What Does It Even Mean “To Do Nothing?”

Welcome to my new, year-long project, The Sanctimonious Sect of Nothing Is Sacred (L’Édifiante secte de rien (n’)est sacré). At the invitation of Montreal artist-run centre DARE-DARE, and as part of their current cycle of programming, “La Société des Rendez-vous” I am embarking on what I realize is going to be a particularly challenging task: Doing Nothing (paradox intended). In my initial proposal I wrote:

…What would happen if I proposed a project in which I did…nothing? But I wouldn’t really be doing nothing. I would probably read. Maybe write. Definitely stare off into space. And walk. And what if I opened the offer for others to come and join me in the activity of doing…nothing? Inviting guests to bring a book. A notepad. A pen. Or…nothing.

Usually when I want to engage in this…nothingness I have to deliberately set aside time to do so. And then when I do, I feel guilty and inadequate. What have I done today, this week, this month, to deserve this doing of…nothing? Clearly I haven’t done enough.

What I would find most useful – and audacious – would be to propose a space and extended moment of…nothing. An opportunity for rest. While I could really use this downtime (and am convinced that if I’m feeling this way most likely many others are too), I also see the affirmation of such an activity as an inherently political act; it challenges notions of productivity, what constitutes “failure” (and success) and reconsiders “non-productive” uses of time.

This is my dream project. And, for the next year, at regular intervals and in various configurations, I will enthusiastically hold the space of…nothing. Doing nothing in the company of others who wish to accompany me in this quiet, open, sacred, and decidedly un-productive project.

…And now that I am actually starting, I understand – with joy and a large dose of trepidation – I don’t even know what that means!

So from May 2016 to May 2017 (and possibly on through for the rest of life, if I am lucky) I will not only attempt to consciously Do Nothing, but sit with the complexity of that question. To insert this Nothing into my everyday. To see/accept/appreciate Nothing as Something  (and follow all my Somethings with Nothing).

Nothing as a proposal for the Potential in Everything.

Author: Victoria Stanton

Montreal-based performance artist, writer, and educator Victoria Stanton explores live action, human interaction, video, film, photography, and drawing.

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