On Slowness – In Art, Pizza, Weather, and Literature

Ernesto Neto’s “Slow iis goood” at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, photo by Evan Namerow

I’ve been thinking a lot about slowness. The heat wave that has enveloped New York probably has something to do with it. Everything and everyone is moving a bit more slowly and heavily through the thick air.

But over the past few weeks, the idea of slowness kept surfacing, always stemming from something I read or saw.  First, there was Ernesto Neto’s installation Slow iis goood in May at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea. In the late afternoon, my companion and I wandered in to the eerily quiet, well lit space. A man was lounging in one of Neto’s colorful, crocheted structures that hung delicately from the ceiling, just a few inches off the floor (We were later told that the lounging man was the gallery owner, who was prone to afternoon naps in Neto’s netting since its arrival at the gallery). The plastic ball floor offered cushioning, and aromas – cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric, among others – wafted from smaller crocheted designs that hung in clusters.  Not unlike Neto’s anthropodino at the Park Avenue Armory in 2009, Slow iis goood plays with gravity, textures, colors, and scents. Natural materials like shells, stones, and plants figure prominently.  Viewers can have a visceral, sensual experience.  My companion and I climbed, crawled, dozed off, and inhaled the aromas. It was a delightfully slow afternoon.

Crocheted structures in Ernesto Neto’s “Slow iis goood”, photo by Evan Namerow

Last week, at a Rooftop Films screening on Grand Street, I saw several short documentaries about the people and places of NYC. One of them, The Best Thing I Ever Done, was about the owner of the legendary, 45-year-old pizza parlor Di Fara, where every pizza is hand made by its owner, Domenico DeMarco. In a city where pizza can be found on every block and served in seconds, it’s amazing that Di Fara, located on Avenue J in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, has survived. But for DeMarco, it’s about “making it right”. People often wait over an hour as he makes every pizza from scratch as soon as the order comes in.  There is no rushing at Di Fara.  This is probably the slowest – and best – pizza in the city.

As I consider the slowness in pizza making and artwork and the dull churning of air conditioners in windows as everyone seeks relief from the heat, Milan Kundera’s Slowness, which I read a few years ago, comes to mind.  Kundera wrote, “There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.”

Slowing down in the summer is a ritual.  School is on break and kids head to camp; offices seem to have a “slow(er) period”, allowing adults to travel or head to the beach.  The city isn’t necessarily quieter, but it certainly feels slower. How wonderful to see idleness in the spotlight in this New York Times column, which was applauded on Facebook and Twitter and in nearly every conversation I heard in the days after its publication. Cheers to slowing down, to finding art and food and writing and even weather that embraces (or demands) slowness, to feeling lazy in this unbearable heat, and to not being busy – at least for a little while.

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