I adore You, for just 8 Seconds
8 seconds. Just 8 very fast seconds: this is the maximum time visitors spend in front of a work of art. This piece of news, which was made known by the Tate Gallery in London, makes us think. Noteworthy, according to psychologists, this span of time is the same our subconscious needs to determine whether we like someone we are meeting for the first time or not. So, we look at paintings the same way we look at people, being happy with our first impressions: beautiful/ugly, good/not good. 8 seconds and then… next please! What has become of love at first sight, ecstatic fascination and falling in love? Nothing. We are always in a hurry; there are so many works to see and so many people to meet. Perhaps, something better awaits us in the next room, exhibition, party, street, or Facebook friend request. Even if Madonna, Sharon Stone, The Nike of Samothrace or Botticelli’s Venus appeared in front of us (everyone has his/her own emotional and aesthetic canons), we would dismiss them with the same quick look. Downwards, from the right to the left, down and then up. Just 8 seconds for fleeting fascination, in the hope that the future has some more thrills in store for us. About one century ago, the Futurists – in the wake of mounting excitement about the rising civilisation of machines – praised speed. One hundred years since, we must admit that speed is overwhelming us. Today, everything is fast: fast food, fast reading, fast love. And, so, also fast looking. We must perform all our actions quickly. The rhythm of life is marked by fingers on smartphone screens and keyboards. We have become insatiable. We taste neither food not reading – we just gulp them down. Instead of falling in love, we aspire to collect lovers. When we enter museums or galleries, we see without looking. We visit the Venice Biennale, the Moma in New York. We fly from Basel to Miami to Hong Kong to attend art fairs; we get drunk on images without memorising them, our brains go black and we come back home feeling as if we had a hangover. At this rate, I think we all run the risk to die young, ignorant and lonely. We really need to calm down and, maybe, rediscover what the Latins called otium, that is, slowly flowing time that clears the mind and touches the soul. It could also be useful to give Ovid’s “Ars amandi” a trial, maybe with Milan Kundera’s “Slowness”. And – why not? – with Tate’s idea of slow looking. Just choose a painting and observe it attentively; pay attention to every detail; look at it at different times of the day, and in different light conditions. Stand close to it, than step back, and then walk in front of it. Finally, even though we know nothing about the author, that work will certainly speak to us. And, hopefully, this will help us become less neurotic and superficial. I have made up my mind: I will go, try and tell.
Lorella Pagnucco Salvemini