Everything about Better Off seems suspiciously precious. The space offers typewriters, analog cameras and tools for painting and illustration, with an atmosphere made complete with a lush synth-pop ambience emanating from a nearby record player. Immediately the space comes across as something ‘shareable,’ but don’t mistake this as an exercise in empty nostalgia – Better Off is the real deal, and it’s aiming to change the way we interact with technology, creativity and each other.
Better Off is a hybrid gallery and art space on Broadway that offers much more than superficial pleasures. Conceived by Brandon Lane and Devin Durante, Better Off wants to start a conversation on how much digital media we consume and how we can invite slowness into our daily lives in order to reach what they call maximum creative potential. When inside of this zone, the owners of Better Off hope that individual creative output skyrockets while providing a generation obsessed with sharing online experiences the opportunity to create something tangible.
Each season, Better Off will host a residency with a new theme explored over the course of a four-week program. For the inaugural season, Brandon and Devan have chosen ‘slowness,’ and each week in the program focuses on a different aspect of this topic.
“Distraction brings you in all these different directions,” says Brandon. “We call these typewriters and cameras ‘slow tech tools,’ and the great thing about them is that they specialize in one thing at a time. They limit this distraction. We use these constraints as a muse.”
Outside of this residency, Better Off offers ‘slow hours,’ inviting visitors to go dark and exercise their creativity. “You can think about the residency as personal training,” explains Brandon. “Standard gym membership with Better Off is access to the tools and the space.”
One thing that Brandon makes clear is the separation Better Off places in-between these tools being seen as instruments of nostalgia and invitations for slowness into our future. “We draw this line through education and conversation. It reminds us that in the future we need to be more deliberate, more conscious about turning ourselves off as digital beings.” Brandon then goes on to describe what he calls a ‘post-wonder’ world: an era when people don’t need to wonder about the whereabouts of a letter or the identity of a familiar actor whose name eludes you.
“When you sit and think, you’re exercising your wonder muscle,” continues Brandon. “There’s a comfort to digital because it’s faceless and instantaneous. We want to take you out of that comfort zone. That’s where the good stuff happens.”