On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary

Speed is an obvious facet of contemporary society, whereas slowness has often been dismissed as conservative and antimodern. Challenging a long tradition of thought, Lutz Koepnick instead proposes we understand slowness as a strategy of the contemporary—a decidedly modern practice that gazes firmly at and into the present’s velocity.

As he engages with late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century art, photography, video, film, and literature, Koepnick explores slowness as a critical medium to intensify our temporal and spatial experiences. Slowness helps us register the multiple layers of time, history, and motion that constitute our present. It offers a timely (and untimely) mode of aesthetic perception and representation that emphasizes the openness of the future and undermines any conception of the present as a mere replay of the past. Discussing the photography and art of Janet Cardiff, Olafur Eliasson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Michael Wesely; the films of Peter Weir and Tom Tykwer; the video installations of Douglas Gordon, Willie Doherty, and Bill Viola; and the fiction of Don DeLillo, Koepnick shows how slowness can carve out spaces within processes of acceleration that allow us to reflect on alternate temporalities and durations.

On Slowness is predicated on the common notion that speed, acceleration, and catastrophic events are at the core of modernism. Lutz Koepnick shows that this view is too simplistic as there always were retarding aspects and slow movements within modernism itself. Koepnick’s readings of specific art works and interventions are compelling and encourage the reader to think of other examples, to question how temporality and space are lived and represented today, to ask what aesthetic strategies can be persuasive in our world and why.

Andreas Huyssen

On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary
Columbia University Press
October, 2014
Cloth, 336 pages, 44 b&w illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-231-16832-8
$35.00 £24.00
Click here for more information

Also available as a Chinese edition:

ISBN: 978-7547316429
Publication date: 2020

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