What does it even mean to “Do Nothing?”

In May 2016, I embarked on a quest: I decided to make work about nothing. More precisely, I wanted to see if I could undertake to Do Nothing as an art project. But as soon as I began, I was immediately beleaguered by the question: What does that even mean?

Under the apple trees
Photo by: Csenge Kolozsvári

Does the phrase simply imply “not working?” (As in, “if I’m not working I’m doing nothing.”) Is it a form of resistance? Is it an assertion of Freedom? Is it a state of “pure being?” Is it necessary for our wellness? Pushing opposite impulses together into one pronouncement, Doing Nothing is clearly paradoxical – hence nearly impossible to do. Sitting with the intricacies of these questions – and desires – has become something of a goal for me, and I have taken it on as a lifelong Art/Life project. Not so much to be able to find/perfect a technique, or pinpoint one single definition (or eradicate its contradiction) rather, to acknowledge a multiplicity of ways we can describe/embody/inscribe individual (and collective) acts of Rest, Slowness, Stillness, Interruption, Disruption, of significant Pause. To performatively carve out spaces that create intervals in our daily lives, and, by their very insistence, challenge notions of “productivity,” and the value we place upon time: on how it “should” (supposedly) be spent – and therefore not be wasted. Juxtaposing two seemingly opposing aspirations, the Doing of Nothing pushes against accepted codes of conduct, thereby proposing an inherently political (and performative) act, one that affirms our spontaneity, creativity, and our very humanity.

Doing Nothing as Art/Life in 2016-17

Doing Nothing as Art/Life in 2017-18

Doing Nothing as Art/Life during COVID-19

Doing Nothing as Art/Life in Grad School