Art + Design

Slow Art


So much has been said about Brian Eno that more effusive praise here is unnecessary. Let it be said, I’m a fan. Eno fans can border on worshipper/acolyte intensity…but I think I’m just a fan.

Although I did recently become a member of the Long Now Foundation, which I have been wanting to do for a while (more on Long Now later, but almost everything they do is cool; check ‘em out). And the final impetus was so I could attend the premiere of Eno’s 77 Million Paintings in its most grand form so far. To sit in a dark hall with a number of other people to watch slowly shifting, emerging, and dissolving images on a 45-foot screen, and maybe to catch a glimpse of the artist himself.

Photo by Scott Beale/

Like someone said, That’s a lot of paintings. The project is explained in more detail elsewhere, but 77 Million Paintings is visual art that algorithmically recombines discrete images; you’ll probably never see the same combination twice. The potential combinations number 77 million. Or thereabouts. I trust he’s done the math on this.
This work is fascinating because it’s a) slow and b) ever-changing. Slow Art is a category that doesn’t seem to be in the books yet, but if you look, it’s been around for a while. It’s David Ireland tossing a lump of concrete around for twelve hours as it cures. Or Michael Heizer making the vastest piece of land art ever. As Eno pointed out in his brief talk, there is much hype about the ever-shrinking human attention span. And yet, and yet . . . there are still plenty of people who want to contemplate the slow-paced and the long-term. And as he proved with the exhibition, and in a DVD you can buy, not all new media has to be fast.

Photo by Scott Beale/

So even as everything keeps going faster, it’s a good time to pause and breathe. And though books seem decelerated enough, I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate these long and slow views into what we do. Paint drying, grass growing, lakes freezing—sounds plenty exciting to me.

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