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.
It is suggested to understand ‘doing nothing’ in the sense of ‘being’ and through the prism of a spiritual exercise: as a possibility to create a void, to experience inaction and being present to oneself.
Participants to this performance are asked to accomplish a paradoxical task – to explore a state only defined by negation. Strictu sensu, one cannot do nothing: our bodies require at least minimal activity, our heads at least minimal thoughts forming, our senses at least minimal perceptions captured. Therefore, ‘doing nothing’ proposes an exercise of awareness where expanding emptiness can be gained by refraining from any action, time and again.
Far from an attitude of passivity, this approach is close to the concept of wu wei taking its origin from Chinese philosophy: agency without acting. Activating an inner space in deep connection to the self, while sitting quietly, ‘doing nothing’ reveals its generative emancipatory potential.
In whichever way 'doing nothing' is enacted concretely, the contract signed by participants formally recognizes that what they are doing is what 'nothing' is.