As Futurism celebrated the speed and dynamism of life and technology at the turn of the 20th Century, an antithetical Slow Movement marks the beginning of the 21st.
The movement has roots in philosophy and sociology, the Arts, as well as a range of lifestyle areas including dietary, parenting, work, travel, and so on. It stands for various principles of slow living, and in protest against our speed-obsessed contemporary societies.
The Slow Movement goes back to Italy in 1986 when the protests of Carlo Petrini – against the opening of Rome’s first McDonald’s – gave birth to the Slow Food Movement. In time, various towns and cities across Europe and beyond adopted the leitmotif of Slow living, many of which are members of the Cittaslow movement.
Cittaslow towns reject cultural standardisation and instead seek to improve the lives of their inhabitants by encouraging exceptional standards in local food and drink, the use of public spaces to enhance daily life, a sense of neighbourliness, among other things. Aylesham is a notable example of one of several Cittaslow towns in the UK today.
The 21st Century has dramatically catalysed the impetus of the Slow Movement, in response to rapidly changing lifestyles thanks to the internet, social media, and the devices we use them on. We now expect things like same-day delivery, and wouldn’t know how to get by without apps like Uber. And in between everything we do, we seem to distract ourselves with videos, games, breaking news reports, and so on, and so on.
In many respects, the Slow Movement is about merely reacquainting ourselves with life. History isn’t short of quotable lines which sum up the philosophy, stop and smell the roses, for example, or the classic line from Ferris Bueller, below.
“Life moves pretty fast if you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.”
In its more novel sense, Slow Living is manifest in trends like ‘stacking’ which the youth has now adopted in order to reclaim time with friends. When out for drinks or dinner with friends, all members of the party must stack up their phones on the table. The first person to reach for their phone must pay the tables bill.
In a more profound sense, Slow Living rejects quantity over quality, and in its efforts has managed to offer a remedy for the various forms of alienation which Marx warned of in contemporary life. Producers are reacquainted with their product, as parents with children, and man with nature.
As an illustration of Slow Living in practice, many Nordic nations have led the way in reducing work and school hours as an experiment in productivity, with overwhelming evidence to support that it increases efficiency, rather than diminishing it.
Likewise, Slow travel highlights the dissociative effect of flying into a new country, and how stark and clear the differences are. When travelling by car, coach, train, etc., we move into the different shades of culture more gradually, becoming more familiar as we proceed.
In the contemporary arts, the Slow movement rejects the philosophy of the likes of Damien Hirst, who sees the role of the artist as a thinker and reclaim craftsmanship and painstaking processes to carry out their work. Emphasis is given to the sense of flow that can be achieved when deep in practice and the therapeutic role this can play.
Above all, the Slow Movement seeks to re-examine certain vital questions that seem to have been overlooked in modern life. How should we use our technology? How should we work and educate our children? What priorities should our cultures cherish? And essentially, what type of life is best for us as people.