Slow Art Day in Times of Slowdown

Overcoming the Void of Plague through a “Face to Face” Workshop in Istanbul.

New Drawing Workshop Sunday April 19th, 6 pm using ZOOM video conferencing software!

Contact for registration

On Saturday 4th of April 2020, a group of 22 people from around the world met on an online platform in order to attend an art workshop. Better said, a portrait workshop done through a camera.

The project Face to Face – Yüz Yüze is a portrait exhibition, initially planned to be realized physically in the frame of the international Slow Art day, in the warm and cooperative spaces of Nadas: a creative house located in Yeldeğirmeni, Kadıköy in Istanbul. Since the outbreak of Coronavirus has forced every cultural and artistic spaces to redesign their programs and activities, the team embarked on the experience of using the video conferencing solution ZOOM in order to realize their first online portrait workshop.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau.

Each year for one day, people all over the world visit local museums and galleries to look at art slowly. The goal is to focus on the art and the art of seeing. It seems that this 4th of April 2020, the Slow Art Day also had to reinvent itself, as physical visits are not possible anymore. The team of Nadas accepted the challenge and imagined an online workshop, where participants could use arts to focus their minds for 15 to 20 minutes. Portraiture seemed the more relevant regarding social distancing and digitizing.

Nora Byrne, Gabby on Skype 25.03.20, pen on paper

Still, the team was worried about one thing: How to make it feel valuable to people? The participation rate, the curiosity and the interest shown during the “class” were the answer. “A lot of people feel isolated. To me, portraiture is a way to connect to people. I felt that people were pleased with the event and what it provided them”, says Nora Byrne, the “curator” and “shy-tech” moderator of the workshop session. Originally from the USA, she is also a member of Nadas and a visual artist using mostly pencil and watercolour as medium and living since several years in Istanbul.

Even if the logistic part of the organization was difficult, the class was more casual than if everyone was sitting in a room, more non-formal. After a short introduction and a demonstration of portrait drawing by resident artist Gabrielle Reeves, participants were invited to join a “room” in order to draw each other’s portrait, in a “face to face” situation. “It was a real way to engage with that community without losing what is special about Nadas”, explains Nora, who was responsible of having a look into the (virtual) “rooms” in order to answer technical questions and check how the drawing groups were doing.

Half an hour later, participants and Nadas’s team were meeting again in the “common room”, to discuss their feelings, bring some feedback, share their impressions… It worked as planned and everyone got involved personally, event through a screen. The portraits that were made that day are accessible here.

For the tech-scepticals, this is an example of conceivable ways to organize workshops online. The fact of being able to reach out to an international audience is a huge plus. In those cases, translation is of course important. “Since I’m abroad, I noticed that there is, especially in the USA, a kind of national sequestration. It’s such a large country, it’s hard to think of the world outside it. I love this idea of multilingual things presented to people who are not used to it. It’s kind of my past. That’s just huge!”, admits Nora, who ironically adds that one of the things the coronavirus is “offering” us is our capacity to adapt and to connect across borders.

But beyond this workshop, deeper issues are affecting the artist. Being used to travel and move in order to realize her art, she knows a new moral argument has appeared: that travelling could just kill people. “Physical connectedness of the world has to be re-evaluated, and that is a threat to my whole life and especially to my work”. In those past years, her work has been completely focused on the idea of the physical presence and how people interact within cities as systems, organisms created through their interactions, and their link with sustainability.

Online platforms can be inspiring but cannot substitute. Digital art is going to grow but there will be some limits. Or is the world going to adapt to human absence?

Gabrielle Reeves, Jess 03.04.20, charcoal pencil on paper

The good news is, the workshop will be continued, with different artists doing the demonstration each time. And Nora Byrne is going to do the next one, on April 19th 2020 (donation-based, further information will be online soon on Nadas Website and Facebook page).

To register or for further inquiry, email

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