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