slow art manifesto

So what can we do? Be bold? Make statements?

— The value of art is neither predictable nor calculable.
— Art is not consumption. A work of art does not become scarce when it is ‘used’. Therefore economic laws do not apply to art.
— Art is not a matter of supply and demand. The market can only demand what is already known. What the public wants can therefore never become a creative or artistic factor.
— Art is discipline. It demands dedication of both artists and audiences.
— The artist should not take part in competitions. Undermine competition by looking at both the weakest and best things of each other and join in to formulate something completely different.
— Pragmatic solutions are always second best.
— If you apply for something and you need to fill out a form, first change the form to accommodate the work of art you have in mind, then fill it out.
— If you care for something, create yourself the conditions in which to develop it. Don’t adapt your ideas to time frames, formats and procedures imposed by institutions and managers.
— Formatting leads to monocultures. Life and evolution rely on diversity.
— A cultural field without artist-run organizations is unhealthy. Distrust artist communities that rely on the already existing institutions. Also distrust governments that claim that art is important, but subsequently fail to recognize artist initiatives.
— Art is not meant for ‘target groups’, art is for everybody.
The text entitled Slow Art is the result of discussion, reflection and collective writing, carried out by a group of people as part of the Open House team. It is a starting point, an invitation to think collectively about artistic practice and how we organize it in the here and now. “Slow” is our matter of concern. Equivalent toSlow Science or Slow Food, it makes a case against the product oriented and economic supremacy of the neoliberal society we live in.


We who live in Brussels, in Belgium, in Europe, in the western world — we seem to live in the best of all possible worlds.
And yet…

The struggle for freedom, for emancipation, democracy and human dignity in the past, seems to have lead to nothing else but the total dominance of pure economic thinking today. Neoliberalism has now taken the place of both left and right wing ideologies from the past. The traditional values of both left and right have been abandoned by all politicians in favour of pragmatism, meaning that the main concern seems to be with ‘what works’ within the confines of pure economic reasoning. Everything we do must be useful within that logic and everything we think should coincide with what that logic demands from us. Reality is what it is — there seems to be no escaping that.

Our ‘world of freedom’ has become a prison. It leaves us no other choice than to be consumers in a consumers paradise. It has perverted our ideas of freedom and human dignity itself. All our moral, political, artistic and other considerations have become commodities in a market that only recognizes efficiency, usefulness and profitability. It is a world in which the general interest, the common good, has made way to self-interest and survival of the fittest.

Modern art has always been critical towards ‘reality as it is’. Ever since Romanticism, art has questioned the presuppositions of the different definitions of reality in a given time. In other words: modern art has always been ideological by nature. Today it still wants to be just that. But the problem is that nowadays the critical and ideological nature of art has become a product itself. The artist is only recognized as an artist when he is the thwarted, non-conformist, and ingenious individual he is expected to be. His contrariousness is seen as a hallmark of authenticity, but authenticity itself is just the thing the market is demanding. It sells. It has become a form of entertainment. In other words: when an artist is refusing the ‘reality as it is’, he’s doing exactly what is expected of him. He becomes part of precisely that reality.

This is where I usually get stuck. I see the political (moral, social) aspect of art, but an artist is no politician. He is not presenting a political program to the world, a specific course of action. Though he may hope that his work triggers just that. He wants art to have an impact. But this is often in contradiction with the general ideas about art: the fact that art has to be exceptional, strange, peculiar, eccentric, something outside regular civil society, contrary, elusive, ‘negative’ towards anything that looks like a more steady definition.

All these ideas tend to make art what it is today: relatively irrelevant, part of political or commercial agendas, subject to manipulation.

The difficulty is that on the side of the making of art there is the need to be free of all constraints. An artist should always have the feeling that he is ‘an absolute beginner’, someone who doesn’t exactly know who he is, so to speak.

But when we’re talking about the meaning of art the elusiveness of it all is not particularly helpful. ‘Making’ and ‘meaning’ are often confused in what we say about the way in which art can resist ‘reality as it is’.