Visitors of an Exhibition Space are Suggested to 'Do Nothing'
(participatory) (delegated) performance, legal agreement
co-produced by Caveat, Brussels
exhibition In the Long Blink of an Eye, HISK, Gosset site, Brussels
curated by Daniella Géo
Images by the artist, Laure Cottin Stefanelli & Manuel Wetscher
'Doing nothing' - this paradoxal, since being defined by negation, task was proposed to the visitors of an exhibition that took place in Brussels (Dec, 2020 - Jan, 2021) in a form of a performative piece.
Entitled Visitors of an Exhibition Space Are Suggested to 'Do Nothing’, this participatory set-up indeed invited visitors to ‘do nothing’, but first meticulously spelling out the conditions that ‘doing nothing’ will be both subject to and enabled by: visitors sign a contract that was developed by the artist in close collaboration with a lawyer, and which is legally valid and binding. After 'doing nothing', they get remunerated and receive a proof of payment. It was possible for visitors to take part in the performance and ‘do nothing’ for any amount of time, whereas the compensation is foreseen for the number of full hours.
The contract for 'doing nothing' specified that all applicable taxes and social contributions should be paid by both parties according to local laws and regulations.
Visitors of an exhibition space are suggested to 'do nothing' is conceived as a re-enactable piece.
Visitors of an exhibition space are suggested to 'do nothing' deconstructs the idea of 'doing nothing' as losing time, as well as productivity as valuable – because the participants are paid for it.
In a world where economic constraint dispossesses workers of a large part of their time, Visitors of an exhibition space are suggested to 'do nothing' reconsiders free time as a class privilege. ‘Doing nothing’ here is radically opposed to the notion of otium advocated by ancient philosophy and later widely developed in Western thought – an aristocratic grant obtained through the exploitation of others.
On the other hand, Visitors of an exhibition space are suggested to 'do nothing' unpacks the social stigma associated with 'doing nothing' as marginal pastime or procrastination. Unlike voluntary and unvoluntary outsiders, practicing inaction and refraining from accelerated productivity is no longer dissident when getting paid.
‘Doing nothing’ is thus practiced by the means of the capitalist system, where money is the ultimate measurement of symbolic value.*
Visitors of an exhibition space are suggested to 'do nothing' is conceived as a systemic proposal: a modèle reduit, or scale model, that formalizes and points out elements that belong to everyday capitalism. Using procedures, contracts, measured time, compensation, transaction, and so forth, it does not offer a commentary on ‘doing nothing’, but enacts it through a subversive device. It gives an objective, administrative existence to this ‘doing nothing’ and ‘nothingness’ recognized by the state, and by attributing to them monetary value, installs them in a capitalist logic.
* ‘Bullshit jobs’ and the notion of ‘bore-out’ are to be further discussed.