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Hans Ulrich Obrist On The Pace of The World And the Value of Slowness


Hans Ulrich Obrist is a legendary curator and interviewer.

In the book Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Curating, the tables are turned and he is the one being interviewed.

Here is a noteworthy exchange between him and Jefferson Hack on the pace of the world and the value of slowness for revealing life.

(Hack) Speed is something that I wanted to talk to you about. Do you feel that you are too fast for the world you live in? Like the world is naturally too slow for you? Do you feel comfortable with the speed at which things are changing or do you feel alienated and confused by it?

(Obrist) In a way, I think it is just a condition we live in.

You accept it?

I think the question is how we can differentiate. It’s very important to inject experiences of slowness, so I think curating exhibitions is also about having slow lanes — not only fast lanes. I think it’s very interesting what you said about things being prescribed because in museums and exhibitions now, the enemies are those audio guides. I went to see an exhibition where I wasn’t able to return to a painting because there were thousands and thousands of people there with those audio guides. They’re already a nightmare, advancing, advancing from painting to painting. And the beauty of an exhibition is that it’s a nonlinear experience, so you can return to a painting. Pictures don’t reveal themselves instantly: it’s important to be able to return. I love, you know, T. J. Clark’s new book, The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing. In it he describes a residency at Getty; he would always return every morning to the same two paintings by Poussin, not really knowing where he would end up. And that’s the whole idea: having nothing special on his mind, he was just looking.

Something to keep in mind as you visit various museums this summer.

Still curious?

Obrist is the brains behind The Interview Project and prefers to conduct lengthy interviews, often lasting hours and testing the endurance of both him and the interviewee. The first collection of his interviews, Hans-Ulrich Obrist: Interviews, 75 in total, is now out-of-print. Interviews, Volume 2 is another collection of insightful dialogues with a “diverse group of architects, artists, filmmakers, historians, musicians, philosophers and writers” — including Björk, Doris Lessing, and Benoit Mandelbrot. Weighing in at over 900 pages and organized by the interviewees’ dates of birth, the interviews are taken from an archive with nearly 2,000 hours of recordings.

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