Down_shift: sight, consciousness and time

HAYP 9.0: Down_shift

A Collective Exhibition

See our “call to artists” here

April 7-16, 2017 

Slowdown. Look. Listen. Observe. In HAYP 9.0: Down_shift, we’re asking artists (and our audience) to slowdown their pace of life, disrupt their routine, and consider unproductive time, or rather, productive delay. We’re talking about tuning in to our perceptive awareness and noticing the little things of the everyday: the sounds, sights, smells, and textures that frame our lives. In other words, deceleration for heightened awareness.

Some thoughts on sight, consciousness, and time:

In Ways of Seeing, John Berger asks us to pay attention to how context affects the way we look at objects and images. He astutely notes that we never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. In other words, the act of seeing unavoidably places us at a specific place, time, and hence perspective. When we see an image (photograph or reproduction) we are seeing the image-makers experience of the visible, more so than the subject of the image. Berger reminds us that sight requires consciousness. Because of the immediacy of sight, we take for granted that awareness requires time, which seems increasingly elusive in todays world.


On social media, where spontaneity is encouraged, filters are offered to us, and the incentive for image production is driven by approval ratings and likes, our experience of the visible in the Berger sense has completely changed. Art Historians, Educators, and Museologists are starting to talk about Slow artand the time that is required to really look, understand, and absorb an art piece. Harvard Art Historian Jennifer Roberts explains that “…in any work of art there are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive. In January 2015, The Guardian featured an article by digital manager Danny Burchall who asked the question is there space in museums for slower and longer digital experiences for audiences to savour and enjoy?. Weve already seen the rise of the “Slow food” movement, now were seeing Slow art, and potentially Slow tech(which sounds like an oxymoron). For HAYP Pop Up Gallerys next exhibition, we too are taking the time to slow down.


Above: Jennifer Roberts, Art Historian and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University.

Its interesting to note Marshall Mcluhans farseeing observations back in the 1960s about time, awareness, and the need for a new time-sense brought on by the electronic age. He refers to the mechanized world as a system and structure that discourages complex awareness in order to increase speed and functionality for the sake of productivity. This is true as much in industry as it is in academia, he observes, where expertness necessitates specificity and overall disunity. Conversely, with the electronic era, in which information is sent out and received instantaneously like a nervous system, a new awareness is brought about for which our society is unprepared. For example, he notes that our way of measuring time is antiquated. Mechanical time(the clock as we know it) measures uniform units destined to be contained, divided and productively managed for functionality. He proposes thinking of time in multiplicity, in order to acknowledge the various rhythms of human experienceand the uniqueness of private experience. We all fundamentally understand, not in units but in feeling, the difference between time spent doing something we love rather than something we dont. He proposes measuring meaningful time through other senses, like in Eastern traditions of measuring time through scent and graduations of burning incense. He observes the appropriateness of acoustics as a fully sensorial and enveloping sense. And he speaks about movements when comparing the repeatable uniform rhythms of mechanical time to marching soldiers, and the new time-sense to the multiplicity of movements of the ballet.

We are asking our artists to explore this new time-sense. What does multiplicity of time look like? What does awareness and meaningful observation feel, sound, and smell like? How can we engage the viewers attention so that they are fully immersed in time and space? These are some of the questions that HAYP 9.0 is asking of its artists, performers, and audience. Slow down. Look. Listen. Observe.




Berger, John. Ways of seeing. London: Penguin, 2008. Print.

Birchall, Danny. “Museums should make time for slower digital experiences.” The Guardian [London] 23 Jan. 2015: n. pag. Web. 20 Feb. 2017. <;.

Kimmelman, Michael. “At Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus.” The New York Times 2 Aug. 2009: n. pag. Web. 20 Feb. 2017. <;.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding media: the extensions of man. Cambridge (Mass.): The MIT Press, 1994. Print.

Roberts, Jennifer L. “The Power of Patience Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention.” Harvard Magazine. Harvard Magazine Inc., Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2017. <;.

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