I was searching for some notes on a talk I had attended some time ago in one of those little notebooks where I write unrelated ideas and unintelligible phrases because I take notes without looking at them. But I did not find what I was looking for since I stopped on a phrase that in its day made me reflect about the way we manage our free time. The phrase (from a curator of a museum in New York City) went something like this: “The average time that a person spends looking at a work of art in a museum is seven seconds.” And then I had written “SEVEN SECONDS!!!” just like that, in capital letters and with three exclamation points.
And I thought about this for some days because during that same week, in the summer course I was imparting, we took our students to complete an exercise at the university’s museum, an exercise that required complete attention with the purpose of practicing objective observation, without judgment…And curiously, some days later, in the artist complex where Xan worked, they had organized “Attention Labs” dedicated to “the collective practice and reclamation of radical human attention. These Labs are our response to the predation of the Attention Economy, a trillion-dollar industry that seeks to monetize our every waking moment and frack human eyeballs for commercial gain.”
Then I thought about the number of things one doesn’t do by simply getting carried away by that Attention Economy, and in the idea that we are its accomplices and victims because it also consumes us. We go to museums in the same way we look at Instagram, without stopping to reflect on what we see…and the worst thing is that we cannot stop being a part of it because, though we resist, it has already gotten what it was looking for: our attention.