In May 2016, I embarked on a quest: I decided to make work about nothing. More precisely, I wanted to see if I could undertake to Do Nothing as an art project. But as soon as I began, I was immediately beleaguered by the question: What does that even mean? This question lead me on a yearlong journey which wrapped up its first cycle the following spring.

Recognizing a need to continue this line of inquiry around the complex quest to Do Nothing (and deciding, finally, to this on as a lifelong preoccupation), I thought it could be relevant to look back to previous projects, to see how work from my past was actually paving the way for this current endeavour to come into being.

The result is a second cycle of the Doing Nothing project, expanded to include other processes that have informed my art-making, and, in my perception, encapsulate what I think of as The Invisible, Liminal Spaces in Art.

This next foray into Nothing happily found another home: The P. Lantz Initiative for Excellence in Education & the Arts Artists in Residence program at McGill University (in the Faculty of Education).

Resting, Walking, Place-Making, therefore identifies three major components that, whether taken on their own terms or seen as intermingling within a single trajectory, each underscore the implicit mandate of revealing the more invisible aspects of artistic process.

Resting
emerges as the continuation of the yearlong project The Sanctimonious Sect of Nothing Is Sacred. Collectively enacted moments of downtime in a variety of public locations in Montreal were carried out alongside a program of curated dialogues (Talking About Nothing With…), both of which generated extensive discussions around the complexity of this quest. A general consensus repeatedly rose to the surface: that there is a need to carve out such spaces (and times) for deep pause within our personal lives and within our professional sectors – albeit that this is a very difficult thing to actually (or consistently) do. Sitting with the intricacies of these questions affirmed that (non)activity is an inherently political act: one that challenges notions of productivity, of what constitutes “failure” (and success) and our capacity to comfortably engage in “non-productive” uses of time.

Place-Making
issues forth from a series of residencies in Quebec and beyond in which geopoetic meanderings and one-on-one interactions considered such questions as: What consciousness do we bring to places we occupy? How do places inhabit us? How do we interact with the surrounding environment – and with others who we may encounter there? In a mindful habitation of successive sites, I undertook several accompanied trajectories; transactions that consciously situated themselves in relation to both “the other” (as we each become the other to one (an)other) and to the context in which we found ourselves. Unpacking the process of how we come to understand a place – and the conditions required to feel some sense of “belonging” – this was an inquiry into how “place” is indeed constructed. The goal was to activate these sites by introducing a performative element via a relational exchange – collaboratively working toward expanding a moment in time while collapsing an already diminishing space between the artist/audience and art/life. The art frame (while more-or-less imperceptible) provided an invaluable context and container within which to carry out this research – a rather delicate form of personalized social engagement.

Walking
is the inexorable by-product of both of the above. As a conscious act within these varied projects, walking has occupied the role of an embodied encounter with the surrounding environment: at once a means to get from point A to point B, while also creating connection to (and understanding of) “place,” through subtly integrating aspects of the particularity of “places” in a circularity of identity construction (place informs who I am; I imprint my identity onto a place). Walking is also, however, the most banal of pursuits, a “non-action” sitting at the threshold of liminal space as it exists as a largely invisible activity. Walking is slow, inefficient, unproductive. Rebecca Solnit writes: “[T]hinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.” This succinct correlation accurately highlights the role of walking not only in my most recent research but also as a process that has become an increasingly central element of my post-studio art practice.

…Bringing the foundations of these lines of inquiry to the Artist in Residency program, my desire is to continue exploring these themes within a collective framework. To examine the roles of rest (slowness, stillness, spaces of pause and interval), connection to place (the way we invest of ourselves in the environments that frame our day-to-day activities both professionally and personally) and walking (an everyday activity that at once serves a practical function but also allows for freedom and fluidity of thought), as parallel forms of creative and intellectual expression that can enhance pedagogical methods while providing valuable tools for social engagement and change.

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