After listening to a podcast on the rise of slow TV—hours of mundane footage featuring no narrative whatsoever—in Norway, StopPress decided to investigate a little further on how it came about, and how popular it’s been in the Nordic country.
In 1963, Andy Warhol shot Sleep, a movie that showed real-time (up-nostril) footage of his friend John Giorno sleeping for 321 minutes. And so the concept of slow television was born.
So enamoured was Warhol with his first experiment, that he repeated a year later in 1964, but this time he used the Empire State Building as the subject of an eight-hour film, which features little else than building’s lights flickering on and off.
Despite the apparent unwatchability of films that consist of no narrative progression, slow television is making something of a comeback in Norway, where the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has over the last few years been running real-time footage of train trips from the driver’s point of view.
In a somewhat surprising twist, the slow television broadcasts of train trips along the Bergen Line have attracted decent audiences.
In 2009, for the 100th anniversary of the famous train line, which runs from Bergen to Oslo, Norweigan channel NRK2 broadcast footage of all seven hours of the journey. During the course of screening, an average of 176,000 viewers were tuned in at any given time and a total of 1,246,000 Norwegians watched the footage at some point.
And much like everything else these days, slow TV has also crawled onto the interwebs, with the Hurtigruten boat trip being streamed online for a segment called ‘Hurtigruta – minute by minute’.
And since the people of ad land are always willing to latch onto the latest trend, the Norweigian Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, put up a slow TV billboard in a subway that featured live footage of the ‘Hurtigruta – minute by minute’ as part of a promotional push to convince Koreans to visit the Nordic country.