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