concerning for instance the annual budget are discussed openly, so that the inhabitants can decide together with the local government how to spend the funds. This decentralization, the shift in decision making policy is yet another sign of the growing importance of local communities nowadays.   

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Slow Knowledge

alternative life strategies

We live faster, travel more, and buy more things. The present day, marked by the rapid development of technology and consumption-oriented societies, is more and more characterized by fast pace of life, with stress and rush. Life today is filled with grave contradictions: throughout human history the majority of people have never lived so long and in such good health, surrounded by such a tremendous wealth of goods. Still, nowadays we are forced to face problems like the negative consequences of urbanization, endangering our natural environment and biodiversity, impersonalization of human relationships, and increasing social disparities.  

Globalisation has brought us certain guidelines as how to behave in this world. However, there are countless actions and strategies confronting the prevailing, mainstream” way of living and doing things. These alternative endeavours manifest themselves at the individual level. There are many alternative life strategies. These are not specified, they may take different forms and means – depending on whether it is everyday life, work, an attitude, or beliefs. They might cover a wide range from growing one’s own vegetables in the living room to abandoning one’s home and moving to a house truck instead. The range of the alternative life strategies is endless; the point is to follow one’s needs, one’s heart, and to be in harmony with oneself. 

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Slow Knowledge

withdrawing, escapism

One of the main problems of today’s global society is a sense of anxiety, or frustration because one may feel that he or she is constantly under pressure to fulfill the expectations of how to live and do things. In the midst of a sea of information flooding us every day through the internet and social media, one might feel fragile. Internet, social media might get us to compare ourselves to others, or compete with the world, which might result in a willingness to escape. 

Escaping however is not necessarily a defense reaction to cut off from the toxic world around us, to protect oneself from stress and anxiety. On the contrary, it might be a willingness, striving, and proactive choice to build one’s own “better” world, to successfully steer one’s own mini-universe.  

From this perspective, escapism can be seen as an attempt to work on a balanced life, embracing oneself and one’s own well-being. Escapism can take radical forms, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be radical. It may manifest in daily life as slowing down, focusing on one’s thought, or as a meditative element in life which allows us to find balance – for instance in the form of a long walk.   

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Slow Knowledge

anti-consumerism

Anti-consumerism is a sociopolitical ideology opposed to consumerism that claims that economic growth is inevitable as an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy and continual buying and consumption will bring happiness 

Anti-consumerist politics asks us as individuals to consider why we consume, what the benefits of acquiring goods are, and what impact it has on the world around us. Anti-consumerism insists that we change our habits and consume less. It is concerned with actions to take by business corporations in pursuit of their own financial and economic goals at the expense of public welfare, especially in order to contribute to environmental protection, social equality, and ethics in the governing of a society. 

Anti-consumerist movements are not opposed to consumption per se, they rather seek alternatives to existing forms of consumer capitalism.