Slow Workshop

Organized by the Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 ARTS FOR ALL, the symposium “My City is Still Breathing” took place in November 2010 and brought together cultural makers and thinkers from all over the world. This exciting symposium gathered international experts to deliberate and debate the current and future relationships of art and design to city-making.

I held a slowness workshop for a group of twenty participants.

Here is a description of the Workshop and findings from the work we did.

“Speed Bump – A Slow-City and Slow-Life” Workshop

Sick with hurry, sick with time, our culture’s addiction to speed is engraved at the deepest level of the mind. The maxim that speed equals power has many under its adrenaline-induced spell. The tentacles of this vast machinery connect to all societal spheres, creating a desire and craving for acceleration everywhere. Is it possible to resist this tidal wave? Radical slowness may be one possible counterpoint in a world where the mechanisms of innovation and power are running out of control.

Slowness is counter to our notions of the city as thriving, alive, and fast paced. Before asking where and how slowness can enter our lives, we must first answer why. If productivity and success are the predominant mottos of our time, why should we want to slow down? The reality is that the bombardment and cacophony of the world around us as well as the world within is depleting and unsustainable, and greatly jeopardizes our quality of life. Despite the challenge of switching off this mindset, more and more people are seeing the value and necessity of giving oneself the gift of slowness. The use, purpose and relevance of slowness is to give back to the present moment its’ true worth, allowing for a more reflective way of being. The slow movement has become a worldwide phenomenon that is transforming cities everywhere, from food production to food consumption, to health, sex, work, leisure, education, transportation, childrearing, urban planning, and the environment.

As a forum for discussion and experimentation, this workshop provided participants tools and tactics for creating slow cities and slow lives. Taking the shape of a slowness think tank, the aim was to discover pathways to finding slowness in the everyday, allowing it to infiltrate and transform our world, starting with the symposium. Throughout the four days of “My City is Still Breathing” participants of the workshop performed random and organized acts of slowness. A “Slow” List was gleaned from our experiments and interventions at the conclusion of the symposium. This invitation to slowness acted as a catalyst for unexpected and practical applications of slowness in people’s everyday lives.

Slow Cities/Slow Lives: Ideas, Misconceptions & Practical Tools

•  Slow ≠ less
•  Presence
•  Reflection
•  Yoga, gardening, baking
•  Slow group activities
•  Spending time with people that you are normally too busy to see
•  Living clock: follow the body not mechanistic time
•  Rhythm: becoming aware of what you don’t know or can’t hear when you’re going too fast
•  Play like children
•  Pathways to achieving slowness: drum, heartbeat, cycles
•  Reverie
•  Smell and hold a child
•  Consumption and time: health benefits of taking time to eat; wiser distribution of food
•  Taking back time
•  Letting go of artificial deadlines
•  Take off your watch
•  “ish” – tactics for slowing down
•  Diminishing or cutting out: TV, alarm clocks, news
•  Rituals like taking time around the table to converse and share
•  Use transition times (commuting) to your own advantage
•  Fellowships: space to share life experience
•  Tai Chi
•  Taking time to rest
•  Talking about slowing down as a way to slow down
•  Reducing energy consumption: bi-product is you slow down
•  City vs. rural: pros and cons for slowing down
•  Creating proximity: “little villages”
•  Slow city has traditionally had a negative connotation
•  Being stressed is misconceived as being productive
•  Driving, ways to encourage people to slow down: audio books, tax incentives not to speed, a reward system rather than a punitive system
•  Slowness means getting away from the city
•  Slowness: space to ponder, gain greater perspective, see big picture
•  Take time to enjoy the moment

Ideas for Slow Interventions and Gestures

• Smile and make eye contact with people, especially people you don’t know. Effect: if enough people do it, it will help them to slow and become present in the moment
• Give a helping hand to someone who appears to be rushed – it would help you and the person to slow down
• Random acts of kindness
• Bring slowness through both shocking and simple gestures, from an absurd perspective
• Bring awareness that we all have our own speed and to not impose our subjective speed on others
• Don’t make a plan, go with the flow
• Substitute coffee with tea: way to cut back on people’s anxiety
• Wear a t-shirt with the word “slow”
• Drop things and have everyone slow down as a result
• If we slow down, others will also, ripple effect
• Slow down speech
• Laugh!!

3 Responses to Slow Workshop

  1. Dawna says:

    I was at the slowness workshop and the discussion was great. My life has been on the slowdown for a few years now and I have really come to appreciate the value of being able to watch the rush but not necessarily always participate in it.

    During the conference we were challenged by Dominique to try to bring slowness so one a couple things I did was wear a t-shirt which had a curious slogan. I also used my cloth handkerchiefs…(I really wanted to drop my hankie as a throw back sort of gesture to see if anyone would #1 stop and pick it up for me or #2 pick up on the funnyness of it in contrast to todays society and all…but alas didn’t find just the right opportunity)

    So Thanks Dominique for the great workshop and the affirmation that there are other slow seekers like me out there. 🙂

  2. beatrice werner says:

    how do you slow down when you have a child to raise? one can’t avoid the alarm clock or the schedule …. any tips?

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