Week of the Festival: Lviv, Ukraine
Jean-Luc Godard’s movie “Band of Outsiders” contains an episode in which the main characters run through the Louvre, past the works of da Vinci and Rembrandt, sculptures by Michelangelo and paintings by Caravaggio. In 1964,Godard felt the impulse of the 21st century: the digital age made it possible to reach all the art in the world so simply and easily, but we run instead – past Vermeer and Visconti, past Boccaccio and Botticelli, through this Louvre, without looking back, we run, because there is so much work, so little time and so much to do.
This episode from Godard’s movie would look differently today – we’d open “The Louvre” App and swipe. Now the Louvre runs through us on smartphone screens and does it at such a speed that van Gogh and Degas shimmer with kaleidoscope patterns.
So, one day we woke up in an era of planning and commitment. Google Calendar to-do lists, appointments, smart logistics. Every movement is motivated, every day is productive, and every action is effective. Faster, higher, stronger. It seems that we do not simply want to do a little or a lot, but just about everything in the world. On you go, champion!
I personally choose slowness and win in doing so, because the most delightful thing is to consider details, sweet contemplation of structures, surfaces and textures. An acquaintance of mine, who directs the choir of the Armenian Church in Lviv, said that the sun’s rays never pass through the coloured stained-glass windows in the same pattern, and in seventeen years he has seen six thousand ways of how the light can fill one room.
The trick of being slow is to do only what you want the most and to ignore everything else. We must finally admit that we cannot achieve everything, and try to understand at least a small part of what we like the most. It has to be done carefully and thoughtfully, enjoying every moment. Anything that needs to be done in a hurry doesn’t deserve to be done at all.
Even this essay of mine I have been writing slowly, going back to it every day, re-reading what has already been written and adding a few paragraphs, thinking: I furrow my brow, a vertical wrinkle appears between the eyebrows – my wrinkle of contemplation.
Little time? In fact, time is always the same. And there is always more time than needed. We live as if we want to have time for everything in the world. But we cannot, and this, it seems to me, is the greatest joy and pleasure. What would we do if we did accomplish everything? The Spanish have a wonderful word for this concept – mañana, which literally translates as tomorrow. Hispanics use it to shape their attitude towards life: yes, we will do all the work, we will conquer the world, and we will gain all the possible victories. But we will do it mañana.
Not a bad reason for rushing is finding what it is that you like most as soon as possible. I calmly talk about slowness because I have found it. My life is a re-reading of Rilke and Marquez, Vian and Vonnegut; re-visiting movies by Godard and Hitchcock, Fellini and the Coens; listening to “Balthazar” and “The Kills”. How could I stay in the midst of all this forever, delving into the words, peering into images, listening to music to my heart’s content?
Sometimes it’s worth slowing down enough to stop for a moment. It’s like breathing air into your lungs and diving under water in a river. Take a look:
Elephants, dogs, kangaroos. And all of a sudden a human. In fact, we are animals as well, with all our gadgets – just like them we take care of our offspring, beautify our lairs, and fight for supremacy. What sets us apart from these lumps of wool, scales and claws is meaningful contemplation. At the end of a tiring day, walking through the city, we stop andwatch the sunset over the horizon, which is formed by the outposts of buildings. We stand neither moving nor breathing, watching the red disc decrease, and feel something tender and fragile within us – it is the moment that makes us human. And this is in everything, both small and big. I like to capture this feeling in myself and in others, to see this very human essence – selfless and pure contemplation.
Slowness has various loops and labyrinths which you can walk through, like a big house that you know well, but which may contain unfamiliar rooms. One such labyrinth is repetition. Re-visiting books is the greatest joy. Watching movies once more is like enjoying a delicious dessert. Listening to a familiar melody is the way to a perfect emotion. When you know how everything will end, you savor pure style – light, the combination of words, the plasticity of movements, exposure, and melody.
I am re-reading my favorite books more and more often; I want to spend more time with them. Re-reading is slow, because I know how it ends, and now the whole point is different – feeling tenderness towards the text and pure love towards the characters.
Once I imagined that one could go and see the same performance as many times as there are seats in the theatre hall. And since each chair is at a different distance from the stage, the perception of the performance would be different each time. Then get backstage, watch the performance from there and evaluate it from a new and unexpected perspective.
I wonder what would happen if we were given such an opportunity: when you are reading a book or watching a movie, time would stop, everything around would freeze, clocks and people, nothing would happen, you wouldn’t even get older until you finish reading. I wonder if we would then become immortal, endlessly re-reading our favourite books and watching our favourite movies?
Visual works by Olga Marusyn, an artist, designer and illustrator, who works with commercial and book illustrations and photos. Olga created visual concept and illustrations for Ukrainian edition of Kurt Vonnergut’s novel «Slaughterhouse – Five», Samuel Beckett’s «Watt», Joseph Heller’s «Catch-22», Philip K. Dick’s «Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?», Ray Bradbury’s «Something Wicked This Way Comes». She is co-founder of artistic space «Soma» in Lviv.