Cycles of rest

By Eline De Clercq

Something I noticed about rest from looking at nature is that seeds don’t go into a resting period because they are tired and need to lie down from all the hard work. Bears and bats don’t go into hibernation because they need a holiday. A prickly pear doesn’t absorb water to relax in the sunny desert. In nature, rest often means the conditions of the surroundings aren’t fit for the use of too much energy. Rest often means waiting for change in order to survive. If seeds start to grow too soon in spring, the seedlings get frozen. If they are too late, the competition blocks the sunlight, and the young plant dies. The seeds rest until the temperature and moisture are exactly right. If you compare this kind of rest with the lives and careers of artists, then it is not so much about taking a rest to restore, like after a hard day’s work, but about waiting for the right conditions. For how long should an artist invest energy in creating work, being visible, connecting in the artistic field? When should an artist rest? A practice can halt to do something else like research, family care or travelling. Artists can’t rest because there is a lack of resources or a lack of response in the art field.

The rest we need after a hard day’s work is something else. Humans don’t hibernate through winter, we don’t wait for the rain or the early rays of sunlight in March. When we are working so hard that we need a holiday to rest, we’re not storing energy like a tulip does in it’s bulb for next year’s spring, we are depleting our resources. This rest we see in the artist’s practice is a rest after investing all of our energy in an unfolding career, but we ran out water; we ran out of light; we ran out of rich soil. This is actually fatigue and it means we are depleting ourselves. One doesn’t overcome fatigue with rest, you overcome it with nurturing, care and good working conditions.