Non-Action #2 (failure and the motivation to stop)

Non-action #2, as part of res(is)ting / repos comme résistance

May 22, 2021
Stationnement du centre communautaire arménien de Laval /
pavillon arménien du ROCAL
397 Boul des Prairies, Laval, QC

The location
When we got to the site and saw that several men (friends or members of the Armenian community centre) were out cooking up a BBQ at first it seemed like a golden opportunity to create a friendly disturbance, perhaps strike up a conversation. But I realized as we got into Verticale’s truck (AKA, Villa) and attempted to find another angle to park, to support the display of the banner as our backdrop (see above/below), our disturbance was mildly aggressive; as if we showed up and decided to abruptly move our weight around (quite literally).

This played negatively into my approach of wanting to be welcoming; I’m a guest in their space (not the other way around), and so to act as if I can just go ahead and decide how I want to occupy their turf would have been, I thought, quite presumptuous. And just plain rude. So I reconsidered. I could have made the attempt to ask questions, to ingratiate myself, but again wondered if this would have been viewed with suspicion – and would have also had to assume that they would even want to engage with me. Maybe they would have, who knows. But there was something of my parachuting in, “the artist-in-residence” with the attendant (privileged) attitude (encountered too many times) that turned me right off. I didn’t want to turn on charm and demonstrate interest for the sake of getting something.[1] As such, being very cautious to not want to instrumentalize (the other, the situation), I opted instead to just leave them their space and go occupy another. As was our plan A. And we brought Villa to the front lawn that faces Boul. des Prairies.

The banner
Generously driven by Hannah, Villa found a good spot to set up shop and Hannah and I set to work putting up the banner. Our guests (Hannah’s friend JS, my ARTE colleague SC and stunt-double JS) congregated happily on the grass under a big tree a few feet over from us.

Several attempts at trying to mount this 12 x 5 foot vinyl slogan became an exercise in futility, not to mention failure. And at one distinct moment I felt something shift. I think this was the crux of the non-action, and the significant occurrence of that day’s (non) event.

The decision to stop.
To say no.
To let go.
The decision to give up…
Because this, I decided, was NOT the point of being here today.

The decision to be good with this unexpected outcome… because that’s the essence of not being in the image of the work – of what I thought I was going to do, of how I thought this was going look – as opposed to staying with what is actually happening. Or, more precisely, to make the decision to choose to abandon the aesthetic script.

The question stung fiercely and rung fantastically true.

The irony of my own question coming to confront me head-on.

I did envision a kind of staging and framing and that composition, very clearly articulated in my mind, would have been nice to see. But also, nice to document. Ah yes. It would make for a good image to represent this “performance.” The performance’s aesthetic. But this work isn’t necessarily about producing nice images. No, I wasn’t here to spend over an hour trying to unsuccessfully put up a banner and try to make that image manifest. I was here to hang out. So I dropped the damn thing on the ground, and joined my guests. Best decision ever.

The non-action
This constituted the five of us, sitting in a circle (socially distant) in Adirondack chairs, on the fresh-cut grass, under a beautiful tree. We chatted very informally about art, studies, upcoming projects, and the multitude of serendipitous occurrences and personal overlaps that had us unknowingly previously connected in surprising ways. 

It was pleasant. It was refreshing. It was soft. It was sparkly.

Perhaps in part because we are still only slowly coming out of a year-and-a-half of pandemic isolation and with that for the most part have been a combination of very alone and/or having not met new people for a long while outside our immediate bubbles. This I’m sure added to the gentle excitement of the moment: the fact that we were hanging out – safely – but together and bouncing off each other’s energies, and the joy of sharing; of making contact.

The non-documentation
In line with everything mentioned above, somehow I wasn’t inspired to take pictures. I didn’t feel like removing myself from the circle to stand outside it and look in, with the camera. Nor did I feel like pulling (putting) Hannah outside the circle either. So I decided to let that one go too.

The non-art moment
I’m in the midst of an important crisis. Small “c” crisis. There are far more important things going on the world right now. …For some time I’ve been referring to that ambiguous space: the thin zone that sits – rather imperceptibly – between the art event and goings-on of everyday life, which I have insistently defined as a space of artful making. This everyday occurrence, framed as “art,” therefore being (previously, in my work) called art is slipping further and further away. It becomes increasingly ambiguous and I actively encourage it. By inactively doing more than what the moment calls into being. I can’t help but again ask: is this thing I am doing even art? But the new facet of this questioning is the direction it’s now taking. For while I previously spent a lot of time finding ways to articulate this practice as art, now I am feeling as though I’m really not sure whether it is. And I’m not sure that I need to know. I’m not sure how much it really matters (to me, anymore). And… dare I say, that I might just not care.

But that’s a scary position for me to take on. And I’m not sure that I’m totally there.

I think this will be part of the discourse that I will continue to explore and develop; wanting to keep excavating that ambiguous in-between where these processes (conversation as a kind of making, the event of the hangout, what it means to make less) might be defined within art contexts but might want to also find a home in other areas that I haven’t yet identified…

For the next time(s)
In the meantime, in talking about these various reflections with Jean-Phillipe (another generous soul who will accompany me on future non-actions) we both laughed at the thought that this could become the initiation ritual for each time we arrive on-site and begin the next non-action. I attempt to put up the banner, fail, attempt again, fail, try once more, fail (miserably), and finally give up. Clearly motivated to stop because really, I’d rather be sitting down to rest, join my guests, and hang out.


[1] I want to acknowledge here too how, while VCA has been very slowly building a relationship to this community over several years and several projects, this is the first – and quite likely – only time I will be encountering these people. If I decide, however, to come back and spend more time here in a regular way – to attempt to create connection in a meaningful way with this community – than that would present a different set of circumstances and approach to thinking about my contact and how we could, in the future, share space and time.

Resting is Resisting: An Invitation to Do Nothing

On July 30, 1961 Ray Johnson presented the first in his series of non-performance events he called “Nothings,” what he considered “an attitude as opposed to a Happening” – the Happening of course being the more well-known antecedent of life-meets-art performance events initiated by Allan Kaprow and other Fluxus artists, leading to performance art as we understand it today.

Exactly 60 years later, this spring and summer, in various public sites and “non-places” across Laval, Quebec, I will be proposing six instances of Doing Nothing – non-actions as part of the series res(is)ting / repos comme résistance being hosted by Verticale – centre d’artistes in Laval (see Sept. 12th entry below).

Doing Nothing (as many of you know) is my ongoing proposal to resist. To resist the toxic culture of over-productivity. To keep pushing back against ubiquitous hyper-acceleration and find ways to create more sustainability for just everyday being. To approach living in a more restful way. To rest. Period.

I invite you to join me. Bring a book to read, a notebook to write in, a scarf to knit. Or bring nothing. We can sit and contemplate this past year: collectively mourn what (or who) we’ve lost, celebrate what we’ve (hopefully) gained, mull over what we’re still trying to transform, understand, learn. To breathe. Stopping long enough to appreciate the world that keeps turning all around us. And ultimately just hang out.

As per Covid protocols, space is limited to 8 people per gathering. If you’d like to attend contact me and I’ll give you more info.

Slipping Into the Invisible: How Covid Is Shaping a Beginning

Correspondence #1: Having Trouble Getting Started.
(The following is an email I sent today to the team at VCA. I had initially proposed a series of encounters with them in a workshop format, as a way to enter into this project, with the idea that our planning would demonstrate the invisible parts made visible. But to see if planning could in fact not be planning —instead perhaps a time to be together in restful pause. We have yet to start, and I am stymied.)

Bonjour Gabrielle, Charlotte, Lawrence,

Pour faire suivit…
Oui, comme Gabrielle vous a écrit, nous avons parlé et j’ai constaté que dans les circonstances actuelles je ne me sentais pas à l’aise à venir en transport en commun. Et finalement il parrait que nous embarquons de nouveau dans un autre (type de?) confinement.

Alors c’est bien ça, je vais revenir sous peu avec une proposition de date pour une rencontre par zoom. Toutefois je voulais vous envoyer là quelques mots pour embarquer dans le processus.

Avant que je parle avec Gabrielle j’ai commencé à réfléchir sur le format de notre première rencontre. Un workshop, oui, mais avec quel sorte de contenu. Pas parce que je n’ai pas d’idées mais parce que j’aimerai vous proposer une manière d’aérer. Et non pas un fardeau de plus. Est-ce possible?

Je disais à Gabrielle comme quoi il y a quelque chose qui m’échappe avec ce projet en se moment. Ça glisse.

J’ai repensé à la thématique, comme proposé par VCA et je me suis rendu compte : maintenant que j’embarque concrètement dans le contenu, et dans la forme (du projet, des rencontres) que c’est un vrai trouble. Je suis profondément troublée. Je dois complètement repenser à comment agir dans un contexte de pandémie qui empêche à continuer de la même manière que dont je suis habituée. Ce n’est pas un problème, c’est en fait exactement la question que j’ai à me poser, pour pouvoir pas seulement embarquer dans ce projet, mais pour continuer à vivre dans ma vie —et dans ce monde. Dans ce contexte. C’est un genre d’aller de l’avant qui ne veut pas nécessairement répéter ou reproduire les mêmes structures. Là je parle de mon projet mais aussi des structures dans le sens plus large.

Je pense que le fait que ça glisse (l’essence du projet? Le but au delà du projet en tant que tel?) est une bonne chose; mon défi sera de trouver non-pas comment l’attraper mais plutôt comment le recevoir. Ce sera plus un travail dans l’invisible : à moi à être prête de le reconnaître (de nouveau, dans les circonstances actuelles desquelles je ne peux pas faire abstraction).

Finalement je constate que ceci est le début du projet, cette échange de courriel qui commence avec le premier envoyé par Gabrielle.

Je vous laisse avec une question. Aucune obligation de répondre (à mon courriel). À vous de voir comment vous la recevrez, si et comment ça résonne.

“Avez-vous un lieu (espace-temps) dans votre quotidien qui vous permet de reposer? Ou est-ce que ce lieu vous échappe?”

Merci encore pour votre grande ouverture envers cette démarche.

À suivre de proche!

Notes from Course Work: “Art Is Everything You Don’t Have to Do”

We just watched a lecture online in my doctoral seminar that Brian Eno gave in 2016 at the AA School of Architecture in London. In it, Eno addresses the question: “What is Art actually for?” A meandering, entertaining and thought-provoking series of insights are offered, although apparently not completed, according to Eno, who ran out of time before he could fully wrap his thoughts up. A lot of ideas were crammed into that tiny hour, however one in particular stood out for me. Albeit, hard to take out of context, given that the whole premise of his talk was how all these processes in art and design exist on a continuum, from function through to style, I’ll nonetheless pinpoint one pearl, at the risk of misinterpreting and misrepresenting his eloquent treatise (which I encourage anyone who is interested in musings about art to check out, in any case).

Eno reflects on the question of aesthetics and stylistic decisions, on how “context means everything” especially in formulating any coherent understanding of what we might be seeing or experiencing – in particular in the face of more opaque works of art. In unpacking this (and so many related notions) Eno refers to Morse Peckham and to the idea that art comes after things we need to do. He says, “You have to move around, but you don’t have to dance; you have to speak but you don’t have to develop poetry; you have to make noise but you don’t have to make music.” According to Eno, Peckham’s concept of “non-functional stylistic dynamism” apparently addresses how the “not having to” moves along this continuum to become a (artful) thing you do – a thing conceptualized, crafted, created… toward being an “artful moment.”

Eno conceives this as: “Art Is Everything You Don’t Have to Do.”

I’ve been contemplating what it means to “do nothing” for the last four years. In particular I’ve been wondering about what it means to make, and whether/how “making” is necessary. This raises many questions about the role of the artist, my role as an artist (and maker) and my evolving relationship to the notion of aesthetic value (apparently) inherent in (works of) art. In furtive and infiltrating performative practice if there is any kind of aesthetic being enlisted it is an “aesthetic of the everyday,” essentially underscoring what is already around us, elevating this (as it were) to the realm of artful living/experiencing. Seeing the world artfully. Listening to Eno discuss and interpret Peckham’s concept of “non-functional stylistic dynamism” brought me straight back to these questions again: where/how am I (am I?) choosing, making, doing, enacting “stylistic decisions?” Where does the notion of “style” come into these infiltrating, relational processes? How am I considering/constructing/integrating these? How do places of pause (the crux of my current preoccupation) render style visible? How does “style” render space? Can style inform more artfully rendered moments of pause, of doing nothing?

How do I think – and RE-think aesthetics? In particular in the context of rest, and “doing nothing?”

Perhaps doing nothing is everything that art doesn’t have to do. Or everything that art is, in fact, doing?

Modelling Rest: Doing Nothing Goes to Grad School


A meta cycle commences: I’ll be starting my PhD in Art Education at Concordia University in Montreal this September. The subject of my research: “Doing Nothing” – and the role of rest/pause/interval in both performance art contexts & everyday spaces like the classroom).

I’m thrilled, I’m daunted, I’m in awe. I never thought I’d go to grad school but somehow this seems like the perfect place, context (and timing, as it turns out) to be carrying out this research.

Seriously: what strange timing, to be taking this project (that began just over 4 years ago) to the next level, given how “next-levelled” the whole discussion around Doing Nothing has become since the beginning of this international health crisis…

I’ll keep this intro short. It’s mostly to initiate the construction of an even wider frame – and net – cast around this amorphous, prescient, ubiquitous life/art project; a loose container to hold (and hold space for) the myriad facets of related research material; a repository for the bits and pieces that I imagine I’ll continue accumulating over the next 4, 5, 6, (???) years in my quest to keep unpacking, and deliberately keep attempting, to Do Nothing.


res(is)ting // repos comme résistance

Another cycle commences. Continuing with the “Doing Nothing” project (adapted to Covid-Times), I’m so pleased to officially announce that Verticale – centre d’artiste (VCA) in Laval will be hosting the next iteration, res(is)ting – repos comme résistance during their 2020-21 season. I’ll start (with a slowwwww fade in) this September and wrap up (with an even slowwwwwer fade out) next summer. But – alas – this is a lifelong art/life project, so I’m really delighted that VCA has agreed to be a gracious host along the way…!

The project, inscribed under their thematic rubric of Turmoil, Agitation and Systems, offers the following:

“The structure upon which we’ve built our work expectations has been hurting us for a long time. When you combine our culture of chronic overwork with the distraction inherent to technology and social media, at a time when people are forced to stay at home, you have a recipe for amplified anxiety and shame. This puts people on a fast-track to burnout.” – Rahaf Harfoush

The SYSTEM wants us to keep moving, keep doing, keep producing, keep consuming.
The TURMOIL comes from pressures one faces in a perceived need to have to conform.
The AGITATION arises as a result of believing we do not have a right to pause.

The SYSTEM supports a ubiquitous structure that we feel trapped into following.
The TURMOIL it creates within us becomes more apparent when we feel a need to stop.
The AGITATION experienced is both internal and external; we’re all in the same boat.

How do we build an antidote?

I want to propose a space of co-creation in which we come together specifically to rest. To carve out moments for action – or non-action – that is effortless and allows the mind to unwind.

It’s a group that assembles – whether collectively with safe distancing IRL, individually in our imaginations, or simultaneously on a screen – and chooses to spend the afternoon reading; walking; knitting; daydreaming; baking a cake. We unite in a daylong Digital Sabbath, shutting all devices, and dealing with the withdrawal symptoms. We unite to reflect upon/raise intention about/hold space for what comes next: mentally constructing a time after the pandemic. We unite to quietly mourn our Old World. Calmly grapple with the present. Rejoice in capacity for breath. Momentarily resist doing.

It’s a workshop, it’s a performance, it’s a public infiltration, it’s a conversation. It’s a curated experience. It’s a group nap. It’s all of these at once. It’s none of these at all. It looks like Nothing but a lot like LIFE. Like life but framed by ART. Subtle resistance.

“What this pandemic shows is that we can stop everything in a moment’s notice. I hope that rather than panic and try to rush back to normalcy, people will reflect on what it is we should leave behind, rather than resume.” – Andrew Smart

Backstage at the Pandemic


From the very beginning of the “work-at-home” phenomenon imposed because of social distancing, anyone in any kind of collective or administrative work situation began to experience a dissolving divide between public and private life.

With everyone having to meet remotely, quite suddenly we landed inside each other’s living rooms (or kitchens, or bedrooms, or whatever space was available) to carry out our “business.” Corporate people in work sessions with children crawling all over them during Zoom chats, students and teachers having class while getting glimpses into each other’s more intimate quarters.

This of course readily, and quickly, extended to network television, with the whole array of late night show hosts now broadcasting from home via video conferencing technology. But why stop at showing us your bathroom, attic, or study, we want to meet your family too! Suddenly spouses and kids have been directly incorporated into scripts as well.

Two months into confinement, what I was really curious to observe was how these shifts incrementally unfolded. The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert for example went from filming himself alone to having his son operate the camera and daughter doing make-up – facts we know because he eventually shared this with his audience. Interrupting himself mid-sentence to turn his gaze away from the camera and talk to his wife while doing a bit (“are you going to lurk there in the corner or come over and say hi to everyone?”) and again in another episode to ask his younger son how school is going, what started as off-screen interactions and oblique references, turned into direct, on-screen presence. Within a few weeks, Colbert was referring to all family members by name and on Mother’s Day his partner Evelyn finally joined him in front of the camera. (I should mention: his dog now makes regular appearances too). Not only did this ultimately break the fourth (TV) wall, we could also see a perceptible shift in his behaviour. He was immediately nervous and shy and she had no problem pointing this out, to him, in front of us. Not only unscripted but also un-masked; all artifice now briefly dissolving too. This “widening” of the frame has now been fully adopted as his new “shtick” whereby the show is being edited such that we are essentially interrupting this family time on a nightly basis. We now “suddenly arrive” at his house, as if walking through the unlocked front door a few moments too early to find Colbert already in mid-conversation, talking to a member of his family. We’re like the guest he was expecting, but hadn’t confirmed at what time.

This self-conscious editing creates a simultaneous illusion of familiarity – which is to say, we too are now “of his family.” With its gradual evolution over the last eight weeks this YouTubed version of a CBS show has acted like a kind of mirror to the evolution of our gradual accepting of, and adapting to, our social-distancing situation.

Late night TV hosts are also chatting rather informally with each other on their respective shows (via Zoom) sharing with audiences their strategies for navigating this peculiar situation as show hosts. I.e.: they are spending time contemplating their craft and its changing facets because of the change in landscape.
“Isn’t it strange to be staring into a camera with no audience?”
“It’s the audience that focuses me. How do you stay focused without an audience?” Etc. It’s like being back in the acting classes I took when I was thirteen.

On another scale, the same thing is happening in the news. A few weeks back when reporters started having more access inside of hospitals one journalist told a rather bleak story of the extreme isolation that patients with severe cases of COVID-19 experience once hospitalized. Without going into those tragic details (as I imagine readers of this blog are already aware) what really struck me was the amount of time she spent explaining what she had to do, to get ready to go in and conduct her interviews. This detailed description accounted for a large part of her segment, as it also included considering her own mental state and the emotional reality of being in such close physical contact with a potentially lethal disease. So while the piece was about the incredible challenge and sadness of isolated patients it was as much about the journalist’s capacity to both physically and mentally gear up for her job as a reporter.

This “backstaging” of our professional lives feels de rigueur within the current context and again acts as another element that palpably contributes to the swirling and uncanny interval. It’s not just a “fourth wall” – the invisible barrier between the performer and the audience – that’s being pierced, it’s the space behind the stage, where used coffee cups, laundry, and half-eaten lunch are normally left and not meant to be exposed or discussed.

With the sudden dismantling of previously held boundaries, these bits and pieces of private life, the stuff that usually stays hidden, now seems to need to take on a visible and more prominent role. We need to see and know how others are faring emotionally, just coping in the day-to-day, in this swirling, uncertain, unstable time.

The backstage gives us more room to navigate, and opportunity to share, perhaps making confinement a little less isolating.



Residency For Artists On Hiatus is an amazing initiative by Shinobu Akimoto and Matthew Evans. Over the years they have given stipends to artists for months-long periods – to stop making art.

In response to the current slow-down (and paradoxical speed-up) that the current health crisis has engendered, the folks at RFAOH have launched an emergency #weareallonhiatus project on Instagram.

Here is their pitch, with info on how you can take part:

“It is surely a tough time all over the world as many of us face a forced hiatus (or worse) but we, the members of RFAOH community, have known the benefits of non-production and taking a break, and are fortunate to have “creativity” which we believe is the true antibody for survival. RFAOH invites people worldwide to join our online community, by sharing what you are doing when not making art, or not being able to do what you want to do. How are you being creative during this down time? What are your hiatus endeavours? Or maybe you are making art!?!

To participate:

Post an image(s) and/or a story of your hiatus (in any language) on Instagram with the hashtag #weareallonhiatus, and that’ll automatically be archived on the #weareallonhiatus page. Follow the hashtag #weareallonhiatus, so that you’ll see others participating. We would like it if you let us know where you are.

Please note:

  1. Unfortunately there’s no “stipend” for your participation this time. (;
  2. Instagram says: “We may remove posts in a hashtag page if people are using the hashtag to post content that goes against our Community Guidelines.”
  3. Copyright the image/post if you want; we have no guarantee that someone like Mr. R Prince or a future resident artist-on-hiatus may steal it because your post is so dumb good.

RFAOH has always questioned what we could do from a position of powerlessness, to circumvent gates and obstacles in the artworld. But now, we are facing something much bigger and harder. While we are so thankful to see a number of support initiatives happening for artists, we also wanted to share our usual RFAOH spirit.  Our ex-resident Milena Kosec once suggested that RFAOH should accept ALL the residency candidates on hiatus — Well, here’s our first open and organic “residency” where you get to know and connect with more artists (or non-artists) on hiatus worldwide.

And ultimately, let’s use this platform to be empathetic and supportive of each of us at this challenging time. We sincerely hope that those who are NOT on hiatus, working non-stop at great personal risk are staying safe; they deserve our utmost respect and indebtedness. As well, while we try to build the “creative immunity” against hardships together, we hope this emergency project will see the end VERY soon.

Stay safe everyone, and for now, see you at our #weareallonhiatus residency!”

You can read more about their mission and work here:

The Discombobulation of the Interval (Part 2)


A qualitative shift has taken place in my interactions with my students.

I think it began with a text on Facebook in which a colleague reposted an excellent treatise on why we (as post-secondary educators) should not be moving our courses wholesale online; how because we’re not trained to do this and, being tasked with having to figure this out in record time, we should resist the temptation to perfectly adhere and instead focus on how to simplify content/delivery and take as much pressure off ourselves (and our students) as needed. The original blog post concludes with the author, a specialist in online teaching, saying “Release yourself from high expectations right now, because that’s the best way to help your students learn.”

Further conversations with the coordinator of the program where I’m based supported this point of view (much to my relief) and encouraged us to be as honest as we need to be, to let our students know that while “we got this” we are also figuring it all out piecemeal, so there might be gaps and it will likely be far from ideal.

But these gaps are precisely where this “new territory” is emerging, and within it, a potential for another kind of space, perspective, and permission – offering room to behave, interact and manoeuvre differently than before.

Case in point: as instructors we were given full permission to move forward as we saw fit, this included giving students full permission to bow out completely. Having no idea what their individual circumstances were, we were (are) in no position to impose deadlines for assignments that at this point might be completely irrelevant and distracting from potentially more important things like basic survival.

So with yet another by-product of our grey zone that is CoronaTimes, I found myself encouraging my students to work when and how they could but within the capacity they have – to only do what they could manage doing. And only do what would bring them nourishment and joy. This meant that final projects could take many forms, including being unfinished fragments of process: edited or unedited combinations of notes, videos, images, etc. Our grading would, accordingly, be much more relaxed as well.

This advice to “release oneself from high expectations” was passed on to them, being fully aware of all the ways in which this also harmonizes with my predisposition toward questioning notions of “achievement” and what “productivity” should look like.

So while all this was exciting to me, to be able to offer options of generous spaciousness (especially in seeing it sit so congenially with my already-established philosophy around carving out spaces of pause) it had me also feeling somewhat perplexed. …Why am I not always giving this advice and affording this space at all other times…?? How come this isn’t already the standard practice (my standard practice) – but instead only now being adopted as a core part of our “new normal?”

You see, having come from a background steeped in the philosophy of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow (yes, I am a proud graduate of Dawson College’s New School) I absorbed their methods as a student and never shook the conviction that the classroom should be a space determined by the student’s needs and driven by a student’s intrinsic motivation (aided along by a passionate and invested facilitator). And that the construct of grading either needs to be completely overhauled, or eliminated altogether.

As a result, I’ve consistently had difficulty reconciling my disdain for grades while finding myself in the position of having to dole these out. Also in reconciling a need to produce finished work versus holding space for process. I am constantly trying to find the delicate balance between honouring the rules of the institution, my students’ needs to get those good marks in order to be potentially accepted into graduate programs, and wanting to reinvent the structure of the class such that this could become of place of co-teaching, co-learning, co-creating.

(SIDEBAR: Yes I understand that in preparing young artists to go out into the world we need to be having conversations about how to finish pieces and put these out into the world but art school is also a place where we challenge what the world expects of us. Art school itself is another kind of “in-between” zone where we could – and should – treat everything like the laboratory it is. A space for deep experimentation and for failure – in the process of trying new things that might not work. And finding new facets of our research – precisely because of some accidental occurrences (i.e.: our mistakes!)

So while that question will be the subject of another set of reflections (in a future time related to upcoming research; stay tuned), suffice it to say, within the current space/time framework of this “new normal” some of my students have begun to question core facets of their respective practices: what drives their interests and modes of making. Questioning what it means to make performance without an audience (i.e.: a live audience), to make objects that can’t go anywhere or be interacted with by others, we’ve been having incredible conversations around the function of practice, making, non-making, process… How making, right now, feels “out-of-place.”

And so within the emerging territory of this ever-present gap – and its inherent stretching of new permissions and dissolving of previously enforced boundaries – I’ve been inspired to “come clean” with my students about my specific preoccupations as an (un)artist and proponent of non-doing. This has been incredibly freeing…

…Temporarily reconciling a fundamental fissure between my in-class self versus my out-in-the-world self, I am reflecting on what it means for the classroom to be a true space of freedom. And what this potential space could look like on the other side of the “normal” we are experiencing now, in the discombobulating interval.

The Discombobulation of the Interval (Part 1?)

gene simmons learns to knit

This time, our here-now, is about being smack dab in the centre of an interminable in-between. Whether stuck or circulating there, this is a moment of prolonged pause and of being on indefinite hold.

Cycle 3 (of this project) is therefore a corresponding in-between cycle. Cycle 3 (this here-now) is like the half floor in Being John Malkovich: this liminal world where time has its own (new) rhythm and you start to feel yourself kind of split off into another part of this/your self (who am I when I’m home, looping day-in-day-out 24/7) and that other part tries to enter the “previous” you, via your brain/body, creating an uncanny sense of “you”/not you (me and this “other” version of myself). If only because you’ve stepped into this whole other version of (global) reality. A new reality of global proportions. Temporarily. That half floor is pushing against the walls of “normal space/time.” Encroaching and enveloping what was once your daily routine. That half floor is the new reality. For now.

This state of in-between brings us closer to other cultures and places outside our North American experience. Take Cuba, for example, where almost every kind of commercial transaction means having to wait and often having no idea how long you’ll be waiting (which is something we are actually having to do here now because of “social distancing.”) Waiting is a skill. Waiting is creative. That interval in time is inhabited by a quality of presence that requires a degree of letting go. Our culture is not very adept at this.

Waiting is a subject that has been thoroughly explored by Swedish Ethnographers Billy Ehn and Orvar Löfgren in their thoughtful study, The Secret World of Doing Nothing in which they describe this state of pause as having varying impacts on the person who waits, depending on how much information one has been privy to. Passengers on a plane, for example, will start to feel frustrated if told nothing while sitting impatiently on a tarmac watching the clock ticking during a delayed departure. If checked-in with by the pilot, “We’re sorry, folks, there’s a slight problem with the air cooling system and we expect to here another 20 minutes or so. We’ll keep you updated,” there’s at least a sense of “control” of the situation.

So that’s obviously partly what’s so disconcerting about this time we’re in: this not knowing how long we’ll be stuck (or circulating) in this prolonged interval. And we have no control.

There is something quite spectacular about this particular in-between as well; humans at the best of times are not always great at riding life transitions or change (big or small). So with so many question marks in the air, this time of uncertainty that is unraveling in us and all around us – on a very personal and global scale all at once – has the micro and the macro colliding, creating a simultaneous chasm and a bonding. Each of us is living through this challenge as our life situations dictate but everyone all around the globe is going through some version of this at exactly the same time as me.

And of course I can’t not bring up the subject of the interval – and this grandiose-level-pause – without bringing in the notion of the “performative.” On a personal level many of us are having to reinvent ourselves, and our lives, to some degree or other, in order to move forward in this discombobulating time (with the parallel global scale of governments reinventing “order”). This personal reinvention of time/space/routine is fundamentally – and infinitely – creative. Even if daunting. And a whole other set of challenges. I come back to the John Malkovich analogy above.

Of course it’s awkward to be writing about something you’re in because you don’t have the benefit of hindsight to support clarity and greater perspective. I guess that could be the disclaimer for every post I might write during this cycle.

But for that same reason it has my neurons firing off in multiple directions. So while I have more to say on the subject, I’ll leave it here. Any perhaps come back with a part 2 in a near-future post.