performance(with audience/passerby)/group exercise

1.5 hours
14:00-15:30, Monday, 18, 3, 2019

Ying Liu
Defne Tesal
Murat Yildiz
Fine art students from St. Joost Academy (Breda)

St.Joost Master building, 2rd floor, Social space, Den Bosch, NL

The Power of Doing Nothing

-- Ying Liu

In my first year of study, I explored how much less I could do when doing art and whether it was possible to make the work speak nothing at all. I came up with the idea of not doing anything in particular and not expressing any opinions, just being an artist in a literal form of “doing nothing.” I invited four artists to do nothing together in a room for three hours. During the time spent only sitting, staying in place without any physical interaction with each other, there were actually many things going on in our inner experience—the physical discomfort, the confusion about time passing, the boredom that our minds had to deal with. My self was trying its best to resist the highlighted “existence” I had since there was not a distraction that my self could enjoy. Doing nothing could be incredibly busy that much of the suppressed emerged to the surface of the mind—exposing the inner self and providing an opportunity to observe it.

Doing nothing individually, in a daily life sense, is efficient self-care. It differs from sleeping, which is a natural reaction in a cycle of resting and working. We sleep when the body tells us to do so, but we do nothing at any time that we have the conditions to do so. Self-care means taking care of the self-existence in such a way that does not call for me to take care of anything other than myself. The care that is given to my existence is purely about awareness and knowingness. Knowing that being temporarily disconnected from what I have been taught, to all the identities that have been added on, what else could I be when I am only with myself akin to the moment when I just got born in this world. Leaving everything behind to pay attention to one’s existence is the most selfish and radical act, rebelling against all social responsibility and production-driven mindset.

We are always denying anything related to doing nothing; it has turned into such a shameful thing, socially and ethically unacceptable, more like an accusation. Phrases we all implicitly agree on to refer to such a person as someone who is “dawdling,” ‘loafing around,’ or “being idle.”

When the pandemic hit, doing nothing was finally legitimized in the global lockdown. We stepped back and somehow passively confirmed the common notion which our ancestors had probably already lived with for ages—it is ok to do nothing at all, even doing nothing is totally acceptable. The act of doing nothing, which is genuinely a fundamental human right, had been neglected for such a long time. From this perspective, what is the actual pandemic which had ruined this fundamental notion for ages?

Doing nothing in public is a rebellious act. It is a physical resistance to all the constant happenings around, by simply not doing anything at all. It speaks for itself when spectators project their views on it. Doing nothing speaks much, but at the same time, it says none, simply because it is meant to talk about nothing in particular.

Doing nothing with a group in public is demonstrative. The manifesto could be reflecting on anything that is opposite to or different from “doing nothing” in a bodily format. This group action is politically powerful and brings silent warfare to the public space regarding disengagement and detachment from the mainstream. It is a genuine opposition to every possible physical movement. Doing nothing emphasizes the contrast to others' existence of moving, passing, producing, hustling, aiming, gaining, speaking, and developing. Meanwhile, doing nothing is not demonstrating anything or against anything intentionally, considering this action originally is just about doing nothing specific. It has its own goal to achieve, which makes this act itself so internally busy that it doesn’t need to involve itself with anything, apart from doing nothing.

Doing nothing could be extremely lame by possibly being ignored, underestimated, and progressively criticized.

Nevertheless, physically doing nothing is inevitably a dangerous action since it might only indicate one pursuit, which is of a bodily posture, or a state in which the body is comfortably being, a visible resting mode. It may also seem to provide comfort for our minds to rest on. However, contradictorily, this comfort is most likely to fertilize our mind-field, generating thoughts mechanically to support brutal capitalism's productivity. For example, for the workers who have been contributing their intellectual products to the culture industry, physically resting cannot guarantee total or absolute resistance; their minds might secretly generate production-oriented thoughts.

Thinking nothing, or not intently thinking anything specific, is an urgent and desirable need for resistance to the whole, including the visible and the invisible.


I position myself as a time killer and sometimes a composer, experimenting the aimlessly long-term engagement with materials whilst accepting the uncertainty that comes with daily experiments in forms of installations, performances, videos and drawings.

Influenced by a Chinese Buddhist family I’ve developed a strong tendency to decentralise the “self” through artistic meditation by using natural materials and daily leftovers. In my practice I explore the connection between performance art and Chan(Zen), with the interest on exploring the in-between space of “something" and “nothing”.