Talk Slow

” The meaning of the slowness would be sparing time for activities, which connect us and provoke transformation.” -Interview with Poet Anna Zilahi

Many scientists think that the virus is a chance for the creation of a slower, more sustainable way of life. Do you agree with his statement? 

The coronavirus pulls the veil off of the present world order’s weaknesses; the spreading onto the humans can be traced back to our unblessed relationship with nature, to the destruction, on what the comfort of the western middleclass was built. A question that many are interested in is if we can return to the earlier normality, when it should be considered maybe, if we want to return to such normality at all, where the science has been warning us for years about the jeopardy of a global pandemic, urges us to take immediate steps, and then it has to look on, how it’s nightmare becomes reality. Or: do we have to return to a kind of normality, from where arriving for many people the acceptable political crisis reaction is the opinion that in favour of the protection of the economic growth a few lives need to be sacrificed. In this context the slow life means that hundreds of thousands have become unemployed over the course of some weeks, their existence is in danger, while the life of others developed to be from morning to night lasting coping. For instance, the everydays haven’t slowed even a bit down for parents, for the healthcare workers, for the shop loaders, for the teachers or for delivery men and if the new requirement would be the necessity of continuous content consumption. (How many self-help podcast did you listen to today during cooking? What novelties had you learned in the previous weeks? What had you been streaming in the past two hours? How do you live through the time that you received as a gift?) 

The slower and sustainable way of living (this last adjective probably doesn’t worth to be compared) can arrive, when it can be provided equally for everyone, not as a privilege, but as a fundamental right. If we spend the gifted time with facing the social inequality and if we think about the mental mechanisms that were engraved in us by the capitalist desires that keep us in eternal operation. The slowness doesn’t need to equal with us doing nothing, but in spite of that keeping ticking. The meaning of the slowness would be sparing time for activities, which connect us and provoke transformation. This can happen in community, but the virus isolates. The question is that on what conclusion the new normality will build on: on the experience of mutual assistance and interdependence, or on the fear of unknown and individual losses. 

The forced isolation changed our communicational habits. In the long run it can have positive results, but it can lead to the emergence of bad practices. For example, in one of the novels of Asimov a planet’s inhabitants contact each other only by “seeing”, the thought of the personal meetings is unbearable for them, among others because of viruses and bacteria. Communication is only an instance for the great transformation; in general, should we hope for a better or a worse future? 

Exactly before the epidemic would have started, I was thinking of bringing my barely used ancient tablet to my grandparents, launching a Wi-Fi router and teaching them, how they can start a video call by pressing one button. Unfortunately. I couldn’t get there because of the continuous rushing, and I regret that really deeply. I also have plenty of other kinds of video calls, friends, colleagues and even acquaintances turn up out of the blue whom I hadn’t seen for thousands of years. But actually, is that a need? I feel like if the crisis can point out something, then it is that how much more meetings I arrange than it would be necessary. These unnecessary meetings were replaced by those zoom video calls, where it doesn’t even appear, if someone isn’t really present and has been scrolling through different news sites for a quarter of an hour. This doesn’t help the so called slowdown at all, only increases frustration and creates an illusion, as if the people worked less. Actually, the borders blur: if I answer the phone wearing pyjamas that doesn’t count as work hours yet and if the next phone call catches me still in my nightwear, then is it still not duty time yet? Don’t we reach a new level of unlimited self-exploitation with these changes? Mostly I would like to hug my grandma, but at this point I would settle for if I had had time for teaching her how to switch on the iPad. 

Creators of Slow Life. Radical Practices of the Everyday exhibition examine the social and economic causes and possible solutions of the ecological crisis. Why did your work turn to this topic? 

At the International Geological Congress in 2016 leading geologist researchers proposed the introduction of the anthropocene geological era, which adds the discretion to the discipline that the human activity, industrial destruction, contamination and demolition in the currently operating global system became a primary geological shaping force. The trade has exploded vastly in the cultural public talk since the first appearance at the beginning of the 2000’s, but as though the working up of the topic wouldn’t have occurred here, at home. We established the xtro realm art group in 2017 in order to the climate change related and ecological themed art, theory and knowledge can be able to gain space by our activity. After enormous social-ideological alterations and crises, like Galilei’s discoveries, the plague, the Second World War or the emergence of socialist dictatorship, it is not possible to do art the same way, the practises and focus points have changed. However, the climate crisis keeps in continuous transformation, which doesn’t urge for acute answering, the obligated moment doesn’t come, from where everyone agrees that so far, and no more. The crisis is here, the coronavirus is only a symptom. The question is if it is possible to answer with the tools of art for the worsening challenges, or the art’s notion can be extended to such progressive practises, which do not fit the capitalist expectations of the contemporary art’s production trends. 

How does the current situation interpret/ situate (maybe annihilate?) your artwork that was selected for the exhibition? 

The River Knows Better (Ophelia Lives) is a poem meditation, for a guided toned inner, corporal sound. The meditation is the mental space, where the air’s gush, the din of the bloodstream and the encounter of until boredom extended mental spirals cause the calm liveliness coming into existence. Until this day it is a general belief that meditation is a kind of solitary, esoteric and pointless activity, the culture-foreign expropriation of a practice from the Far East. While its effect on the nervous system is scientifically proven, it can be measured by the monitoring of the changes of the brainwaves. The main line of the refrain of the poem, „Slowing down to the rhythm of the river”, means the return to the by life dictated, to the own rhythm. The pulse changes fast, adjusts to the most unpredictable life situations, or even goes by a for hours lasting techno concert’s beat. But if we (get to) know our own rhythm, we will be able to calm down our thoughts only with the concentration of our attention on the essential functions of our life operations. It is a perfect tool for stress management, and in the long run it can change our human relationships from the foundations, and this way society. In the USA had been experimented with problematic and with existential hardships afflicted environments that for instance instead of punishing the misbehaving pupils, they had been “sentenced” for meditational time. These children went through spectacular transformation in a really short time, their anxiety decreased, and they became inquiring and cooperative. The meditation isn’t for the exploitation in favor of productivity. The opportunity inside is transformative on a social level.