Reflection on Rest (by Nicolas Galeazzi)

Posted on 15/02/2021 by sota comm I love the last entry in the common notepad of the TIME TO REST day, organised by SOTA on January 30th 2021. It’s a reference to the Josef Beuys’ galerist’s cleaning person, who is cited asking: IST DAS KUNST ODER DARF DAS WEG? (is this art or can it go). It’s a perfect sum off of my own mix of feelings during that day. The person who wrote that statement at least did not suspend every activity and joyfully confronted herself with the paradox of an active participation in a day of rest. I don’t know how you spent your Saturday and wether you ever would have considered it as a day of rest. In times of choice- and endless home office, time to rest is battle statement against oneself! The flexibility we once claimed to be able to do all kinds of parallel, cross over and overlapping work-life-spheres, turned into a drag to man. It has become a cloudy horizonless mashup of public intimacy and over-concentrated perma-distractedness.

Yes we are flexible – crazily flexible! I easily can find myself in situations where I can see rest as a labour or obligated work for someone else as relaxation from constant self-invention. Why can’t we adopt the fabulous capacity of change and adaptation that corona forces us to learn us onto other, more personal or structural malaises in our societies. In the preparations for that day we were asking us wether it would be possible for us to experience rest – or laziness, or boredom – not as a duty that brigs us to better performance ahead, but simply as a inartistic aspect of life. Why can’t the just shake off the neoliberal ghost that haunts us since over 30 years. Did we need to invite the globalised virus to get into new kinds of economic thinking? We still do our jobs, suspend any habits of enjoyment and life continues. But there is pinch of regained solidarity in the air. Most of us wear their mask with dignity and for the good of the individual and the global society. For a short moment in April 2020 it felt like everything is put on hold. The world (around us) was put on hold, it took a rest. Dulfins found their way back in to the Adria see; birds and bikes had space again in traffic, and we spent time like kids alone at home. Why for only such a short moment? Why did the virus proliferate but that state of rest did not despite the lockdown continued it’s waves? – Let’s put Corona aside and go to REST! State Of The Arts is calling for a day of rest!

This activist group of artists is starting a year program with 12 monthly events to explore Fair Practice in the arts with a day of rest. Why? Lying in my self-imposed lazyness of that Saturday I was asking myself the same. Why did we organise a day program for rest. Why are we not just resting instead?! Why do we feel the need to set ‘rest’ at work, and direct our thoughts towards the topic? It’s obvious, too many unfair current circumstances keep us far from ‘resting’, so much so, that they make us need it even more. Sure, the claim for structural change in a capitalist system that allow not-work as a necessity needs practical exploration.
We therefore wanted to test simple frameworks to experience and explore, to stay with, to fall deep into it, to give and take rest etc. But in that, it seems urgent to find the powerful claims that can hold up agains all labour-policies in our minds and gov’s and so we needed to give as much space to share, leave traces, enable oneself and others to repeat, intensify or understand moments of REST.
With this exploration we start – in the month of hibernation, January – a series of 12 events for the writing of the Fair Arts Almanac 2022. In the arts, the relations between taking REST and fairness, are complex and intertwined. Art is often seen as leisure, and non-productive. This trivialising perspective is ignoring the pressures and engagements of a market driven art field, the high standards, the values and impacts art has in society. At the same time art is providing relaxation to the tunnel visions of the daily, and suspends the stress on productivity by pointing at other life views.

Resting is often considered as something intimate, individual – a place of retreating into the private. However self-responsible we might be to take our REST, resting is related to social contracts and rituals. In order to understand the inherent value of REST and the often broken fairness within our social contracts, we wanted to create a day of REST for art’s sake. A poetic REST day, where individual rest-ins might inspire a transpersonal thinking process about what REST means in our society and for ourselves. Why does REST have to be taken away like a theft from productive heroism? On the common notepad we provided for that day someone wrote about the experience: * „Mandate: To be un-available creates the conditions to rest – but this mandate has to be given > either by an exercise, like the one I just did, or by someone or by myself. There needs to be a mandate because often we think we are required to be available. And maybe we are? * * For two or three hours of that day I finally managed to quit availability. I was lying in a white room of an chartered airbnb and enjoyed the penetrante neutrality of that space. That was quarantine! A quarantine from information influence and the labours that home with it. And I was asking myself, „is the art or can I let it go“? * I opened my computer for writing my thoughts about it down into the common notepad – but the storm of questions, we created ourselves flushed over me and made me dizzy: * What would need to change in the structures of art ecologies to allow for (unconditioned) rest? What should change in our society at large to avoid burn-outs? What should change in your close social surrounding to avoid burn-outs? In which way should our art field, the system of art production, be structured, so that also precarious art workers would have time and resources for the rest they need? How can artists and arts organisations develop alternative models and world views that incorporate rest, not just by what we do, but how we do it? Do you respect rest periods of your colleagues and collaborators? Does the respect for the rest of others know a limit ? Do you feel your rest is respected by your colleagues and collaborators? Ar you at ease claiming the rest you need in a collaborative or employed work situation? Are you allowing others to rest with ease, while you are continuing to work? Would you be ok, if an anyway tight project budget would include 10% of necessary time for doing nothing for all collaborators? What you be okay, if funding applications and procedures would require to incorporate time to rest within their funding period as a criteria for a successful application? Would you appreciate, if institutions would have to take a period of rest, and suspend their offers, after a structural funding period, to have time to re-think and write a new application? What if we dis-entagle performance periods from inward reflection and re-thinking periods to avoid multi-tasking or to allow for mono-tasking? Can you imagine a society in which multi-tasking is regarded as inappropriate or unacceptable? How would a society look like that supports in all aspects mono-tasking work flows? Is there any thing better to do for better social structure for rest, then just to practice resting? And if yes, what? What motivates you more, the outlook for rest, or the outlook for a task? In percentage, how much rest do you need to be at your best at work? In percentage, how much rest do you need to feel good with yourself? Do you see rest as something productive? Will you feel bad if this rest shows as non-productive? What othe r value does rest have? Do you think there is a social or personal duty to stop resting at a certain point? What would be the absolute ideal reason to stop resting for you? How do or did you experience your resting day? What did you learn by giving rest to or receiving rest from someone else? What new impulses on the topic did this experience spark?