How Much Time Do You Take to See a Work of Art?

EDITORIAL: How Much Time Do You Take to See a Work of Art? / Editor-in-chief Johny ML

Is our ability to concentrate on something and derive absolute pleasure in doing so diminishing? Are we really turning into ‘3 second’ human beings as the corporate has us believing? Or is it all a ploy of the advertising-corporate-finance nexus? Editor in Chief, Johny ML unravels the truth behind the ‘statistics’ of universal dictums in this editorial.

Three seconds. It has become more or less a universal dictum. The corporate thinkers who control the thinking pattern of the world through innumerable software and information portals have made it amply clear that the attention span of the world has gone considerably low. None looks at anything for more than three minutes (when it comes to the case of videos), they say. Therefore you have videos tailored according to the smart-screen size, often leaving out the main action, leaving a lot to guess or depend a lot on the accompanying audio track, you have TED Talks, tailor made to ‘this’ attention span and so on. 

Thank God, the films have not yet become fifteen minute affairs though there is a huge leap in the making of short films. True that with information overload we do not have much time left with us to catch up with everything though the desire is being generated constantly to do so. In that scenario, to fulfill the desire to ‘experience’ everything one has to cut down the time given to each segment of experience. This fragmented experiential reality is generated and controlled by the corporate interests that make desire so irresistible that we fail to ask certain vital counter questions. One pivotal question is this: Why should I watch something within three minutes? Can’t I have a prolonged experience of something in an intense fashion? 

You are not going to get an affirmative answer to those questions. On the contrary you are going to be looked down upon as someone coming from a retro-age, so old and traditional. If you see things in a clearer perspective, you could come to confront these deceptions of the digital interfaces. They say, the world has become so fast that you don’t have time to delve deeply in things. They would give you the gist of everything. Does it save your time? In fact not, you are given a three minute video followed by many such and the algorithms are set in such a way that it keep propping up the addictive visuals that you crave for. Eventually you find your one and a half hour is gone in watching that you really do not want; a time that you could have listened to a longer discourse, read a book, watched a movie. Alas!

Coming to the point of three seconds in front of a work of art when you are in a museum or a gallery, one could see that the finding is equally deceptive and artificial. From a shallow point of view it may sound true and even from your own experience it may be so affirmative. But reality is that all the visitors in a museum do not spend time identically before the works of art. Some whizz by and so stand by and yet another set settle down with a few. The approaches vary according to the individuals’ taste and purpose. A person visiting Louvre in Paris may be going there for Monalisa. Another one may think about having an experience of a great museum. Some may think that they are there for a visit and there may not be a next time so it is imperative to visit the place for a few selfies.

The gist of it is this that no two people are expected to behave the same way in front of a work of art, therefore this three seconds theory is absolutely wrong and misguiding. One could spend any number of seconds or minutes or hours in front of a work of art depending on the personal interest and purpose. Homogenizing the viewing time is an external way of a psychological control and they say that the visitor is in a hurry. They say that you are so busy that the videos should be formatted to fit into your smart-screen and in three minutes. These strategies in fact help them in accommodating more advertisements within the given time and make more revenue through carpet bombing the portals and channels with the same freaky videos and ads. This digital behavior is then externalized in real time situations including the ones in the museums and galleries. 

You may visit a gallery or a museum for various reasons. Whatever be the motivation there is no three seconds stipulation. You may take any number of minutes before a work of art. The oft-heard complaint is that you don’t understand a work of art however simple it looks and however explicit its images are. You do not understand because you are not looking. In order to see, it is imperative to look at and look deeply. The more you look the more you see. Otherwise even if there is a mammoth in the room, you may miss. Looking is important and looking takes energy and time in minute packs without your knowledge. People feel exhausted when they come out of a museum because they have walked so fast. But the ones who have stood before the works of art and looked deeply would feel refreshed as they come out. Keep the thoughts about the souvenir shops, canteen, shopping and other evening engagements aside for the duration that you are inside a museum or before a work of art. Then you would have this wonderful feeling of understanding of recognition and at rare moments some realization too.

Johny ML


(Images Source: The Internet)

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