Category Archives: slowness & speed

As Slow as Possible: AV Festival of Art, Technology, Music and Film

In an otherwise empty shop in Newcastle, there is a car crash going on. A VW Golf is being slowly shunted, by hidden hydraulics, into the wallpapered wall. The car is moving 7mm per hour, and it will take all of March for the collision, devised by Jonathan Schipper, to evolve. I stand and watch, waiting for the sound of panels crumpling, a crack to appear in the windscreen, the wall to cave. It could take days. Maybe I should call for help.

Adrian Searle writing about As Slow As Possible, the fifth and most ambitious AV Festival of Art, Technology, Music and Film, which continues all month. There are exhibitions, concerts, films, performances, readings and walks, and a whole radio channel, Radio Boredcast.

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Wireless Poetry

Our fourth workshop, next weekend, will focus on the creativity and plasticity of language that can be used on the radio. By ‘plasticity’ I mean that we can treat language as a material that can be shaped and played with, much like how we might work with clay or paint or any other material. We’ll be watching a film called Pontypool: a contemporary Canadian horror film, it is entirely filmed in the radio station where it is set, as an apocalyptic event seems to be occurring outside. It turns out that this mass panic, where people become zombie-like creatures, is caused by an infection that’s carried by language.

We’ll also be welcoming a guest, Birmingham Poet Laureate Jan Watts, who will work with us on developing poems (for potential broadcast of course!) Jan is going to present a specific form of poem called the pantoum, which is based on rhyming sections. I’m excited to see what we can do within this formal structure – partly because Scarcity Radio is about being creative within a set of constraints, and partly because I remember an idea someone from the group suggested in an earlier workshop about broadcasting nonsense, or coded or patterned gibberish. This pantoum form could be a start to developing this kind of poetic noise.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that the development of radio (“wireless”) technology in the early twentieth century was met with great enthusiasm by certain members of the artistic avant garde, particularly the Italian and Russian Futurists:

A world shrunk by speed Human energy centupled by speed will master time and space we create the new aesthetic of speed. We have almost abolished the concept of space and notably diminished the concept of time. We are thus preparing the ubiquity of multiplied man.

(F.T. Marinetti, Destruction of Syntax -Wireless Imagination – Words-in-Freedom, 1913)

It was this modern world “shrunk by speed” that prepared the stage for a new form of modernist literature informed by new advances in technology, and a youthful impatience with the wordiness of conventional language. This new literary form was dubbed the ‘telegraphic style’ of poetry. A plethora of poetic texts appeared right across Europe, bearing the influence of this new science. The German Expressionist, Franz Richard Behrens wrote in a style which he called Telegrammstil; Ukrainian Panfuturist Mykalo Semenko wrote Cable Poem of the Ocean: Mayakovsky, in 1914 declared that the nervous life of cities requires quick economical abrupt words; Blaise Cendras experimented with a form he called the “telegramme poem;” Nicolas Beauduin was writing wireless poems and the Polish Futurist Stanilaw Mlodozenieg wrote telegraphic poems. One of the most detailed appraisals of wireless communication is Khlebnikov’s The Radio of the Future (1921), written while he was working as a night watchman for the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA). These Modernist poets translated Marconi’s discoveries from scientific fact to poetic myth. The quasi-magical realization that communication could be achieved without connecting wires gave birth utopian visions of a new, or scientifically liberated humanity. These ideas aren’t so different from the way the internet is imagined today.

In June 1913, F T Marinetti published his manifesto: Destruction of Syntax -Wireless Imagination – Words-in-Freedom in which he proclaimed a freedom of images and analogies with no connecting wires of syntax and no punctuation. At about the same time, the Russian Cubo-Futurist, Alexie Kruchenykh, in the leaflet Declaration of the Word as Such, formulated a theory of transrational language, Zaum (an abbreviation of Zaumnyy Yazyk), a “free language” without definite meaning. In his essay New Ways of the Word, Kruchenykh writes:

We loosened up grammar and syntax; in order to depict our dizzy contemporary life and the even more impetuous future, we must combine words in a new way, and the more disorder we introduce into the sentence structure the better.

Both the Russians and the Italians promoted the invention of new forms of representation adequate to express the speed and intensity of the modern world. Marinetti refers to “zones of intense life” (revolution, war, shipwreck, earthquake) which for him are the catalysts for the production of a fractured mode of speech. For Marinetti, a person in such a situation would waste no time constructing sentences but would instinctively destroy the syntax of their speech. The result would be “handfuls of essential words with no conventional order.” Thus, for Marinetti, these zones of intense life require a new type of speech, a telegraphic speech, delivered with a tempo which matches the speed required by the telegraphic reporting of war correspondents (in 1911 Marinetti was a war correspondent in the Libyan War). This dramatic reduction of language elements serves, not only as an economy of speed, a need for abbreviation, “Quick give me the whole thing in two words,” but, more importantly, as an intuitive link with the universe.

How should the slowness of the boat effect our speed and mode of broadcasting?

How does the idea of scarcity impact on our use of language?



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The Art of Deceleration

New exhibition in Wolfsburg, Germany of relevance to Slow Boat & Scarcity Radio:

The Art of Deceleration distills a theme that touches a nerve with society. Since the 19th century, the tempo of life has continuously increased up to “rushing stand still” (Paul Virilio). The longing for relaxation and contemplation grows at the same time.

The exhibition project in the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg focuses on the contrapuntal phenomenon of motion and rest in art from the Romantic to classic modernism and the present day. From the beginning, the fascination for unleashed motion was accompanied by the search for an aesthetic of slowness. The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg examines this dialectic in a comprehensive exhibition featuring circa 160 works by 85 artists. The exhibition is supported by Volkswagen Financial Services AG.

12 November 2011–9 April 2012

Hollerplatz 1
38440 Wolfsburg

T +49 (0) 5361 26690
F +49 (0) 5361 266966

Wednesday–Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Tuesday 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Monday closed

*Images above:
Above: Hussein Chalayan, Place to Passage, 2003, 5-screen film installation, 12 minute loop, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, © Hussein Chalayan 2003, music: Jean Paul Dessy, still images: Hussein Chalayan / neutral 2003.
Below: Aristide Maillol, La Méditerranée, 1905–1907, bronze, 110 x 77,5 x 113 cm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; on loan from Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011.


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Human Amplification: Slavoj Zizek at Occupy Wall Street


Slavoj Zizek at Occupy Wall Street

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